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One more step until we're there

One more step until we're there

In the autumn of 2013, MID Gosport and Haslar IRC took part in an awareness project at St. John’s CE Primary School in Gosport. This was a slightly unconventional style of working for MID, as the focus was more on the school children and their perceptions of immigration than projects centred on detainees. However it proved to be a valuable experience for everybody involved, and culminated in the writing of a song, ‘One More Step’, which can be heard in the 'Music' section under 'Gosport/Haslar IRC', or at the bottom of this page.

As part of a project about refugees, asylum seekers and detention, Lyn Colbeck, MID Gosport’s recently retired Local Co-ordinator, was invited to attend St. John’s CE Primary School to answer the children’s questions on the subject. This invitation came about because of a connection within the school – one of the teachers involved turned out to have met Lyn earlier in the year while performing with the Big Noise Community Samba Band at Haslar IRC! The aim of the project was for the children to develop a broader understanding of the issues surrounding refugees and immigration, and why asylum seekers might be forced to leave their countries in the first place.

Lyn gave a short introductory talk for sixty pupils, along with Reverend Nicky Startin, Chaplain at Haslar IRC, and Mike Brown, Area Manager for Refugee Action. They explained about the different countries detainees came from, reasons why they fled these countries, reasons why they would be taken into detention, and the feelings of isolation, depression and exclusion detainees often experienced. They also spoke about the lack of local knowledge of Haslar IRC detainees and local perceptions in general.

This was followed by a Q&A session in which Lyn, Nicky and Mike encouraged the children to ask about anything they liked. They were amazed at the depth of knowledge the children had already acquired during this project. Questions ranged from “What happens to their families?”, “How many people come to England every year?” and “Why do they get sent back” to “What is it like at Haslar?”, “Where do they sleep”, “Are they allowed to do sports?” and “Are there any toilets at Haslar?”

After this the children got into two groups of thirty for sessions on song-writing. They called out words and phrases related to detainees, refugees and asylum seekers and what they thought they might feel on leaving their country of origin. Here are some examples of the ‘bites’ the children came up with:

The last smell of rice for dinner

The last wave of the flag

The sweet tune of a new life

The pungent taste of dirty water

The dawn of my new life

The site of my family being shot

The last Diwali that I celebrated

Saying goodbye to my father

The children had also written poems during the project which they were eager to read out.  Two local musicians, Amba Tremain and Charlie Fletcher, developed all this material into lyrics and wrote music to go with it.

Meanwhile staff in the Education Department at Haslar IRC gathered ‘bites’ from detainees, about how they felt when they came to England. These were recorded and mixed by Simon Paylor, the music teacher there, and added to the song mix later on.

Here are some of the detainees’ ‘bites’:

I was frightened

I was lost

Couldn’t get my head around it

Fear and anger held me back

I had no words, no speech, no language

No smiles to greet me

Just strange words in a strange land

Unhappiness and sadness filled me up

I needed a friend and a caring arm

Amba and Charlie came back to the school to teach the new song, ‘One More Step’, to the children, and in December the group was given the opportunity to share this song with their friends and family, by performing at the Christmas Fayre.

Amba Tremain said of the project, “The recording day was brilliant. We had such fun and the children were just perfect. Took to the song straight away and they sang it beautifully. I was so pleased to be a part of it, so thanks again for involving me.”

Petra Marlow, Class Teacher of Year 5 said, “Wow wow wow! How amazing is that?! It just made me cry!!! Thank you all so much for being involved and making this happen. The song has been so well received by kids and parents - the children keep asking to listen to it”.

A short report of the project and the song, available for download, are available here on the school's website.

As a fitting end to a lovely piece of work, a Nigerian detainee at Haslar named Emmanuel, whose voice features at the beginning and end of the recorded track, was recently released and has been able to join the rest of his family in London.

Lyn, now retired Local Coordinator for MID Gosport

Lyn, now retired Local Coordinator for MID Gosport

Charlie Fletcher, Music Practitioner

Charlie Fletcher, Music Practitioner

Amba Tremain, Music Practitioner

Amba Tremain, Music Practitioner

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One More Step

Ballad