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Music with detainees

Music with detainees

What we do

We deliver music workshops in a number of the UK’s 11 Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs), encouraging and empowering detainees to make music. Our workshops use drumming, percussion, singing, songwriting, dance and story, and our lead musicians are from all over the world.

Our objective is to try to get participants directly involved in the creative process, so we help both experienced musicians and novices create lyrics and music, perform and lead. We record sessions so that participants can hear their music played back immediately, and then we take the voices to the world outside through our CDs.

Sounding out at Harmondsworth IRC

Sounding out at Harmondsworth IRC

Why we do it

Detention is a traumatic experience for men women and, especially sadly, still some children. Detainees have histories that are marked by dislocation and insecurity; they suffer fresh ordeals when they are locked up without knowing how long they will be there, and without being brought before a court. Detainees are segregated almost completely from the wider community, leading them to be terribly isolated as well as facing challenges to their well-being, autonomy and self-respect.

For us, music is a universal language, transcending words and available to all. Our simple premise is to improve the well-being of detainees through music. Our work enables them, among other things, to:

  • express their feelings, thoughts, fears and aspirations
  • strengthen their personal and cultural identity
  • assert autonomy and leadership while making music
  • relax and relieve their stress and depression

How we do it

We have a specialist team of musicians, trained to work with vulnerable people in the closed detention system. These highly-skilled practitioners lead 200 workshops a year, using a wide range of instruments and creative techniques to involve detainees. We have developed good working relationships with IRC staff, which enables us to go into the centres and involve as many detainees as possible in the search for personal expression through music.