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Bedford Music in Detention at Yarl’s Wood closes after five years

Bedford Music in Detention at Yarl’s Wood closes after five years

14th November 2018

Music In Detention and Bedford Creative Arts (BCA) announce the end of the music programme ‘Bedford Music In Detention’ at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) due to an end in financial funding from public service provider Serco.

This brings to an end ten years of helping women and children cope with the ordeal of detention at Yarl’s Wood. Music In Detention began regular music sessions there in 2008 and since 2013, BCA has led the programme at Yarl’s Wood, bringing in over 17 different artists to work with detainees through a variety of music-based workshops.

Diwali workshop at Yarl's Wood

Diwali workshop at Yarl's Wood

One participant of the scheme at Yarl’s Wood said of their experience:

“It was a nice surprise. It put smiles on people's faces - I've seen people smiling in here who never smile”, and: “I love it and I felt so much happier in the group because this time made me forget what I'm here for and I was just free and felt good and the ladies were amazing before and in the music and after.”

The end of the programme is a loss for Yarl’s Wood’s women and the families in residence there; the programme has worked to reduce detainees’ isolation, enabling them to realise their talents, build confidence and improve their skills. The programme has served to relieve stress and anxiety by helping detainees to express their emotions and develop new friendships and in addition to this, encouraged people from different communities to come together using music as a common language.

Black History Month workshop at Yarl's Wood

Black History Month workshop at Yarl's Wood

“I was really tearful, I had a lot of anger in me but when we started playing music, it really made me feel calm, it lifted my mind up. I’ve got PTSD; I need music in my life. Music makes you alive, it’s a therapy. I was dancing every time you came in” commented another detainee at Yarl’s Wood on their involvement with the music programme.

Bedford Music In Detention also delivered extensive work within the community, engaging a wide range of people whose voices are often overlooked. This included single mothers, people experiencing mental ill health, those with disabilities, young people in schools, and older people. People from all walks of life have been helped to find common ground with people in detention through the work carried out in this programme.

Community Exchange project with Fusion United Singers at Yarl's Wood

Community Exchange project with Fusion United Singers at Yarl's Wood

“This project has made me consider what is important in life. It gave me a lot to think about and an insight into the difficulties others face. The project and communication made me more appreciative of my life now.” Community participant, Family Groups Bedford.

John Speyer, director at Music In Detention says: “We’ve worked for 10 years at Yarl’s Wood, including four years in a fantastic creative partnership with Bedford Creative Arts. During this time we’ve brought communities together, made incredible music, and improved the lives of over 4500 women and children in immigration detention, and over 1000 local people. We’re very sad that Serco have decided to bring this work to an end, but immensely proud of what we have achieved and appreciate the co-operation from many of the staff at Yarl’s Wood over the years.”

Jih-Wen, BCA’s Bedford MID producer adds: “I am proud to have been leading and developing the Bedford Music In Detention artistic programme in the past three years. The journey and experience has been phenomenal. The programme has made a great impact on the lives of many women and families who are isolated and in a very difficult situation.”

Annie Bacon, interim chief officer of BCA concludes: “Much of our work is with communities whose voices aren't heard. Working with Music In Detention in partnership, and with funder Harpur Trust, has enabled us to provide the women of Yarl's Wood with an important space for expression and a connection to the wider world that has helped improve their wellbeing during their time at the centre. We are extremely disappointed that the programme has come to an end, but we look forward to continuing our partnership with Music In Detention on future projects.”

Lizzy Jewell, Communications & Public Engagement Manager 

lizzy@musicindetention.org.uk 07525 925 054

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