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Detainees in Oxford cafe

Detainees in Oxford cafe

8th August 2013

Tourists and passers-by, in the centre of Oxford on Friday afternoon, paused at the Crisis Skylight cafe’s open doors, momentarily swelling an audience which already filled the café to capacity. Live music performed by Ryan, Alarico and Ellie, all members of Crisis Skylight, alternated with recordings of music from James, Ayoub and fellow detainees at Campsfield House detention centre.  One of many memorable performances featured raps from both James – in detention, so sadly not there in person, but vividly present in recorded form  – and Ryan – very much with us both physically and on tape – about overcoming the troubles life had thrown at them.  

These performances were the culmination of an intensive series of MID music workshops in which people from Oxford’s homeless community and detainees at nearby Campsfield House created, recorded and sent each other lyrics and music. The two groups worked separately but the exchange of material had clearly brought them close together. The performances showed not just the uniqueness of each musician as an individual, but also their understanding of each other. Here were two groups, both on the margins of society, with much that could divide them, discovering common ground in the struggles of their lives, the experience of stigma and the losing their homes. 

Also on show that afternoon was artwork by detainees and members and staff at Crisis Skylight, much of it created in response to the music project, and some of it from visits to music sessions at Campsfield House. So this was a music project with an extra dimension. It was a delight to discover that one painting by a detainee is to stay on permanent display at the Crisis Skylight cafe, reminding the coffee addicts of Oxford of the presence and talents of their local immigration detainees.

The event was part of Crisis Skylight’s Arts Festival and was reported on the BBC Oxford television news bulletin that evening.  This was an exceptional project for MID. Huge thanks to everyone who participated in the project, to the artists who led it and to our partners at Campsfield House, Crisis Skylight Oxford and Music for Change, who worked so hard to make the project a success.

All the tracks from the project CD (“Unlock Freedom In My Mind”) will soon be available to stream on the music pages of the MID website.

Artwork created during Campsfield House workshops by Crisis Skylight's Arts Tutor Lucy

Artwork created during Campsfield House workshops by Crisis Skylight's Arts Tutor Lucy