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Feedback from staff at Campsfield House

Feedback from staff at Campsfield House

27th November 2014

Richard Brown, as Regimes Manager, is responsible for running the fitness suite, sports hall, library, study centre, competitions, community events and all activities delivered by external organisations, such as Yoga, First Aid classes with the Red Cross, story -telling sessions with Fusion Arts and MID workshops. Richard started out in the activities department and is familiar with the process of escorting MID artists to the sessions, helping them to carry their instruments and encouraging people to participate.

Richard described how having musicians from different nationalities really helps to get more detainees involved in the workshops and appreciates that it is very much a group activity. Also how with the ever changing population at the centre it can be hard to predict how a workshop will be received. For some people they have grown up around instruments in their countries of origin and for others, who are younger and have grown up in Britain, they can be more self -conscious and reluctant to get involved. Also detainees can be preoccupied and stressed about their situations making it difficult for them to focus on learning a new skill. The mix of nationalities changes too, with Pakistanis being the most numerous one week, Indians the next, and then perhaps Nigeria, so that changes the musical trends too.

The change from the daily routine is most welcome, even though it can come as a bit of shock for some when the big screen is turned off and the lights come on and Munya, activities officer, bellows out “come in, come on join in!!” Richard asks his team to ensure people listen when the musicians are talking, use their phones outside the space and, most importantly, if people are hovering at the door laughing or trying to make people feel uncomfortable about joining in to take them away from the workshop! Otherwise people are free to come and go as they please and see how they feel about participating.

Richard has seen how the music workshops break down barriers and create bonds between people.  Participants have been seen to banter in the dining room queue about their drumming skills, despite not speaking the same language! Music and other activities foster good relations between detainees and between detainees and staff, where people really appreciate being shown how to do something new, such as the correct way to lift a dumbbell!

We were also able to speak to Munya, who enthusiastically supports as many of the MID workshops as possible. One of the challenges he faces is when a workshop clashes with popular sporting events, such as a cricket tournament and persuading people to attend. However people do come to give it a go, sacrificing a precious pastime to try something new. Munya talked about how participation seems to vary between different cultures, for example he felt that Chinese detainees were reluctant to join in if they didn't feel proficient enough, whereas he had observed Indians and Afghanis having fun and participating fully in all sorts of activities. Some detainees who don’t get involved in the usual activities, such as the gym, come to the music workshops so Munya gets to meet new faces.

We left the feedback discussion armed with some new ideas for next year’s programme and made a note of the date of next year’s cricket world cup tournament!