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I'm Not Sad

Building bridges: immigration detainees and schoolchildren in Dover

In November 2010 Music In Detention ran a music project with detainees from Dover Immigration Removal Centre and Year 6 pupils from Priory Primary School in Dover. Two artists from Music for Change worked with participants over a period of 6 days during which they shared experiences and reflections, generating an exchange of ideas and dialogue, all of which led to creative expression through music and poetry. 

At the beginning of the project all of the participants were asked to share the origin and meaning of their own name. This gave them a positive starting point from which to engage with aspects of each other's character and cultural heritage.

As ever, there was a wealth of musical talent in the IRC, with excellent support from the dedicated team in the education department, so the writing and recording sessions were very fruitful. 

Detainees were keen to offer their words and music to the children, who listened in stunned silence to the words of the songs and poems, working out the ideas being communicated or the story being told. Upon hearing these tracks, one-by-one, the children started forming positive pictures of the individual detainees and writing down questions fo the individual detainees and writing down questions that they wanted to ask them. 

The exchange of ideas was deepened as the pupils realised that their new friends in the IRC would be separated from their families over the upcoming festive period. The pupils expressed their empathy for this stituation through an idea to send Christmas gifts; drawings, songs, messages and poems. These gifts were gratefully recieved by detainees, who collectively decided to write and record a version of 'We Wish You a Merry Christmas' in response. By the end of the project the two groups had built up a level of understanding and respect, through the process of developing shared ideas.

The pupils of Priory Fields were introduced to the issues connected with asylum and detention through experiential games. They gained valuable insights into the many different nationalities and cultures represented in the UK. Throughout the project all the teachers and facilitators were impressed to see young learners engage so thoughtfully and purposefully with serious issues.

This project was delivered by Music for Change and facilitated by Téa Hodzic and Kevin Davidson on behalf of Music in Detention. The audio was produced by Jonathon Russell, Kevin Davidson, Lakhvinder Singh and Mohamed Shyheim. The artists would like to thank Gemma Burnap from priory Fields School and Emily Yates from Music for Change for their invaluable support throughout.  

Music for Change is a leading arts and educational organisation committed to promoting awareness, understanding and respect for cultural diversity. Working with skilled and experienced artists from around the world, the role of the organisation is to encourage people to celebrate cultural commonality and diversity whilst challenging preconceptions and prejudice.

Music In Detention works through music to give voice to immigration detainees and create channels of communication between them, immigration detention staff, local communities and the wider public. 


Treat (Priory Fields)



Smile (Joe de Blue)

Spoken word


Take Flight (Ronan and Holly)

Spoken word


Old Culture/The Best Language Is Spoken By The Eyes (Abdi Diini)

Traditional, folk-song


Wide Awake (Joe de Blue)

Spoken word over piano


Kurdish Love Song (Abdulla Ahmad)



What A Mighty God We Serve (Boluwaji Smart-Owoseni)



Get That Girl (Kurt Forbes aka Sinister)



The Streetz (Mohamed Shyheim aka KB)

Hip hop


Heaven Above (Kai and Leighton)

Hip hop


Only You (Mightee)

Ballad, soft rock


Munda (Lakhvinder Singh aka Mavi and Sinister)

Bollywood song


Born By Grace (Mightee)

Hip hop, rap


Christmas Is Coming, No-One With Me (Chloe, Sasha and Georgia)



Christmas Is Coming, Angels Gather (Sally and Dominic)



Message from Children (Priory Fields)



We Wish You A Merry Christmas (Dover IRC)

Christmas song


Merry Christmas Everyone (Priory Fields)


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