In February 2016 Music In Detention teamed up with OYAP Trust to deliver a series of 12 participatory music making workshops with detainees being held at Campsfield House Immigration Removal Centre and young people attending Base 33, a youth centre in Witney, Oxfordshire supporting vulnerable and disadvantaged young people in the area.
Assisted by Music In Detention volunteer Anna de Mutiis, Music for Change musicians Oliver Seager and Kenny Mangena facilitated the workshops, transporting musical messages between the two groups. Freestyling and rap were popular music styles at both Campsfield House and Base 33, with the two groups sending musical material to each other over the course of the 3-week project. For the detainees involved, this project provided the opportunity for them to learn more about one another through sharing their musical traditions and preferences in the space of the workshops. Musical fusion was thoroughly embraced with one track for example mixing Hip Hop with traditional Arabic and Kurdish folk tunes. For the young people, discovering a shared love of Hip Hop highlighted feelings of commonality: “it makes you think that they’re just like us.”
Despite living through their own difficult situation, detainees sent messages of support and hope to the young people, telling them to keep their head up when faced with adversity. Similarly, the young people showed empathy and solidarity for the detainees and expressed this through song lyrics they wrote themselves, for example:
“we are base 33
UK needs to open their eyes
we have a major problem of locking up innocent people in detention centres
we need to step up and be problem solvers
make a CD address the problem
spread the word
my mum will buy it and so will my nan and me
that already makes three
we are one step closer to equality”
For many of the young people involved in the project this was the first they had heard about the UK detention system, and indeed Campsfield House IRC: "It’s weird to think that I live a couple of miles away from it but I don’t even know it’s there. It’s not like they’re going round handing out flyers saying there’s a couple of people down the road locked up because they’re born in a different country. They don’t go around saying that, they go around saying, “We’re making it a better place for you guys.” That’s what they’re saying." The project saw much discussion around detention, with the young people learning more and more about it as the project went on.
Overall the project was a great success and through collaborative work between the two groups has resulted in the creation of a brand new CD featuring 10 tracks of music. And thanks to the interest and kindness of OYAP Young Leader Emma Mayoux-Andrews one of the tracks has even been made into a music video, filmed at Base 33.
"I loved working with the artists, it's the first time I've done something start to finish and I'm proud of what we did." Participant from Base 33
“We’re like locked up from the outside world and although it’s not a prison it still is prison. You can’t leave. So it’s nice when someone comes from the outside and understands your suffering and plays music that is nice” Detainee, Campsfield House IRC
This project was made possible thanks to an Awards for All grant from the Big Lottery Fund.