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Oxfordshire Mind and Music in Detention

This week songs co-written by service users of Oxfordshire Mind’s wellbeing center, the Mill, and detainees held at Campsfield House Immigration Removal Centre were performed in public for the first time.

Twelve workshops, which were held in April, witnessed a powerful creative exchange between these two groups. Professional musicians Oliver Seager and Sophia Ripley, from the national charity Music In Detention, led a series of separate sessions with each group, helping them write and produce songs about their distinctive life experiences. The groups then swapped recordings of music and lyrics with each other. They did not meet in person but by creating songs together they got to understand and support each other.

One of the first themes to emerge out of this creative process was ‘home’. Shared experiences of living without somewhere to call home helped establish empathy between the two groups.

“Some of the group from Oxfordshire Mind said they felt like they did not have a home as they had been in hospital most of their life” said Oliver.  Over at Campsfield House, where detainees don’t know how long they will be held or where home will be afterwards, Oliver described how upon hearing the word “‘home’- the room went silent as I think the word home touched the detainees.”

Performing these songs in local communities was an opportunity for the Oxfordshire Mind service users to build their confidence by presenting their music to friends and family, it also helped detainees feel empowered as their words and songs are heard by neighbours they cannot meet.

This connection to the outside world helps them to deal with the stress of detention, as one participant put it: “Come on more days because it’s very boring here and you get depression. When you are here I am outside – I am free.”

John Speyer, Music In Detention’s Director, said: “I’ve joined in some of the workshops, and it’s been amazing to see the power of the connection between these two groups.  They really appreciate that other people with problems of their own are sympathetic to their difficulties. Lyrics like “I want to be free” and “Don’t give up hope” resonate with all of the participants. We hear so much negative news these days about migration, but a project like this shows how much people have in common.”

The final performance was a roaring success for both Oxfordshire Mind and Music in Detention, the recordings from this program will be released in due course and will be available to download here.