A DIY radio station for people in immigration detention centres
23 November 2021
DIY Radio takes radio back to its original form, as a way of transferring information from one place to another without wires. For Hear Me Out, this meant creating a radio station for people held in immigration detention. We designed this concept in response to the Covid-19 pandemic – a time when we are unable to deliver our music-making workshops in person. We wanted to continue bringing music to detention centres in any way that we could. So we created a radio show with a host, different guests, and uplifting music - so that a CD could be played in a detention centre, and people inside could feel as though they were listening to the radio.
We are told that during the pandemic, around 400 people were held in the UK’s immigration detention centres. The majority of flights were cancelled at the beginning of the UK’s first lockdown, most people couldn’t be deported and many were released. Inside the centres, face-to-face visits and activities were on hold. It’s usually very difficult for people in detention centres to socially isolate and access to medical provision and PPE can be difficult. This coincided with an increase in the use of short-term holding facilities to house people who have arrived from across the channel. Today we know numbers held in detention are rising again, with ongoing health and safety issues relating to the pandemic. At a time when people in detention are even more cut off from society than usual, and with 94% suffering from anxiety and depression, we hope that our music can send messages of support and coping, solidarity, and hope for the future.
A call out to our lead artists, including artists we met when they were detained, for content – from sound and songs, to movement and group activities, and conversations and interviews – resulted in two editions of our remote radio station: DIY Radio 1 and DIY Radio 2. We are trying to provide DIY radio to as many detention centres and short-term holding facilities as possible and in the long term we hope to be able to create a radio station in the centres – developed with and by the people held inside.
DIY Radio 1
We sent more than 800 copies of DIY Radio 1 into immigration detention centres at Dungavel House near Glasgow, Yarl’s Wood in Bedford, Harmondsworth near Heathrow Airport, Brook House at Gatwick Airport, and Morton Hall in Lincolnshire.
It begins with Hold on to Hope, where Oliver Seager and Lucky Moyo created an upbeat show which translates the word ‘hope’ into different languages. The second show Inside Out was made by Anna de Mutiis and Pilo Moreno. Pilo shares stories about his time detained at Campsfield immigration detention centre and they interview, Michael, a student who has also been released from detention. They share practical information about how to get out of detention and also what it is it like once you are released. The final show is the DIY Folk Programme - a calming collection of British folk tunes created by multi-instrumentalist Jack Sharp. The episode also features tracks which were created in detention centres before the pandemic, including ‘See Me Smiling, Never Keep Me Down’ which won a Koestler Award in 2020.
DIY Radio 2
We sent more than 1,250 copies of DIY Radio 2 to at Dungavel House near Glasgow, Yarl’s Wood in Bedford, Harmondsworth and Colnbrook near Heathrow Airport, and Brook House and Tinsley House near Gatwick Airport.
DIY Radio 2 brings another two radio shows together, linked by music created in detention centres.
First show: Strength and Upliftment by Lamin Joof
The concept for this show came from musician and DJ, Lamin Joof. Lamin is on the Hear Me Out Board of Trustees, we met him when he was detained in Dover immigration detention centre and he now lives in London. Lamin brought together Zoe Burton from Hear Me Out, Cecil Taylor, a respected elder from Brixton, and Lawrence Becko, a trained coach who often works with refugee and migrant communities. They share tips on surviving detention as well as sending in hope from the outside. The music was chosen by Lamin and includes the song, ‘Never Give Up the Fight’ which he wrote and performed when he was in the detention centre in Dover in 2015. The original project, Refugee Tales, was led by Hear Me Out artists Lucky Moyo and Oliver Seager, with Porchlight Centre a homeless community setting. Lamin collaborated with Eb Jordan from Hear Me Out to create the final edit of the show.
Second show: Stories of Hope by Kevin Davidson
In this show Kevin talks to another Hear Me Out artist, Jonathan Russell, who led music sessions at Dover immigration detention centre for many years. They talk about the positive influence of KB, a person detained at the time, and they talk about some of music they created together with KB and the local community, including the song Jah Nuh Mek No Junk (God Don’t Make No Junk). KB has been released from detention and has been working with Kevin on a story podcast. In this show, KB shares one of his stories from his childhood in Sierra Leone.
The two shows are interwoven by several songs created in detention centres. Examples of these are Hussein’s Song and Mek Yer Waistline Roll which were created on The Free Future project, a community exchange between people held at Harmondsworth immigration detention centre and members of Music In Mind in Uxbridge, West London. The two groups never met but they jointly created the music together. The project was led by Hear Me Out artists Yannis Zaronis and Camilo Tirado. Mek Your Waistline Roll was also Commended in the Koestler Trust Awards in 2017.
DIY Radio 1 and 2 were presented by Russ Haynes from Chatterday Radio, edited by Eb Jordan, and the jingle was developed by Simon Crab – which was created from phone alarms from around the world. The cover artwork for DIY Radio 1 is by Megan Monismith and for DIY Radio 2 is by Geoff McFetridge, and both CDs were designed by Kirsty Whittaker.