Hear Me Out



Yoana's recollections of a project between young people at The Challenge Network and men detained in Harmondsworth detention centre

7 March 2013

In January, we told you about an exciting project which took place last October between young people at The Challenge Network in Hillingdon and men detained in Harmondsworth detention centre. Several months on, we wanted to share the reflections of Yoana, a young woman who took part in the project, and of her enduring memories of the experience, from her impressions of meeting a former detainee, to working with professional musicians for the first time.

Many thanks to Yoana for taking the time to tell us about her experience.

Before taking part in this project, to be honest I didn't even know detention centres existed, I never thought they would actually lock people away from the rest of the world for purely doing nothing wrong.

KB [an ex-detainee] was an interesting guy, and just from his presence everyone knew he had been through a lot which is why we were all so interested when he told us his story and experiences. And after all he had been through knowing he can't work in the country all made us very sympathetic and made us realise what these people are going through.

During the project it was important being able to ask detainees questions as we wanted to know them better, we wanted to know who we are communicating with and hopefully do it in a more personal way by for example mentioning one of their stories in our lyrics. Some of the questions we asked were: Where are you from? What's your name? Do you have a family? What was your occupation? What do you like to do? Questions which allowed them to fantasise for a minute and allowed us to get to know them as who they are.

We could tell that some detainees were very emotional inside, for example we heard a man who said he missed his family and hated the place and the food and was close to tears, but we also listened to a man who loved it, and thought it was better than his home! So I think it depended on where they were from as imagine how bad the place you came from was for you to enjoy a detention centre...

Some advice we received was comments like 'make sure you strive to succeed' and a lot of life quotes like 'life's too short'. It made us all realise not to take what we have for granted and also to achieve everything to the best of our ability as life really is too short.

The whole experience was very memorable as I actually learnt about these detention centres that I didn't even know existed, I'm guessing the same as everyone in the group. An enjoyable moment was when we all wrote and recorded a song together as it showed our unity and care towards these new amazing people we had been introduced to, and I really think it came out in the music too! I think our main message was to have hope and keep on going, keep your head held high and look at the positive side of things. I do think the detainees appreciated the concern in our voices and really hope they discovered and took on board our message!

I think we all learnt something during the project whether it was us, actually discovering the existence of detention centres and their members with heart touching stories, or them, knowing that somebody out there actually cares and wants to reach out to them. We all learnt about the diversity and talent in detention centres, and I'm hoping they were cheered up by our songs and that they play them whenever they’re feeling down and remember that someone does care.

I haven't actually worked with musicians before but the experience showed me that I think I'd like to again in the future. I could tell the artists were very driven by what they do, they had great talent and pursued the outcome very well. They taught us all new skills and didn't give up on us if we went wrong. We were limited with equipment but I still think we created masterpieces!

I would recommend for anyone to take part as not only do you create music which really means something for a group of people but you are realising and learning about other people's diverse lives, cultures and experiences.

Overall it was a great experience for us all and really made us open our minds and make music which would be replied to and actually had a meaning. The whole process was enjoyable and I thank The Challenge and Music In Detention for the experience.


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