Over Easter, along with Project 229 (a pro-active community centre for locals of all ages), we ran workshops aimed at giving the women of Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre a voice as well as reducing the isolation they feel by connecting them with each other and local young people aged 13-18 from the Fun 4 Young People group.
The three workshops focused on the themes Journey, Identity and Hope and were held at Project 229 with the young people, and at Yarl’s Wood with the detainees. This culminated in a sharing event where the young people performed songs, dances and words with the audience from the local community.
Led by Jo Lett and Edward King, the workshops used song writing, African drumming and Capoeira (an art form that mixes dance, rhythm and movement) to start a conversation and to explore ideas.
Working through music, writing and dance the participants were able to express their thoughts through these different art forms.
As Jo and Ed led the workshops and explained the exchanging of thoughts and ideas to those outside of Yarl’s Wood, via written letters and audio recordings, a lot of the women who took part were excited about the prospect of their voices and messages being heard by people outside, beyond the walls. They shared stories and messages that they wanted the young people to know and learn from.
You have to love yourself before you can love anyone. When you love yourself it gives you the joy to love someone else.
Everything you do, you learn from it
Great-great grandfather era- If your husband died you would have to die to join them. A widow cannot marry but a man can- things are slowly changing.
The young people’s response from the workshop were very touching and thoughtful;
I know how you feel, my dad was put in prison I never saw him again. It made me sad. Ladies you will always have my hope and faith for you From Yasmin, age 13yrs.
In reality we are all humans, so we shouldn’t be treated differently. Be whatever you want, who you want. We don’t judge. Tamiera, 14 years old.
You can be whatever you want to be if you believe in yourself. Anything can be made a reality with self love and determination. You can be your own spotlight. Frankie age 15.
There were challenges working within Yarl’s Wood. We worked hard through drumming and dance to overcome the language barrier a lot of the women experienced.
In the final session, the artists put some of the messages together and composed a song with the young people. They created the song for both parties to learn, and recorded it at Yarl’s Wood, which meant they could sing together at the performance via the recording. Another group from Project 229, expressed it differently through drumming and Capoeira.
This project has been a moving process for all involved; the artists are now working on developing it. The first event was so successful that the group has been invited to the Harper trust 450 years celebration with a view to giving another performance.