Press release: Bedford Music In Detention Closes After Five Years



Press release: Bedford Music In Detention Closes After Five Years


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Contemporary arts charity, Bedford Creative Arts (BCA), and national charity, Music In Detention, have announced the end of their music programme ‘Bedford Music In Detention’ at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) due to an end in financial funding from public service provider Serco. 

This brings to an end ten years of helping women and children cope with the ordeal of detention at Yarl’s Wood. Music In Detention began regular music sessions there in 2008 and since 2013, BCA has led the programme at Yarl’s Wood, bringing in over 17 different artists to work with detainees through a variety of music-based workshops.  

One participant of the scheme at Yarl’s Wood said of their experience: “It was a nice surprise. It put smiles on people’s faces – I’ve seen people smiling in here who never smile”, and: “I love it and I felt so much happier in the group because this time made me forget what I’m here for and I was just free and felt good and the ladies were amazing before and in the music and after.” 

The end of the programme is a loss for Yarl’s Wood’s women and the families in residence there; the programme has worked to reduce detainees’ isolation, enabling them to realise their talents, build confidence and improve their skills. The programme has served to relieve stress and anxiety by helping detainees to express their emotions and develop new friendships and in addition to this, encouraged people from different communities to come together using music as a common language.  

“I was really tearful, I had a lot of anger in me but when we started playing music, it really made me feel calm, it lifted my mind up. I’ve got PTSD; I need music in my life. Music makes you alive, it’s a therapy. I was dancing every time you came in” commented another detainee at Yarl’s Wood on their involvement with the music programme.  

Bedford Music In Detention also delivered extensive work within the community, engaging a wide range of people whose voices are often overlooked. This included single mothers, people experiencing mental ill health, those with disabilities, young people in schools, and older people. People from all walks of life have been helped to find common ground with people in detention through the work carried out in this programme. 

“This project has made me consider what is important in life. It gave me a lot to think about and an insight into the difficulties others face. The project and communication made me more appreciative of my life now.” Community participant, Family Groups Bedford. 

John Speyer, director at Music In Detention says: “We’ve worked for 10 years at Yarl’s Wood, including four years in a fantastic creative partnership with Bedford Creative Arts. During this time we’ve brought communities together, made incredible music, and improved the lives of over 4500 women and children in immigration detention, and over 1000 local people. We’re very sad that Serco have decided to bring this work to an end, but immensely proud of what we have achieved and appreciate the co-operation from many of the staff at Yarl’s Wood over the years.”  

Jih-Wen, BCA’s Bedford MID producer adds: “I am proud to have been leading and developing the Bedford Music In Detention artistic programme in the past three years. The journey and experience has been phenomenal. The programme has made a great impact on the lives of many women and families who are isolated and in a very difficult situation.”  

Annie Bacon, interim chief officer of BCA concludes: “Much of our work is with communities whose voices aren’t heard. Working with Music In Detention in partnership, and with funder Harpur Trust, has enabled us to provide the women of Yarl’s Wood with an important space for expression and a connection to the wider world that has helped improve their wellbeing during their time at the centre. We are extremely disappointed that the programme has come to an end, but we look forward to continuing our partnership with Music In Detention on future projects.”  

In Numbers: 

From 2008 to 2017, Music In Detention and Bedford Creative Arts have worked with 4688 detainees, mostly women but also children (and a small number of men), as well as 1150 local people (300 participants and also audiences of 850 at performances).  


Bedford Music In Detention  

SERCO Secure Immigration Detention 

Bedford Music In Detention Projects: 

Love from Syria 

Hear Her Singing   

BedMID Choir set up in 2014   

About Music In Detention 

Music In Detention works with immigration detainees, bringing them together with professional musicians and local communities to share, create and enjoy music, enabling often-ignored voices to be heard in new ways.  We believe that music can help break down barriers of prejudice about immigration and asylum, so we work with communities local to detention centres to create music in response to detainees and their stories. We’ve been bringing expert musicians into centres since 2005. Each year we involve around 2,500 detainees and 200 community participants, in over 200 workshops and produce up to eight CDs of new music.  

About Serco: 

Serco provides secure detention services on behalf of government immigration departments. They manage facilities and provide services that ensure the safe and caring detention of people awaiting information on their asylum status.  


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