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The Final Session

The Final Session

It's the beginning of their final Music In Detention session, and the air is buzzing as the Oxfordshire Youth Arts group arrive at the Harlow Centre in Oxford, ready to put their lyrics and beats onto record - a document of their hard work (and fun times spent) in the preceding workshops.

Lianne is first up, and is nervous but excited about singing the song the group penned together, entitled The Final Piece. Although she loves to sing, Lianne has had to overcome her self-consciousness to sing in front of strangers. "If it's like a couple of people that I'm singing in front of it's fine but more than that I get a bit nervous and start shaking. My nerves get the better of me!" But thanks in part to the Music In Detention workshops, she's learning to combat that. "Before we came here, Lianne always thought she's not good at singing," says fellow participant Teekay, "and I was like 'You're really good, you're really good' and she was like 'No I'm not good' and now it's building her confidence." Ollie, sitting close by chips in: "Lianne? She's good at singing, man" and as Lianne finishes everyone claps enthusiastically.

It's a camaraderie and warmth that is evident throughout the session. The participants applaud each other, offer words of support or advice, and are clearly proud of each other's growing talents. "It's nice to see them all working together, sharing things, helping each other work things out," says (Youth Support Manager) Mary. "And this is particularly good for that because they're problem solving, encouraging each other and being patient in taking their turn."

And Lianne isn't the only one blossoming. "Oliver's confidence is building," says Mary. "And when James came to us, you wouldn't have even seen him talking like this to people. So he's going from strength to strength." The group have noticed a change too. "Even though we're all friends anyway, we've come together," says Lianne. For Ollie, it's also helped push him out of his comfort zone. "I remember in the first session everyone had to go out 'cos I couldn't rap in front of everyone," he says, "but then later I did."

Rapping, singing, composing lyrics... everybody has a role to play, explains Lianne: "Teekay makes his own beats. I sing. Ollie raps. James talks the words. Jamie goes on Garage Band and does what Teekay does; makes his own music. And Holly plays the bass guitar. We all have our own individual thing."

Normally there are six half-day sessions with the community group in a Music In Detention project, but this time those sessions are being shared between the teenagers from the Oxfordshire Youth Arts group  and a younger group from the North Leigh Youth Club. Despite this, Kev and Téa (who co-led the sessions) have maximised the time, with fantastic results. "I've been incredibly impressed by how quickly Kev has been able to just pull it together, get their lyrics out and do about 10 different things at the same time," marvels Laura. "It's amazing."

"I don't think just anybody could engage with them," agrees Youth Support Manager Mary. "Kev knows what he's doing. They've got an enormous amount of respect for him. They know that they can learn from him. You can see them listening." And the huge amount they've achieved in so short a time is an inspiration in itself. "I've learned that you can get things done quickly, the time doesn't really matter," says Teekay. "Well it does matter but if you work together, you can get it done. You can do it."

As well as time, there have been other struggles to overcome along the way, such as attendance. "Last week only two people came in the end, which is a real shame," says Youth Arts Manager Laura. "But what we find is that you've got to persist. Particularly if you're working with young people who have quite chaotic home lives or are used to being forgotten about. It's almost like a little test of our commitment as well. If they don't come, you still invite them and include them, and just have a really, really positive attitude to getting them to remain engaged. These guys are now getting used to saying 'Yes'. It's brilliant."

Mary gets a good sense of what the group thinks of the sessions, both on the journey home and in-between sessions, and has noticed a positive response too. "They love it," she says, "absolutely love it. Sometimes getting them here is a little bit difficult because they've just come in from school, they're hungry... But once they're here they love it."

As the final workshop draws to a close, the participants reflect on how much it has become part of their lives. "Coming here is like different from staying at home all day doing nothing," says Teekay, "it's something different". While Lianne, sad to see the project end, asks Kev "Can't we do any more sessions after this? I'd really like to continue it. It's been quite fun!"

Carinya Sharples 
Freelance Journalist/Editor

North Leigh Youth Project

North Leigh Youth Project

Friends in the City of Atlantis

A moving account of a Music In Detention project involving people who were detained at Campsfield House Immigration Removal Centre and young people living locally, where they co-collaborated to create this unique piece of music. Animation film created by Kevin Davidson from Music for Change.