Angel Media Productions CIC’s first -ever employee is now the presenter of our documentary, made for BBC Radio 1 and repeated on 1-Xtra. The music-based show called ‘British Inside’ reveals new insights into the UK’s immigration removal centres. It shows how ex-offenders who are detained because of their questionable immigration status can turn their lives around through an innovative music project run by Maz Graef and Lol Gellor of RadioActive. Lol and Max help the inmates to make music in different genres from rap to Bollywood, with lyrics that can be angry, witty or sad.
One Colnbrook detainee, Fituari, won a Platinum Award in the 2013 Koestler Awards for music produced behind bars. The track is called ‘Ring a ding’ and two other tracks made in colnbrook were highly commended at the Koestlers. http://www.koestlertrust.org.uk/
Nick Bright has come a long way since he had a temporary job as a student mentor on Angel Media’s ‘DJ for a Day’ school holiday training course in Bromley, Kent. Now the regular weekend breakfast presenter on 1-Xtra, Nick’s been on a journey of discovery to find out the truth about immigration. Inside the most notorious, high-security removal centre Colnbrook near Heathrow airport he found the conditions similar to a prison.
“I’ve seen people eating blades, running around with no clothes on and covering themselves with their own wastes” says Ross, interviewed in the documentary. And the home Office’s own website shows – in answer to a Freedom of Information request – that in Colnbrook alone there were 262 incidents of self harm in one three month period. that’s in a centre with 308 inmates.
Against this backdrop of desperation, the music project offers a creative activity for young men who have served their sentences in the prison system yet are still locked up. They do not know how long it might take before they are wither granted leave to remain in the UK or deported to their country of origin. Many of the detainees came to Britain as very young children or babies and have little connection with their birth nation. Some were born in places where it is too dangerous for them to return – like Freeze from Canning Town in East London, whose parents came from the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. He went to primary and secondary school in London and is one of hundreds of detainees who think of themselves as ‘British Inside’.
The documentary includes quotes from the party conference speech by Home Secretary Teresa May who is tightening the rules about foreign criminals being allowed to stay in the UK after then end of their sentences. The new Immigration Bill also makes it an offence for a landlord to offer rooms to a non-British person without checking his or her immigration status. Lawyer Carita Williams tells the documentary makers “They want to turn us all into immigration officers” .
‘British Inside’ is produced by Sue Bowerman and has been entered for an ‘in the dark’ radio documentary award at the Sheffield Documentary Festival.