Displaced Voices

Music with, for and about refugees and asylum seekers

Displaced Voices is an umbrella initiative that encompasses a constellation of engagement projects and initiatives which bring together school and university students with the professional musicians of OSJ, community members, refugees and asylum seekers through musical participation, and raises awareness about refugee issues in Oxfordshire through artistic expression in orchestral performance.

See and hear the fruits of this project at a number of public concerts and events:

30th November 2018, 7.30pm, Dorchester Abbey

18th January 2019, 7.30pm, Somerville College Chapel

19th January 2019, 7.30pm, King’s Place, London

There are three exciting components of the Displaced Voices project:

1.) Oxford Spires Academy Collaboration

Associate conductor Cayenna Ponchione and composer Toby Young are working with four talented refugees from the Oxford Spires Academy to assist them with creating orchestral ‘backing tracks’ to spoken word performance of their own poetry. The students will perform their own works live with OSJ, conducted by Cayenna.

This project builds on the successes of the Oxford Spires Academy award winning poetry programme developed by Kate Clanchy, which over the past decade, has supported young migrants and refugees as they develop English language skills and process their extraordinary journeys.

More recently, the programme’s extraordinary literary achievements have included Amineh Abou Kerech winning the 2017 Betjeman prize and a commercial publication by Picador England: Poems from a School.

2.) Displaced Voices Song Cycle

Three professional composers, Sadie Harrison, Shirley Thompson and Toby Young, have been commissioned to set poems from England: Poems from a School for mezzo soprano Charlotte Tetley and the OSJ strings.

The first commission from the project has already been performed at a Panel Discussion event at Somerville College which explored the unique issues facing women refugees in the United Kingdom; Sadie Harrison’s My Hazara People – a setting of words written by recent Oxford Spires Academy (OSA) graduate, Shukria Reazei (read her poem here).

3.) Music-making with detainees at Campsfield House

OSJ musicians will travel to the Immigration Removal Centre, Campsfield House, alongside community members and students, to engage detainees in hands-on music-making activities. The group will use a method of semi-structured improvisation that employs hand signaling to create unique but cohesive large ensemble improvisations with any combination of instruments and voices from people of all different musical backgrounds and skill levels.

Want to get involved? Training and practice sessions for anyone wishing to be involved are running at the Faculty of Music from 7-9pm every Wednesday evening during October and November. Visit the Rhythm & Signs Facebook Page here for regular updates!


We are thrilled to report that we have the support of the Derril Allat Foundation, Arts Council England, and TORCH Oxford as well as generous individual donors which enable us to carry out this work.