• IIMS

Song Seeking Project - Report Launched

Direct provision is a controversial state system for housing asylum seekers in Ireland. In June, the new government committed to ending direct provision and replacing it with a “new international protection accommodation policy, centred on a not-for-profit approach”. To find out more about the problematic direct provision system, click here.


From January to June 2019, Dónal Kearney - co-Director of the Irish Institute of Music and Song - worked on the Song Seeking Project. The ‘Song Seeking’ project targets one of the most marginalised groups within Irish society – those seeking asylum who are part of the direct provision system. The project sought to use music as a way of building community amongst the singers who took part.


Dónal travelled to St Patrick's centre in Monaghan and Hatch Hall centre in Dublin city centre. The rehearsals and workshops culminated in a showcase event in the National Concert Hall on 9 June 2019.


This video shows some of the participants performing Khulmuma Isintu, a new piece written by Dr Seán Doherty as part of the Song Seeking Project.


As part of the Song Seeking project, a team of 4 choral facilitators with the project lead, designed, developed and implemented a unique intergenerational group singing project in six Direct Provision centres.


The Song Seeking project team worked alongside contemporary composer, Dr Seán Doherty, to further influence the project in creative ways. Using a process-driven approach, the commissioned pieces emerged through Dr Doherty’s experiences and interactions with the singers living in Direct Provision. Thus, the ‘Song Seeking Songbook’ is a direct legacy of the project.


The hosting of ‘SingIn’ events at the Direct Provision centres connected ‘inside’ communities with ‘outside’ communities. These events invited choirs and singing groups from the local areas surrounding Direct Provision centres to share songs, perform for each other and socialise.


The ‘Big Sing’ hosted by the National Concert Hall provided an opportunity to embrace and highlight diversity on a macro level through its status as a prominent cultural institution and by connecting the Song Seeking project with the general public.

The Song Seeking Project comes from a desire to "provide access to musical and creative opportunities for people living in Direct Provision and to identify ways for people to connect and integrate through the collective power of music". Creative Ireland is committed to the vision that: "every person in Ireland should have the opportunity to realise their full creative potential."


Over six months, researchers, musicians and community facilitators worked together with residents of six Direct Provision centres in Clare, Cork, Dublin, Kildare, Laois and Monaghan. At the centre of this research were the singers themselves – adults and children – all from different backgrounds but all enabled by music to find a common voice.


In Dónal's words:

The project was eye-opening in so many ways. It exposed very directly to me the flawed infrastructure set up in Ireland to accommodate and care for those seeking asylum, whose right to do so is protected internationally by the United Nations. Much progress has been made, thankfully, even since the final showcase in the NCH in June 2019. I do hope the project helped the participants, but it certainly helped me to confront the humanity of the situation in the direct provision centres I visited. It also reminded me of the power of music to connect individuals. In my workshops, people from all around the world - from babies to older parents, men, women and children - embraced music for their own reasons. And that was beautiful.

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©2019 Irish Institute of Music and Song.