Dee Isaacs, Senior Lecturer in Music, is passionate about helping others through the power of music. This has led her to run the undergraduate Music in the Community and the postgraduate Community Arts courses at the University of Edinburgh, as well as become the Artistic Director of the Windows on the World project which works in collaboration with the Greek organisation Code on the Road, who promote a holistic approach to solving issues in today’s labour market. Dee combines her teaching skills and her compassion for others by travelling to areas of unrest, using the vessel of musical expression to help the local children form communicative and emotional connections. If you’re looking for a source of boundless kindness and inspiration, look no further than ECA’s own Dee Isaacs. Below, Dee tells us about her recent trip to Leros, Greece, and the importance of her musical and creative art-based work. 

My work has been focused on bringing music to marginalised people in both educational and social sectors.I worked in the Republic of Georgia in early 2000 and for several years as part of a team of creative artists, we worked to train local teachers and psychologists to work with music and the creative arts to relieve trauma amongst displaced children and families. The work is not psycho-social or music therapy, but I do believe that it can bring relief to children to be engaged in this way.

The project directly works with the children currently living in Leros, but I am also training local professional musicians and teachers to run workshops for the children so that the work can continue. We work in both the camp – the hotspot – and Pikpa, a disused hospital now a refuge. On this recent trip I was accompanied by wonderful colleagues Christina Bain, course tutor for Music in the Community and one undergraduate student Felipe Valencia. Every day we ran workshops for around 30 children. Little ones first and then the older ones from six months to 14 years. In the evening we ran an art club making props for our show. On the last day we performed to a small group of parents who were waiting to break their Ramadan fast.

Dee with kids playing and performing in Leros, Greece on the ECA team's trip to the displaced community
Dee Isaacs
Dee and the team with children in Leros, singing and playing in the sun

""Music really does have an immense power to allow us to escape our reality.""

Dee Isaacs

The desperate situation in Greece really struck me.There is not much we can do as artists but these children are the future and it is so important they have the opportunity to just be children and to enjoy playing, singing, sharing, imagining. We had worked in camps around Athens for two summers since 2016 but the islands have so little resources – both basic or educational. It is very hard, and still the boats are coming, even on my most recent visit. 

I always return from Leros having heard stories of such hardship.People ask me here in Scotland, “Why are they still getting on the boats? Why are they still coming?” The parents of refugee children tell me still that they have no choice – they come to escape the violence. New arrivals now from Somalia and Republic of Congo mix with Syrians and those from Iraq – this all changes the cultural mix and the understanding. This ‘new’ family finds it hard to live side by side, and that is why working with the children is vital. On this visit, I saw that many of the families have moved away. They need to learn how to have respect for each other, to be tolerant, to share, to laugh and play together. 

Music really does have an immense power to allow us to escape our reality. I saw even the older children really listening and joining in. They were just in the moment, perhaps not thinking of their journey and their circumstance, but feeling the music. That was special for us all. 

Windows on the World is generously supported through The Lobs Trust.

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