Windrush – for the record

New record label will shine light on scandal

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A musician who was almost deported to a country he left at the age of four has launched a record label to share the stories of marginalised people.

Jamaica-born Owen Haisley, known as Madrush MC, fell foul of the government’s hostile environment policy after serving a short prison sentence – resulting in his right to remain in the UK being taken away.

Public campaign

He came close to being returned to the island earlier this year, but a huge public campaign led to his release. The flight took off without him, carrying about 30 deportees.

To date, the 46 year old is still in legal limbo – unable to work, rent property, claim benefits, use the NHS, drive or vote, despite having lived in the UK for more than four decades. The Home Office has not been in touch with him since spring.

He has now launched a not-for-profit record label with the aim of highlighting the experiences of people usually ignored by the music business. The project is being put together with the support of music industry adviser Mike Burgess and distribution service Labelworx.

Haisley said: “Stand Up Speak Out is a platform for the voiceless to tell their stories and experiences, using the power of music.

“This project is to encourage others out there who have been marginalised in any way,  that it’s okay to stand up and speak out. If I hadn’t stood up and spoken out I wouldn’t be here now, so I want to encourage other people to also make their voices heard.”

During his time on the drum ‘n’ bass scene, Haisley became a respected MC who hosted sets for artists including Goldie and DJ Marky.

He was also a youth worker, engaging more than 2,000 young people from Greater Manchester in the arts over a decade-long period.

The label’s debut release, Everyday Bluesy, is from Haisley himself and is about maintaining a positive mindset while going through a hell that most will never experience.

He hopes the label will tease out other people’s challenging experiences – from immigration problems to mental health, homelessness and knife crime. People can make music themselves or can share their stories with the Stand Up Speak Out team, who will use them to develop lyrics and commercially released tracks.

Haisley has come close to being removed from the UK twice since being put on immigration bail in 2017. The first time he was moments away from being put on a flight when his lawyer’s last-ditch application to the Windrush Taskforce saw his deportation postponed.

That application was rejected last October, leading to his being detained for a second time in January. That time the father of three told his friends what was happening to him – and they quickly built a campaign which gained massive support.

More than 100,000 people signed a petition in his support and Manchester MP Lucy Powell raised his case in Parliament, leading to a second postponement and
his release in March.

He said: “How do you tell people what’s happening when you have a problem with something like your immigration status? But if I hadn’t told people what was happening this time, I don’t know where I’d be now. I now want to encourage other people to speak out about their problems. I know what not speaking out does to a person because that was me last year.”

Interact: Responses to Windrush – for the record

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