A VIP’s surprise visit to see a burnt-out UK immigrant removal centre

I first met mad inventor John Ward around 25 years ago. Despite being admittedly eccentric, he has held down a stream of very sensible jobs. He used to work for the Barclaycard credit card company and, at one time, held a gun licence for several weapons.

I was never nervous about him working at Barclaycard.

Yesterday, he told me about something which happened almost ten years ago, when he was working at the occasionally controversial Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre for American-owned Aramark Facilities Management who had a contract with the Group 4 security company which had a six-year contract from the UK government to run the detention centre.

No government contracts are ever simple.

On February 14th 2002, Yarl’s Wood was almost entirely burned down during a riot by disgruntled detained would-like-to-have-been immigrants. It did not re-open until September 2003.

John tells me that, “one particular morning, a little while after the place had settled down to sort out the mess caused by the fire, there were phones ringing everywhere, telling people about the imminent arrival of a VIP from the Government who would be on a whistle-stop tour of the site and would we all  ‘please see that everything is cleaned up spick-and-span’ for the VIP who could not be named, even to us, for security reasons.

“All the cleaning staff set-to with a vengeance and not a speck of dust could be seen after the Cleaning Manager went round everywhere with a pair of white cotton gloves on to test for any small grains of dirt which might have escaped the sudden high profile purge.

“Even though the Centre was ‘stood down’ and not operating normally due to the fire damage, cleaners still cleaned everything spotless each and every single day regardless, as the contract to do so was given by Group 4 and was still ‘active’. You literally could have eaten your dinner off the floor it was kept so clean. But it was cleaned up even cleaner than clean for this soon-to-arrive government VIP. They did not want him to see dirt anywhere.

“A short while before the VIP was due to arrive, word got round as to who it was. The reaction on the faces of the staff was something to behold.

“The visit, when it happened, took all of 12 minutes. The ministerial Jaguar sped into the Reception Area and the VIP got out with his entourage and wafted into the building and, almost as soon as the Minister arrived, he departed.”

John Ward tells me they had no feedback on what David Blunkett, the blind Home Secretary, thought of the super-clean state of the Centre and, he adds, “the comments of his guide dog were not recorded either, but I heard some of the comments of the staff who had been desperately re-cleaning everything for the visit. They were not impressed by irony.“


Filed under Crime, immigration, Politics, PR

5 responses to “A VIP’s surprise visit to see a burnt-out UK immigrant removal centre

  1. Jeaniegraham

    Incredibly amusing and interesting story. There is certainly no end to the amazing experiences and talents of John Ward. Loving the photos too of John with the Malcolm Hardee Awards. Jeanie Graham

  2. Yhas, looking back it’s not been a boring ‘life’ as I have known it but its been so bizarre in some respects – they tell me and they wouldn’t tell me fibs I feel sure.. – and this was but a mere nugget and if I was to write me ‘life story’, just who would believe it? – I lived/am living through it and it still makes me wonder about some folk who seem to believe they have had a ‘good one’.. – I must relate some time about how I convinced 4 wonderful, gullible folk to go along with me to go to French France by bike – yup, we made a ‘craft’ powered by four bikes, had a well known cycle company who brought tobacco to thsi country when not making bikes provide said bikes, then had a well known paint company…and we ‘made it’ to Page 3 (of the Daily Mirror as we still had our kit on..) so no, you would be bored…or the time I said to the Managing Director of a well known credit card company that on seeing him drenched from coming in from the Great Outdoors, partly drenched that I assumed it was raining as I knew it wasn’t sweat in his case and his stare will be forever etched on my mind…nice man..very nice man…but then again I could relate about the time the man with a rather large gun appeared on our shooting range and wanted to shoot the.. ha well!… perhaps another time …must dash as me varnish is drying – hopefully…

    • Jeaniegraham

      Another interesting piece of writing and amusing as ever, although part of me got a little lost somewhere a long the way reading it. Guess thats all part of the talent, a very gifted way to write and its a case of us normal folks keeping up! Your humour is very quick and you are very witty and clever. I dont like you being referred by John Fleming as “mad”, eccentric suits you far better. Jeanie

      • Ta Jeanie! – but one has to consider things like I don’t think I could stand the ‘normal’ stuff that goes on these days – and before – so I have done it – as Frank would have sung – “My way…” and it seemed to have worked so far (I think..) but being listed as ‘mad’ comes as second nature now I suppose and its too late to change now!

        I am thinking of doing a thing called “All Contraptions Great and Tall” based on the inventions and second half, if they let me last that long of course!, a bit of nostalgia along the lines of trains (oh umm!) and other slow moving things plus shopping of years gone by – ” You want a Mars bar? – surely you can find somewhere nearer to home, and this planet to drink in?…” sort of thing..

        I must rest up I fear as it all getting to me…

        Best dishes!


  3. Throw in some pale yellow paint, a flowery stencil
    pattern, and a couple of wide-brimmed straw hats and also the
    same set of Adirondack furniture would look great in a French country-style setting.
    But before you have made those decisions, they would sit
    down with you, using this 3D bathroom CAD software, and
    produce a 3D rendering of your bathroom.

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