Registered Charity 1114353

Number 30, The Coach House, 2, Upper York Street, Bristol, BS2 8QN

Art making, art therapy and training on the France-UK border in Calais


The work in France takes places two days each week, with the team travelling to France on Thursday morning and returning to the UK on Friday evening. This pattern has been ongoing since September 2015. Working across cultures, Art Refuge UK was one of the few services in the Calais refugee camp offering a space open to all people, regardless of their ethnicity or age, before it closed at the end of October 2016. The vast majority were adult men and unaccompanied teenage boys (95% of the camp population was male).                                                                                             


Our project currently takes place in partnership with Médecins du Monde the charity Secours Catholique within their psychosocial programmes, across several sites including a day centre, distribution point, a safe house and a homeless hostel. The aim of the work is to offer arts-based psychosocial support for refugees through open spaces in various settings at the French-UK border at the request of our partners and based upon ongoing assessments of need and context. The work also takes the form of tailor-made arts-based psychosocial trainings, to equip local carers and professionals with further and relevant psychosocial skills.

In the context of our work on the France-UK border at Calais and previously also in Dunkirk, our work has supported individuals on a number of levels, helping many individuals to cope better with their current situation, whilst managing their loss and ongoing distress. This is evidenced by feedback from refugees themselves, by other workers, as well as our own observations and ongoing assessment of the work.


Through looking, cataloguing, filing, photographing, curating, listening and witnessing, the work allows for containment of individual’s experiences and communications, supported by linking with partner organizations. The work has allowed opportunities for mapping (marking routes of travel on large maps) and journeys to be recorded and witnessed, while distressing and often traumatic experiences on route can be talked about, drawn, painted and acknowledged (sea-crossings, prisons, nights in open deserts). At times opportunities for distraction, looking away, engaging with something other than painful memories or retelling one’s experiences are invaluable, such as through kite-making and flying. This activity also allows for skills-sharing, collaboration and competition, disappointment and hope, demonstrating that it can be achievable and solvable.

We engage in public discourse through our active use of social media as an advocacy platform as well as a place to celebrate people's creative agency; fundraising events; exhibitions; peer-reviewed and other academic writing, presentation of papers at conferences and delivery of arts-based psychosocial training programmes in the UK, Europe and internationally. 


Led by @artrefugeuk_ in collaboration with @caritasfrance @medecinsdumonde - FREE for STAFF & VOLUNTEERS from NGOs working in Calais and Dunkirk.


6 Saturday morning sessions taking place in Calais between June & December. If you are already working/volunteering for an NGO in northern France and interested in joining - or for further information - please message us!