CALAIS, 15-16 FEBRUARY 2018
It felt like the cold weather, the violence of the previous weeks and the desperate situation for so many in Calais had taken its toll on the people we worked with this week. However despite this, we still saw extraordinary resilience, creativity, playfulness and the richness of imagination from so many of people we came across.
We were lucky enough to be able to go the hostel to see our friend on both Thursday and Friday this week. The extra time enabled us to have more time to engage and to really get stuck into a piece of work together, in this case an animation film. His good spirits brought about a playful mood.
We started by choosing some cut out puppets that we had brought. He then very much directed the action in which a mother appears to be chiding her teenage son, they walk off in different directions, and the son goes out clearly against the advice of his mother. He is soon approached by a fox dressed as a man and we understand why the mother had warned the boy not to go out.
However the fox and the boy merely get into conversation, the fox encourages the boy to get out into the world and explore different lands. The boy imagines a boat journey and a new a city. The fox then describes all his favourite foods and the kinds of things the boy could try for himself away from his mother. This is as far as we got and we agreed to finish off the film next week (when it will be then posted).
The day centre was relatively quiet and people quite subdued and tired. Phones were being charged, some people were having a lie down, and others were drinking tea and chatting.
One young man joined us and started making a building with the bricks, he then decided he wanted to make a film with about area 56 with a UFO in it. A flying saucer was duly made and the action proceeded from there, other people joined us and took part, a man from Syria, a man from Egypt, another from Iran, and a young man from Sudan all contributed to an ever more surreal sci-fi scene.
The film ended with a young man doing a sprint across a desert like landscape and then doing some exercises. The teenager who did this animation took great care to try and get the puppet to run in an anatomically correct way and perhaps reflected his own interest and prowess as an athlete himself.
Despite the afternoon sunshine the sense of tiredness and weariness at the day centre was even more marked at the distribution. A number of people we came across seemed exhausted, ill and at the end of their tether. One man had recently had an operation and he looked particularly vulnerable, he was very anxious about the police presence all around.
It seemed that the people's fear was raised and perhaps, as a consequence the playful, exploratory parts of themselves were not so available as there was not so much engagement with the art materials. However there was still a rich conversation around the map, one young man talking about his fascination with geography and history and a deep engagement with looking and thinking with us reflecting a very real desire for him to be able to study and further his knowledge. This is an important reminder of the thirst so many of these young people have to learn and have an education, something that has often been very much restricted for them.
There had been an incident at the safe house just before we arrived and perhaps another reflection of the mood of many people in such difficult circumstances in Calais.
Perhaps as a result there was a subdued start to the afternoons session, but gradually more and more young people got engaged with the process of making an anaimation, so that by the time we left the group two films had been made.
At first everyone concentrated on making figures and props for a film, which at first didn't have a plot or even a theme.
Eventually though a plasticine figure walks onto the set and is greeted by a chicken that he feeds, he then goes over to sit by the fire as the chicken sits in her nest. Another figure walks on who has a different idea and he goes over and catches the surprised chicken and cooks it in the fire. The scene ends with both figures eating the chicken.
The second film stars two figures, both hunters, each with bows and arrows. The scene takes place next to a river. One of the hunters falls into the river and the other quickly rescues him, lays him out on the ground and resuscitates him. They then both then sit next to the fire until... the story develops further next week!