CALAIS, JUNE 28-30, 2018
The uncomfortable is a difficult space to attempt to hold in this work as the context on the northern France-UK border at Calais continues to be complex and difficult to navigate for everyone involved.
In this work, sometimes it’s possible to help process things with people and at other times it’s impossible and all we can then do is witness what we see and listen to what people have to tell us and hold our ground, thereby helping them to hold theirs. Sometimes we simply need to draw upon and have faith in the ritual of the everyday.
During a very difficult conversation with our friend about his asylum process he interrupted to tell us that he had recently cut the hedge outside the office window which now looks much trimmer - an example of resilience in the everyday. It also reminded both him and us that he has resources to draw upon and that at times we all need to distract ourselves from the pain of a situation as a healthy defence; in this case through an ordinary activity, a ritual in the everyday.
We were pleased to have two visitors from two Paris-based art therapy trainings who joined us for the afternoon. The centre was busy, people wanted to be indoors as it was warm outside and quite exposed. The ritual activities of games, puzzles, charging phones and the building of towers settled in a regular rhythm across the afternoon, with the evening World Cup matches adding an air of anticipation. Some young men seemed a little on edge, others anxious, the quiet spaces in the company of others perhaps allowing sadness to seep in, of family missed and distance felt, the ordinary everyday activity of the day centre holding this in its wake.
The School Bus Project and Medecins du Monde had set up their spaces by the time we arrived and the atmosphere was one of good spirits and positive energy. Services and support offered were being taken up and playfulness was possible.
The map can be difficult to tether in this environment as the winds are so strong, while at other times you can sit on it as if it a were a raft or a carpet. It then becomes a place to orientate yourself from. Today the tablecloth map became an anchor for play and discussion. A long, complex journey to get to Calais was explained and a strong border in the English Channel was constructed. This was followed by the building of arches and tunnels and inventive structures to get across the channel - the ritual in our work of offering up the map, building blocks and vehicles has become another ritual in the everyday.
The activity around the table offered an opportunity for ourselves alongside the staff and volunteers to check in, touch base and hatch plans. Physical jetties and bridges were built across the table while ideas about how to bridge the gap between this work in Calais and the young people who manage to get across the channel to the UK were explored. These young men often find themselves untethered and uncontained due to the lack of rituals and routines of the everyday that are so essential in helping us all feel grounded. So much confidence is needed to lay roots. The ritual around the table on Friday afternoons allows for new things to come, and landscapes to be explored both here and elsewhere.
Our second training module for staff and volunteers from other organisations focused on “Trauma, Coping and Resilience” in the particular context of people’s work in Calais. Here the themes explored above were at the heart of discussions and a beautiful landscape was built by twenty people around the large table. The training and these ideas in turn help to ground us in this work.