This week Naomi Press and Bobby Lloyd went to visit a number of refugee services in Paris with the plan for Art Refuge UK to start a new project there this Winter. Miriam Usiskin travelled from London, joining them in Calais on Thursday morning. We were also joined across the two days by Marta Walender, Executive Director of Refugee Rights Europe and Elodie Cousin on placement with us from Paris. This week we were aware of the growing fragmentation on the border, people at a crossroads, navigating unknown territory and trying to find a dignified way to survive.
At the Secours Catholique Day Centre we sensed the precarity for people, some communicating loneliness through the art-making, most sitting in rows on their mobile phones absorbed in their own worlds in different languages of news, comedy shows, football, social media, some in conversation with those back home.
There was a feeling of desolation at the roadside distribution where we arrived later in the afternoon, with only Medecins du Monde on site. Placing our map as usual on the ambulance we were struck by the weight of the journeys now on its surface crisscrossing Europe and were reminded that the map, while most often a space that appears to ground people, can also act to remind them that they are stuck in a never ending movement back and forth between countries, with no obvious way out. We witnessed outbursts of anger and frustration at the map, but were also humbled by the great dignity with which some people chose to share fragments of their personal stories of prison in Libya, and terrifying border and sea crossings. One man said, ‘we must be patient’.
We delivered our first psychosocial toolkits and safe art-making session to over 20 individuals in the evening. The training once again brought together a number of different Calais based organisations and, through the exploration of plasticine as an art medium, allowed for a unique meeting point for French and British services to come together.
In the morning we met with Help Refugees to discuss offering training to long term volunteers and core staff.
The afternoon had a very different feel at the Day Centre. It was a warm sunny day and the centre was full, with a number of volunteers. This gave us scope to move between the inside and outside of the space, utilising the large outdoor area. A pile of old palettes provided the source material for building playful structures that could act as runways for cars or host the carefully moulded objects and animals that were created in a circle outside across the afternoon.