CALAIS - JUNE 13-14, 2019
This week there was a marked shift in weather from Thursday to Friday. For refugees the rain means that their tents become waterlogged, while the police ironically stay away only to return when the skies clear.
The shift in weather after a week of rain brought a lighter mood by Friday afternoon and several magical moments in which authentic conversations and art making were possible.
We were struck by the breadth and depth of discussion at the Secours Catholique team meeting on Friday. Topics spanned family tracing; deportations; honouring those who have died on the border; the many new faces in Calais at the moment. Also discussed was the lack of basic shelter, sanitation and access to primary healthcare and in particular mental health support.
The overcast weather meant we didn’t deliver cyanotypes but instead set up The Community Table with two typewriters and a box of postcards. A young man who joined us two weeks ago continued his fascination with the typewriter, remaining at the table throughout our trip to the Distribution to type a true life story. When we returned he had created several versions, seeking to create a perfect text (typed using carbon paper), before presenting one copy to us as he finished, keeping a copy for himself.
We used the tablecloth map on the side of the ambulance. A slow start, windy and cold. People were noticeably exhausted. Little by little conversations began in front of this softer map with no journeys marked on it, allowing for imagining, politics and journey planning. There were long discussions about the positioning of borders, the most beautiful parts of Africa, the Paris to Dakar car rally and their own journeys in the opposite direction. One older man described his journey on foot from Istanbul. On packing up, the MDM team debriefed a little, validating our presence as a contribution to their psychosocial service provision.
At the Secours Catholique meeting, preparations were discussed for International Refugee Day next Thursday in tandem with a self organised press conference by refugee groups to draw attention to the lack of safe passage routes.
We concluded the meeting with the communal creation of three cyanotype sails by the large group of volunteers and staff of Secours Catholique: hands reaching ‘across the Channel’ and another a giant circle of hands, joining us all together for a brief moment in the sun.
The afternoon was spent around The Community Table and outside in the courtyard near the washing lines where the sun allowed us to offer cyanotype printing in relation to the Ship of Tolerance exhibition. One young man carefully positioned a flower from the courtyard that reminded him of a flower from his Eritrean childhood.
At the table the typewriters drew a group of young Sudanese men to engage us in role play - we were asked a series of questions, the answers to which they then typed onto the paper; carbon copies were made; interest in each other was enjoyed.
For our final print some young men positioned their mobile phones and chargers to make an analogue print of digital connections.