Registered Charity 1114353

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

Optics, A Dragon and Unnamed Graves

CONTEXT


It’s been another complex couple of days. Yesterday was Halloween and another Brexit date not met. The roads leading to the Channel Tunnel were eerily empty. Today is All Saints Day with families in Calais heading to the large graveyards on the edge of town to lay flowers.

 

Meanwhile, a public holiday has welcomed in a vast mechanised dragon and a three-day spectacle for the people of Calais. The dragon will move through town in staged performances, breathing fire, and eventually find its permanent home near the beach. Streets are closed and lined with dragon-

 

themed beer pumps, posters advertising the event are everywhere, inviting all to attend.

There is a darker side - refugees, and volunteers working with them, have been banned by the local town council both from this family event and from the area. Food distribution in the centre of town has been stopped. Another blow has been a further closure of the day centre since Thursday, following a fight and a window smashed. The centre, a refuge earlier this week for up to 250 people each day, reopens next Tuesday.

 

DISTRIBUTION


This week marks three years on from the closure of the large Calais ‘Jungle’ camp.

 


The colder weather, depleted spaces and abuse by police continue. The new fences have forced the small, crowded tents right to the edge of the road. One man described how his belongings were taken by the police - important documents, phones and shoes, a crutch thrown into the gutter.

 

With the large map taped to the ambulance we wanted to create a space where looking in a different way could happen.

The introduction of a magnifying glass brought new ways of viewing: young men able to amplify their home country; refract the light; invert the landscape. A step away from the map the fence could be played with; a branch looked at in a new way; a rainbow created by catching the light. This simple device brought fleeting fragments of engagement; shifts in perspective and imagination.

We also had heartwarming conversations at the map, remarkable resilience and capacity to be hopeful.

 

We ourselves had another new sense of perspective when we visited the town graveyards on Friday, which made us look at this part of northern France in a different way. We witnessed row upon row of graves of young soldiers from many countries and looked together at unnamed graves. A little further away were rows of graves of refugees who have also lost their lives on this soil, some named and others marked with a number. All these graves are visited, and kept in mind, people striving for a better life.

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