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Calais, March 1-2, 2023

The Field of Stones, glaring bright in the sharpness of the cold midday sun, literally grew across the two days we were in Calais, a forklift truck carefully placing and spacing each boulder. Intended to stop people sleeping in this central area of the town next to one of the canals and under one of the bridges, it resembled a child’s game but one in which you can’t move the pieces. Some even have crystals in them, at least five hundred stones, mirroring the number of people currently displaced in Calais.

It is ironically quieter in this border town at the moment with less than 300 people, largely from north and west Africa, using the day centre yesterday, and fewer today. The Secours Catholique team of workers and volunteers manage to create a warm welcoming atmosphere of care, in contrast to the ongoing hostility towards this community from the local authorities outside.

On both days the table was well used, with conversations sustained, people staying for long periods of time, the viewfinders and slides shared and delighted in, dioramas and projects undertaken. We were joined by several visitors from other organisations.

As we packed up the materials, one of the men now working in the day centre who has used The Community Table across a number of years, said: ‘we need these tables everywhere’.

Words by Miriam Usiskin & Bobby Lloyd

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