HOSTEL Here we spent a moving couple of hours around the bedside with the familiar group of friends, mostly talking. Together the men gently explored the importance of tolerance of difference. They described how they have been reaching out to the French homeless men in the hostel with cups of tea, as a step towards making bridges and as an antidote to the dismay they feel at people in the town of Calais fearing them for the colour of their skin.
Alongside these discussions about in/tolerance were expressions of frustration and tears about the rigidity of structures around the asylum process, and a plea to each other to be patient. Meanwhile a beautiful traditional Sudanese family home was built in bricks and also drawn.
DAY CENTRE There was generally a lighter atmosphere in the day centre with some good humour and fewer individuals looking quite as exhausted. Phones were immediately put on to charge, groups and pairings of friends gathered together to rest or chat.
Men gathered at the table, several familiar faces. We introduced new bricks into the materials on the table which we have been casting from moulds in the UK so as to enable more people to participate. These, along with the terracotta bricks and coloured tiles, led to a wide range of new buildings, some of which were careful representations of home in Afghanistan, one of the first times that the family home in this setting has been so attentively constructed. Men joined each other in the building, supporting the load bearing walls with their hands. One man built a small grave, recognisable in structure to his friends.
Another man, a builder by trade, returned several times to his house to work on the roof structure, others playing at rocking the table or trying to offset its stability, the man eventually giving up, but with good grace. One younger man spoke to us of his experiences of abuse on his journey through Europe, and also about acts of kindness that have sustained him. This shift between moods was typical of the afternoon.
DAY CENTRE The load bearing walls continued to be supported by people working together with the bricks which again drew the attention of individuals, some returning from yesterday to start building again. This was in spite of us introducing drawing materials as a main activity. There was some interest in the postcards, particularly from the young boys in the room, one aged 14. We were once again moved by the sense of family amongst the teenagers and men, protecting each other at night, looking out for each other, helping to bear the load.
SAFE HOUSE Due to the large numbers of unaccompanied minors in the area and the lack of shelter, showers and limited food, the safe house was offering shelter to much younger teenagers during the afternoon. Today the house was full of human activity – cooking, clothes washing, cleaning, a large group of young teenagers eating around the table. It was impossible to lay out the art materials until the plates were cleared, making way for the young residents of the house to return to the ordinary calm. As we left a few of these boys road off up and down the street on bicycles, as if they could now come out to play.