NO COLD COMFORT CALAIS – February 21-22, 2018
CONTEXT Since the troubling fight at the start of February it has been much quieter in Calais – although new people continue to arrive. At the distribution point numbers fluctuate from around 50 to 120 people.
The new Macron-government proposed Immigration Bill is being discussed by the State and its content is already hugely unpopular amongst agencies. For example, longer detention periods are proposed with higher fines and prison sentences if someone gets caught trying to cross the border.
HOSTEL Our Sudanese friend in the hostel welcomed us on Thursday. We continued with his film with another scene of boy talking with mother. The time went quickly and we arranged to finish the film on Friday.
DAY CENTRE It was much quieter in the day centre than previous weeks with a gentle take up at the table and thoughtful conversations. With the boxes of bricks as props we continued with the animations, led by Tony Gammidge, which brought a playful element and even a sense of magic. Conversation inevitably turned to the cold with sub zero temperatures outside and a biting wind. One man spoke poetically of the cold not as something you get angry about but as part of his and other’s struggle to find what he described as the straight path. A modernist building was made by a builder by trade, while others built simpler buildings, learning the steps of animation.
DISTRIBUTION It was freezing cold with blue skies and temperatures dropping. There was a tense edge to the air with fewer refugees and isolated outbursts of aggressive, confrontational behaviour from certain individuals towards others they did not know.
With a table set up with bricks in the winter sunshine, it was only the map that offered useful diversion. We had first placed it on the ambulance out of the sun, only to move it a little onto the border fence behind the van where it drew small groups and acted as a catalyst for discussion and a vehicle for two men to independently of one another talk about their use of imagination and their plans to navigate different countries before they find the place they want to settle. The cold seemed to move people to draw upon other resources, allowing their minds to wander. The security fence became an extended mapping area, with Canada, Iceland, South Africa and Australia marked out on the metal with imaginary lines.
One recently arrived 15 year old, who told us he has travelled up through West Africa alone on a journey which has taken him several years, marked his journey on the map as a lone line. This mapping process led us to discuss his rights as an underage minor with family in the UK, and the means to access legal information.
We discussed the night shelters which are now open and heated; but one man said he prefers to stay outside as if you go into the warm it takes five days to readapt to the cold and the cold makes you stronger. When we came to take down the map there was a cry from a group camping with a fire behind the fence – the map had acted as a wind break and allowed for a brief spell of comfort.
SECOURS CATHOLIQUE MEETING The conversation focused on both politics and individual interactions – some hopeful, many extended over time. It was heartwarming to hear that the team is inspired by our use of social media in that we get together as a team to process the work; and the resilience supported by being together and remaining solid through this. We reflected that this is a warm place where things get discussed and individuals are welcomed out of the cold.
CAFE We also returned to the hostel to finish the animation but we’re not allowed in. Our friend came out to greet us and we decided to walk in the bitter cold sunshine to a nearby cafe not sure we would get the chance to finish our film. However after a warming cup of tea we decided to set up our animation studio in the cafe, and were courteously tolerated by both staff and other customers.
When we recorded the sounds – the fox’s growling drawl, the boy’s scream, the mother’s admonishments – the cafe maintained its nonchalance to the drama being enacted in its midst. The film is currently in post production and will be posted to this site very soon.
SAFE HOUSE It was quiet in the safe house this week. The young man from Eritrea continued with part 2 of the film he started last week. It was set again next to the same river, this time instead of 2 hunters there are 2 tourists, one with a large camera. Again one of them falls in the river but instead of being rescued the other sees this as a wonderful photo opportunity and clicks away as the other struggles and splutters in the water. We quickly recorded the sounds and decided the film be called ‘the selfish photographer’. Again this film will be posted once post production is finished in a few days. Do not miss !!