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Precarious landscapes - stuttered stories

Calais - January 23-24, 2020

Numbers of refugees are slowly growing in the Calais area, currently reaching one thousand; and the weather is wintry. This week we were joined again by artist Majid Adin who brought moments of film/animation magic back into this precarious landscape.

THURSDAY MOBILE CLINIC There are now hundreds of flimsy tents pitched near to the food distribution on the edge of town; wet clothes hung out to dry optimistically on the various fences. There are so many tents that finding a place for the Médecins du Monde ambulance was problematic; eventually it was parked on the forecourt of a petrol filling station used occasionally by lorries. The sun was bright and air crisp with little wind so we laid the large world map on the ground, not needing this week to use it to construct a shelter. Instead we wanted to inhabit this environment in a way that could be usable.

The medical team was large and well used, with many young men waiting for the doctor and coming over to the map. Over the 3 hours, people came and went, gathering around this large map, leaning in, crouching down, looking for home, UK, a place on route; fascinated by it. For some the map in this setting was a provocation; a few young men were angry that we were there, and in this strange landscape we ourselves felt both bitter and sweet moments. This is a dangerous place for people to be living in, with high levels of deprivation evident. There was a pervading acrid smell from the chemical works across the road. But jewels of conversation were possible under the blue skies. At one point those standing around looked adrift at sea, standing close, facing inwards in a shared endeavour.

Kicking a battered globe across the map provided creative collaboration towards the end of the afternoon, with Majid leading the making of stop frame animations. As we drove away in the dimming light and cold, a lively football game took over the edge of the site.

FRIDAY In duller weather and as part of our ongoing project to make a film, we took the same globe to the beach next to the port. The sea was calm and flat, beautiful and seamless with the grey sky. The fact that the globe was made of cardboard meant that as it entered the water it slowly broke down, disappearing into the sea.

DAY CENTRE Over two hundred exhausted individuals used the large space this afternoon. In spite of this there were some rousing card games at the next table and ongoing creative activity at The Community Table. People were building, or making short animations with Majid. Within this activity, stuttered stories were told, painful experiences difficult to put words to but needing to be heard by another person. ‘There are many others like me here who have had similar experiences.’

Bobby Lloyd, Miriam Usiskin, Majid Adin

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