Storm clouds, and torrential rain started this week’s work in Calais, with thunder and lightening rolling over the camp throughout Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Art Therapists Anna Kalin and Naomi Press opened the Art Refuge UK space with Medecins du Monde in thick, sticky heat on Thursday afternoon and residents gradually found their way to us amidst the routines of Ramadan. Familiar faces returned and some new arrivals visited the space, pausing to create with us, placing new figures and animals to the growing array of sculpted beings finding their way on the map laid out on our table.
The mood in the camp was low and frustrated by the challenging weather and continued clashes with the police. As the afternoon progressed, the sound of shouts and tear gas were ignored by some group members as a regular accompaniment to their daily routine, whilst others were clearly agitated and distressed. The unrest and tear gas increased, sadly necessitating the afternoon session to end earlier than planned.
Despite trying to make sense of the shocking result of the UK Referendum vote, Friday morning was well used with our partners at Medecins du Monde to share some training with their team about our particular creative, adaptive approach and to think together about the challenges and impact of this work.
Our Friday afternoon session in the camp began with a much calmer mood, several of the previous day’s residents returning. Many were anxious about the Referendum result and what this news would mean for their situation. A new group member arrived and was able to join and share in the space with us; unable to hear or to speak, he immediately embraced with the visual art media, and relaxed into a place where communication and interconnection felt highly significant.
We look forward to being joined again next week by Art Therapist and film-maker/animator Tony Gammidge. The multiple layers of exchange, expression and connection enabled by the different creative processes in this work feel invaluable in these challenging times.