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Updated: Jul 1

Dunkirk, France 19.06.24

We arrived in Dunkirk to bright sunny weather with blue sky and cotton wool clouds. The afternoon was spent on the edge of the town with our partners Médecins du Monde next to a living site where, between rubbish, fences and wild flowers, people are trying to survive. Here we learnt that yesterday large numbers of people had arrived in the UK from northern France in small boats.

The medical team were busy across several hours with many people waiting patiently to see the doctor or nurse. There was the usual wind but also warmth in the air. We moved the tables from the inside of the psychosocial activities van to the outside so as to provide a welcoming space for those waiting. Over the afternoon men, women and children sat around the table laid with a lace tablecloth, bricks, knitting needles, wool and crochet hooks. A calm, convivial atmosphere developed.

As a counterpoint to the harsh setting which we have experienced many times, we also brought with us a new mobile loom which we set up next to the van and table. The human scale of the structure and choice of material on the loom were deliberate. The fine white mesh allowed for some opacity when you stood back and an ability to see through it when close. We played with these ideas, testing the delicate mesh against the industrial fencing. People naturally worked on both sides of the loom, helping each other thread back and forth through the mesh, while others moved from one side to the other like a dance.

A man from Afghanistan told us that his mother made beautiful carpets, and began weaving a pattern, remembering what he had observed. Another man from Turkey joined briefly. He told us his family were weavers as he himself wove through the mesh. He was so surprised to see this loom in this setting, saying that we were angels without wings.

A small boy brought a bead to add to the loom which was a wonderful idea. Our colleagues from MdM took part and wove a flower, with stem and leaves.

Like home in the truest way, people spent together, in the company of others. It felt like a parlour, the loom as a screen to prevent a draft, and hold time in space.

Words by Miriam Usiskin & Bobby Lloyd.

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