Calais: A write up from the Jungle | Part 4

Lily Einhorn is the Two Boroughs Project Manager at the Young Vic, working with local residents and community groups in the neighbourhood. She is also a freelance writer and community theatre practitioner. In a series of posts Lily shares her experience of a recent visit to the Good Chance Theatre, a newly constructed creative space in the refugee camp in Calais.

There are hundreds of stories. All different. These people are labourers, students, artists, shop keepers, restauranteurs, engineers, public administrators, children.

Those children will never make it over the fence, though. They may have walked for eight months to get here but here the journey ends. Except the Jungle isn’t an end for anyone. It’s stasis. A place where life crawls along, not forward, not back, just along. That’s why the Good Chance Theatre is not a luxury, not a panacea, it’s a lifeline. Its breath for those gasping for air. There is, in the act of imagination, of illusion, inherent hope. In the small moments between reality and fiction there is a space to exist in that transcends the mud, the tents, the asbestos, the unwashed hair and damp clothes. That space is the theatre tent. And without it these people’s lives would be moments bleaker.

I don’t doubt that there are tears in the jungle. There must be depression. Despair. The children’s mothers can’t keep them washed, fed, warm. Men can’t reach their families. Loved ones are held apart by invisible immigration laws so strong you can feel them. It is unimaginable to me. Me with a red passport which means I can keep my child close, keep her washed, fed, warm. That means I don’t have any other recourse but to imagine a horror that might compel me to put her on a boat, leave her behind, or send her ahead. These refugees don’t have to imagine that reality. They’re living it. There must be tears in the jungle, but I didn’t see many of them. People are too busy surviving to cry.

*            *            *

As we drove out, groups of men in black clothes trudge towards the fence, towards an uncertain future. The fog hangs thick in the air but it’s hard not to look at their bent backs and feel hopeless. A high barbed fence. A drop. A run through a dark tunnel or a ride in a suffocating lorry. A field in Kent. Many of these men have family in the other side. A daughter in Wembley. Parents in Manchester. A brother in Bradford.  It’s impossible to say whether they’ll ever achieve the reunion that keeps them going, one foot in front of the other, into the night.

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