We Showed Refugee Children In Calais A Better Side To Europe

Art can too easily be dismissed as only ‘play’, but in a year when the idea of taking back control has been badly abused, it genuinely did offer some of the young people of Calais, for a while, the opportunity to tell a story on their own terms, and with agency for that which they created. There were positive, functional consequences that followed from this – having built a relationship based on trust, Articulate and Hummingbird were able to help refugees with communication and administration when dealing with other agencies in the camp. Even this though, seemed somehow less significant next to the human value gained by stories reproduced through art. As one volunteer put it simply, “some children stay all day.” It was, they added, “a place where children can be children again.” People made powerless by this world gained a power to create something. Emotions and experiences internalised deep inside could be externalised onto a blank piece of paper that, for once, did not offer the confrontation of a dictator’s goons or a European private security border guard.

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