More Migrations…

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The Jungle

Back in London the birds are fully back in our parks and gardens while everything is very much up in the air for people in the Jungle in Calais especially for unaccompanied minors as a Guardian report from Monday shows.

But things look to be also literally up in the air for the Good Chance Theatre: set up last year as a temporary Theatre of Hope it hosted a community of powerful arts projects (including our own ‘Birds Crossing Borders’) and has now been temporarily dismantled to be – hopefully – set up elsewhere again, temporarily.

Good Chance TheatreIt seems that everything is temporary and migratory here and any attempt to create a bit of stability and continuity seems a drop in the ocean – but then every drop matters to make up that mass!

Our next drop will be a temporary exhibition in June in Tower Hamlets.: it’s now confirmed that the Migration Museum Project will host some of our art work as part of an upcoming exhibition about Calais. Watch this space for details…


in The Jungle: Day 4

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The Jungle

Our final day in The Jungle was meant to be a quiet one…

Initially we were told that on Sundays the Theatre space is usually a bit quiet; then it emerged that for this particular Sunday the Theatre was to host a big media event and we imagined to be of use with some quiet behind-the scenes support. On the even of the event the Good Chance team decided that it would be great to offer a quiet and creative space in the small dome just for The Jungle residents, free from journalists and away from the hustle & bustle of the event. For that they asked us to do the same we’d done on the pervious 3 days: host an arts workshop.

Day4 Jungle 1We were very happy with that choice because after 3 days of trying different things we knew that drawing and colouring were on demand and we could easily integrate our Bird Cards into that. We had already begun to feel quite at home in the little dome so this seemed the easiest and most fulfilling option.

It wasn’t that easy to start with, though, because over night some people had entered the Theatre in a state of anger and damaged quite a bit of the already wonky furniture – two tables and two benches were beyond use and a lot of the solid wooden benches had disappeared. What could have easily felt like a set back was just taken note of by the team and then we set out to create new furniture. Day4 Jungle 5Artist Sue, who was working in the little dome alongside us, spread a clean blue tarp across the floor and used the two very low benches for people to sit on and work from there – making boardgames out of wood. The blue tarp was respected like a carpet and we noticed with astonishment that people took their shoes of – unprompted – before entering that space.

On the other side we cobbled together the two remaining tables under a sheet of brown Kraft paper and created a new bench out of a table that had lost it’s seat by taping a billboard on top of it. We also used one of Sue’s large boxes as a bench and then nicked some of the hired chairs from the large dome – so all in all we had a decent work space and furniture building turned into team building…

Day4 Jungle 2And it was worth all the effort because our little dome was again very popular with people who valued some quiet focused art work and the opportunity to create, reflect and share. It was also a bit surreal to know that on the other side of the dome an important event was going on with the likes of Jude Law, Tom Stoppard, Stephen Daldry, Sonja Friedman Tom Odell and others to express solidarity with the refugees in The Jungle and raise awareness about their situation while we were absorbed in writing, drawing, colouring, bird-cards, Persian poetry, sharing storied about home, love and loss. But mostly it was really powerful to be able to offer what we easily could offer and to know that it made a little difference.Day4 Jungle 3

We are very grateful to Good Chance Theatre for hosting us for these past 5 days – and we feel honoured to having been able to be here on the eve of massive changes: Good Chance Theatre have also received their eviction order and are currently exploring options for where to go from here.

We found the work of Good Chance Theatre incredibly inspirational and much needed in place where people have very little opportunity for normality, for self-expression, for coming together to share without words, for reminiscing and missing and for meeting people from across Europe who are keen to show that despite our Governments there are many people who care about the fate of people in The Jungle.

We are back in London now and look forward to a team meeting on Wednesday where we will explore where net with our impressions and art work from The Jungle – an exhibition is in the pipeline so watch this space!

And also check out the work of Good Chance Theatre here.

in The Jungle: day 3

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The Jungle

Day3 Jungle 4

Today, Calais felt like it was weighed down by a ton of clouds that never lifted despite the fierce wind that’s been blustering around buildings and through any undefended opening. The tarps and tents in The Jungle looked even weaker as they were teased and tensed by the gusts – and it seemed this had caught on and affected the atmosphere in the Theatre which also felt much more unsettled and tensed. We quickly learned the reason why: hundreds of residents of the camp’s southern site have received eviction orders the previous night effective from early next week. Whilst the camp has been an uncomfortable home to the residents at least it’s been a place of stability – we met someone here who’s lived in The Jungle for 15 months. Where next from here is very unclear because the alternative options – a new container camp near the camp and so-called ‘welcome centres’ across France won’t have anywhere near enough places for the hundreds to thousands of people affected…

In the midst of that, a very dynamic theatre workshop going on in the main dome of Good Chance Theatre and a number of visitor groups stopping at the theatre to learn about its important work we tried to offer a creative space. Our plan – to run a photography workshop for which we had brought a box of our old ‘Fox & Tiger’ cameras – had to be abandoned quite quickly: lack of language already made explaining our idea (responding to our ‘bird cards’ through photography) very challenging and paired with high levels of nervousness meant that people seemed to find it very to focus on our instructions and bring up the patience for listening to the lengthier (because bi-lingual) explanations.

Instead people wanted to do more drawing – so we did the only sensible thing and surrendered to the power of colouring-in. Day3 Jungle 1We brought our set of bird-images out again plus some extra colouring-in real jungles for those that had already done all the birds we had on offer. We achieved what had seemed nearly impossible earlier in the day: moments of total relaxed quietness with several men colouring in flowers! Petra also caught a beautiful moment of spontaneous collaboration when one man started to join Trupti colouring in her jungle-sheet…

We also managed to host a mini sharing of the ‘Birds Crossing Borders’ messages in the afternoon which was however disrupted by an incident very near the Theatre – a non-fatal shooting among two camp residents, as we learned later; in the moment we simply had to deal with of our audience running out of the dome and mostly surprised-looking volunteers staying behind. Shortly after we were asked to leave the site and gather at the Theatre team’s safety point in a nearby camping site where we were given more details of what had happened and discussed the risks and measures in place for us volunteers. We had experienced the Good Chance Theatre staff as very responsive and responsible throughout our time here and this incident only confirmed this – and when we returned to the site it also became evident how much this is felt by the residents who had gathered in larger numbers and looked happy to see us returning. As far as we know the Theatre (and a number of other communal spaces in The Jungle) is on the very site that is to be cleared in an effort to reduce the sprawl of the camp – and we left with a real sense of appreciation for the team’s commitment to providing as much normality and safety as can be done under so much uncertainty and adversity. We’ll be back tomorrow for a few more hours of – well, likely to be colouring in – before heading back to London in the evening…

Day3 Jungle 2

in The Jungle: day 2

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The Jungle

Good Chance TheatreToday we arrived in the camp with enough sunshine to whitewash away some of the muddy puddly reality, brighten up any colours and warm up the inside of our little dome so that we were able to work in just our jumpers for most of the day (as opposed to the two jackets and waterproof trousers we’ve been wearing on top of these yesterday). We also had the dome all to ourself – and maybe it was just this, and maybe it was also the fact that quite a few camp residents joined us who remembered us from yesterday, and maybe it was the warmth of the morning and maybe all of these together plus the ‘Trupti-factor’ which created a bit more intimacy around the table and gave space for conversations about deeper issues: heart-break, homesickness, graves, loss, freedom…

The fact that Trupti is from India has created a lot of open curiosity among the people we’ve met – and prompted quite a few stern-looking Afghani men to burst into popular Hindi love songs and then feeling slightly incredulous that Trupti would speak Gujarati and therefore not necessarily understand Hindi. Still, people really seem to value meeting someone from a more familiar context in this place where everything is so unfamiliar: a tiny piece of home, a tiny piece of normality – and maybe also a sense of hopefulness hearing that Trupti has made London her home.

As starting point we used some of the messages of your ‘Bird-Cards’ and worked with people around the table to translate them into different languages and then think about responses to these messages. Some wrote these on cards; others turned their response into drawings on our ‘table cloth’. Day2 Jungle 1Day2 Jungle 4At some point we were able to invite two young men from Eritrea to join our table – the camp is sectioned into ethnicities and the fact that the Good Chance Theatre is in the Afghani section means that it’s mostly people from Afghanistan who find it easy to drop in to find out what’s happening. So we were very pleased to enable a little bit more diversity today and Petra felt very inspired from her conversation with one of the Eritrean men who said how very disappointed he feels about the media which is painting such a one-sided negative picture of refugees as ‘bad people’ and ‘criminals’. Day2 Jungle 5He asked us what we would do to help making things better for refugees and we promised to share our stories from The Jungle as widely as possible with people in Europe to help painting a different picture. So if you’re reading this: here’s your opportunity to make a contribution, too, to share this blog and any other stories that show a richer, more colourful, more complex and more truthful picture of the challenges of being a refugee in Europe today.

in The Jungle: day 1

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The Jungle

Art in the Jungle 1 Day1 Jungle 2

We arrived in Calais yesterday: a Calais looking clean and clear like out of the Car Wash. The sky was so blue and fresh that we glimpsed The White Cliffs of Dover beckoning across the sea – calling, dazzling, daring – just before they were caught red handed and quickly covered up again by a decent cloud.

The sun stayed with us when we first entered The Jungle – but not the clean and clear. We quickly got lost on the muddy puddly paths winding around makeshift tents, rubbish and some forlorn looking trees. We kind of deliberately got lost a bit because it allowed us to take in what’s really is the essence of ‘organised chaos’. A clear outline of a town with churches, mosques, schools, libraries, youth centres, immunisation centres, restaurants and the theatre that we eventually found underneath a wide and once-white dome now slowly overgrown by a mix of graffiti, dust and mud.

Yesterday was very much all about finding places, our bearings and a sense of how best to fit in.

Today was about the fitting: we were offered the smaller and brighter of two round domes to work in and an amazing set of creative equipment: designer plastic chairs, make-shift wooden benches, folding tables with deep ravines covered by advertisement boards – it all did exactly what we needed it to do and the moment we finished hiding the advertisement board underneath a large layer of Kraft paper we had a cloud of people buzzing around us who seemed eager to see what we had to offer. The day before we got a sense of how much people in the camp love creativity – it sprawls and burst out everywhere on signposts, shelter decoration and enterprising spirit. And today was a sleety, cold day which had doubled the puddle sizes and made everything relentlessly damp: so it probably wasn’t a surprise that so many people turned up at inside the dry theatre space to check out the creative offers of the day. But we were still surprised especially by just how popular our colouring-in birds were with young men from Afghanistan!

Day1 Jungle

One man spent 3 hours at the head of the table in content quietude colouring in a fantastical bird and seemed entirely absorbed by that. It turned out much later that he actually spoke quite a bit of English but somehow seemed to enjoy the stillness of his focused work.

Another man welcomed the peace and quiet that descended upon our dome by mid afternoon; he pointed to his head with a gesture that made it clear that there was just too much noise going on inside so that the quiet moment of colouring in a pigeon was a relief.

So in an afternoon amidst language barriers, mud lakes, suppressed frustrations and visible pain we learned to appreciate all over again that art is a place that can create peace of mind – and that this might be all we can achieve in our 4 days here and will be really appreciated.

birds flying to Calais…

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Over 200 birdcards with messages of hope and solidarity are now ready to to wing their way to the Jungle in Calais. On the 17 February 2016, the deep:black team will travel to Calais to share the birdcards with those living in the camp, and invite creative responses to take back to the UK.

We will deliver a series of workshops over a 5-day period at The Good Chance Theatre. Each workshop will culminate in a mini performance-based sharing. We will showcase photographs and postcards generated in the UK and Calais at a public exhibition at Rich Mix in London in September 2016.

We need your help!

The project is currently unfunded and we are looking for financial support to take the team and the cards over to Calais and stage the exhibition on our return. We are aiming to raise £3000.

If you would like to support Birds Crossing Borders in any way at all please get in touch with

Card 13Bank: Triodos

Account number: 20140622

Sort code: 16-58-10

a blessing of cards

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Usually people get a blessing of cards before the winter holidays – we enjoy coming back from the holidays to this blessing of Birds Crossing Borders cards by you! Thanks to all of you who’ve already sent theirs! We look forward to receiving more – and if you’ve only now heard about this project: you can still order your free set of postcards from us via!


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Card 3

We’ve spent a few weeks in our team of 4 discussing the different possibilities of taking our Birdcards to Calais. The main controversy was around: should we go ourselves – and risk feeding into a potential shift from what’s currently a flood of genuine desire to help towards what could turn into ‘crisis tourism’ putting a strain on urgently needed resources and infrastructure in the so-called ‘jungle’. Or should we find a partner organisation that is already somewhat rooted in the ‘jungle’ and can host our project – meaning effectively to host some kind of event where the Birdcards are shared with residents in the camp and they’re given an opportunity to respond. Which would in a different way create a strain on scarce resources.

After weeks of musing and speaking with different artists and facilitators that have been to Calais or are about to go or have helped setting up initiatives in Calais we all of a sudden reached a very easy & wholeheartedly decision: we will go ourselves. But we won’t do it all alone – we’re looking into partnering with practitioners from the ‘Good Chance Theatre‘ who have set up a temporary arts & performance space right in the ‘jungle’ and are always keen for groups to run arts activities from there. We keep all our fingers & toes crossed that we can find a week in February that works for them and us – and will keep you in the loop here!

That means also that you can now take a little longer with sending us your Bircards back: our original deadline was 20 December and we’re now happy for you to use the festive period to find more people among your friends & family who’d like to write a card and send them back to us in early January! And if you’ve get any questions do get in touch:

Heart-warming responses

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These are some of the heart-warming responses that we received from people about ‘Birds Crossing Borders

How wonderful!

Lovely initiative!

Such a lovely, beautiful idea.

It’s good to feel able to do something.

Thank you for coming up with this idea and providing an opportunity for people to send a message.

What a beautiful way to respond to the situation: the idea, the blog and the art works are incredibly moving, pertinent and necessary!

This sounds fantastic!

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First bird-cards written in Hackney E8

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We are genuinely touched by some beautiful messages written on our postcards for Calais: on 21 November Trupti presented ‘Birds Crossing Borders’ to participants at the E8 Anituniversity Event at Hackney Museum hosted by Open To Create… Trupti had some very inspiring conversations with people who were expressing empathy for the situation of migrants and giving really positive feedback about the simple and effective way we’ve chose to engage with the situation on our borders.

Read some of those messages here: