Articulate art workshops at the Hummingbird Project Safe Space in the "Jungle" refugee camp in Calais, France.

April to May 2016

Facilitation of arts workshops for teenagers and young adults, including many unaccompanied minors, aged 12 to 26, at the Hummingbird Safe Space in the "Jungle" refugee camp in Calais.  These were drop-in sessions running weekly on Mondays and Tuesdays and although many of the same participants showed up each week, there were always new faces. Numbers, age and ability varied considerably, so there was a real need to be flexible and adapt to changing circumstances in each session.  As Arts Educators with Articulate we planned a range of art activities each week to meet the different needs within the group and delivered these in partnership with volunteers from the Hummingbird Project. 

 

The Hummingbird volunteers also provided advice and support with referrals to other agencies with respect to the young people's asylum seeking claims and other practical issues arising from life in the camps.

The Hummingbird Creative Safe Space ran in Calais from April 2016 until the camps were shut down in 2017.   I volunteered at it during the pilot week in 2016 and for the following 4 weeks, during which time activities included:  t-shirt painting, plant pot painting, wire and plaster of Paris sculptures, "tattoo" painting with face paints, collage, origami and drawing.  Each week we also provided a large sheet of paper set up across two tables, with felt pens, pastels and coloured pencils, for a collaborative community drawing.  Many participants enjoyed sitting here, drawing side-by-side whilst also chatting and sharing tea, biscuits and fruit.  Pre-printed sheets of colour-in mandalas and images were also popular. 

Many languages were spoken within the Hummingbird Safe Space, including Arabic, Dari and Pashto from Afghanistan, Amharic from Ethiopia and Eritrea, French, German and English.  Art activities were mainly delivered in English, but we also had a lot of fun exchanging language during the workshops, and participants with more English helped us with translating, including writing out the Hummingbird myth in Arabic (see left).  In order that participants could understand the request for permission to photograph their artwork we created visual consent forms and translated these into Arabic. (see below). 

 

These workshops were run in accordance with Articulate's Creative Safe Space objectives: 

  • To provide access to art for disadvantaged young people.

  • To use art as a tool for community development and social engagement and as a way of increading self-esteem, confidence and communication for all participants.

  • To promote young people's voices through the arts on an international platform for sharing and exchange, raising awareness of their situation and advocating for change. 

One week we also supported art psychotherapists from Art Refuge in running an open workshop, where participants made what they liked from pegs, fabric, pipe cleaners and plasticine.  Many created human figures.  

© 2017  Kim Alexander   kmaalexander@gmail.com    +44 (0) 7495 172 383