Calais Jungle report

With the media reporting that the conditions in the migrant and refugee camp in Calais , where about 4,000+ residents, including an increasing number of women and children, are living in conditions “far below any minimum standards for refugee camps” its hard to ignore calls that ask you to help. On friday night, I had just finished the ‘Biggest Toy in Toytown’ piece mentioned in the previous post when the phone rung. The Connor Brothers were calling to ask if i would help them build some shelters for some of the more vulnerable residents in the place they call the Jungle.jungle_tweak

It’s not often you get asked to directly to make a difference in stories you hear about in the papers, so i said yes. We set off to France on the tunnel the next monday started work, money from a Connor Brothers charity print release had been sent before we arrived and lauberge des migrants  had materials waiting for us. There are a core of volunteers that make sense of the sprawling squalor, it was hard to know who to help and where to start, but with help withing the camp (mostly David) we soon started making shelters for families.day1_campcpmboHere’s our first shelter and occupant family, Coptic Christians fleeing persecution in Eritrea, they asked me to put coptic crosses on the doors, proud of the faith that was in part responsible for their displacement. Luckily i had some old religious themed stencils Adam & God and angels from Sistine Madonna.FAM

Day two brought very different problems, after a days had work on our second set of shelters, we were just packing up and walking back from the Eritrean area when fighting broke out between the migrants and the CRS, a back and forth antagonism between the two drew tear gas from the police and stones from the migrants on the road below the motorway.
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Twice as we tried to get into the vans we were tear gassed, wether it was at those throwing rocks or us opening foreign registration plated vehicles, it is hard to tell. Getting a face of gas with your eyes burning and streaming doesn’t make you very charitable to their motives. However we got out in the end safe and sound and returned the next day to build more dwellings for the folk who are forced to live in these dire conditions.

We made a difference to a small path in the camp, it will take months to get the most vulnerable the women and children housed for the winter with more turning up each day it’s hard to see an end to it. We will be back, having learnt some lessons in dealing with the terrain, people and materials it would sad not to make the next trip even more effective.

Freedom of Speech

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In repressive regimes (usually the regimes western governments convince us to invade) the first loss of liberty is the freedom of speech. The first signifiers of a repressive regime are deaths in the cells.

My friend Patrizia Cirino has been accused of slander over the italian police’s detention and the subsequent death of Aldo Bianzino in Perugia. She has not accused anyone, she has only asked for information concerning the events that led up to  Aldo’s death. She is being prosecuted over this request for information, a lone woman of limited means against the state. Of course this means she will have to fight the case through their machine, the courts. This will cost a large amount of money and it is  for this reason we are holding a fund raising event on the:

SUNDAY 12th FEB FROM 2.30pm THE ROYAL SOVEREIGN, CLAPTON 64 Northwold Rd, E5 8RL

I have donated several works for the raffle, unique works on aluminum. There will be all sorts of prizes and stalls, hopefully we can raise some funds to fight this case and get justice for both Aldo and Patrizia.

Raffle prize

Stokes Croft, Bristol

Stokes Croft is a weird part of Bristol, run down and forgotten by town planners it has a strong community and vibrant feel. There are numerous agenda driven stories circulating around the events of the night. The locals painted by police and the authorities as yobs and vice versa. All i know is this is probably the best shot video of public unrest i have ever seen! What i know of the local people is that they are passionate about their forgotten corner of town, their  comunity and the unity they have found from direct action wether that is the graffiti or their humorous but effective self organization (see http://www.prsc.org.uk/). Having exhibited, worked and painted in the street shown i can vouch for them being a self helping community of non aggressive, thoughtful people. Free Stokes Croft!

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You’d have to be Mad not to protest

So the Mad Pride tribe came together for the day of action in Hyde park at speakers corner yesterday. As i arrived the effigy sporting a double faced head (made during an effigy making workshop at Core arts the week before) hung from a tree. As the chill wind blew, it spun to reveal the lying eyes of both cameron and osbourne. The demonstrators sporting their new Mad pride tee shirts and holding the placards of earlier posts, listened to rallying cries of defiance and sad tales of psychiatric miss adventure. These cuts shouldn’t hurt our societies most vulnerable but  it seems that those whose voices are the weakest will be the ones who pay the dearest. After poetry, call to arms and a  two minute scream, the effigy was beaten with some gusto, its entrails (sausages) finally being cooked on an open fire made of its body and devoured by the crowd.
The event was important in generating a sense of unity among the displaced and medicated, in these troubled and stressful times there may not be much that separates the sane from the mad, there but for the grace of god go i.

Hoist by their own placard

Mad Pride have asked me to provide the placards and design tee shirts for the demo on the 26th of October. So here’s the finished item. The papers are starting to break down the proposed cuts, and to be honest they are frightening. Why should the most vulnerable citizens pay for the mistakes of our richest ? Ah… thats right, because they have no voice or power. Glad we live in a caring society eh? Come along on the 26th and support our nations Mad people, help them get the care they deserve!