A Calais Icon at the Southbank
11th August 2016
A Gleaming White Dome appeared on London's Southbank last week, bringing a rich mix of events to introduce and explore how the arts are of huge importance in bringing humanity to the difficult and often depressing realities of the life of the growing numbers of migrant refugees who are fleeing the terrors of oppression.
What was it doing there?
In the mud spattered squalor which was the makeshift refugee camp on the edges of Calais, known to its inhabitants as the “Jungle”, there were few landmarks which relieved the despondency of last winter’s freezing days. But visible across the tops of tents and plastic wrapped shacks, was the unexpected shape of a large white dome, often catching the light and presenting a beacon for anyone and everyone to visit. This was the Good Chance Theatre, the idea of two young British playwrights, Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson, run by British volunteers and animated by many artists, mainly from the UK. It was, quite simply, an open space for anyone in the camp, from any nationality or faith, to visit, watch, take part, sing, play music, play games, reflect creatively on who they were; in short to be human. The Dome was hugely popular and was clear evidence that giving people access to creativity and the arts is as important as giving them food and shelter.
Five Pan artists spent two periods of time in Calais with Good Chance, which we have documented in a previous blog, and we were there as bulldozers advanced on it, finally forcing it to be dismantled and put into storage.
Last week that same icon re-emerged and could be seen and visited in the unlikely setting of the Southbank’s Festival Terrace, overlooking the Thames for a packed programme of events around migration, from performances and concerts to debates and games. Where the dome had seemed massive in the “Jungle”, it was dwarfed by the Royal Festival Hall, but its presence was enormous, bringing something provoking and dynamic to the thousands who visited it by design or by accidentally discovering it there.
Pan was again delighted to collaborate with Good Chance for this venture and we were present in three major events; a public discussion on “the Role of the Arts in Humanitarian Crises”, a sharing of our young adult refugee group’s “You are What you Play”, a barter of childhood games from across the world, and “Preparing for the Unpredictable”; a performed account of what it was like to be an artist working in the Calais “Jungle”.
All three events were enthusiastically received by large audiences who were genuinely interested in learning more about, or becoming involved in, our kind of engagement of the arts with marginalised and fragile communities. Good Chance’s team of artists, managers and volunteers created an atmosphere of warmth and welcome befitting the Southbank’s Festival of Love and we found a strong parallel with the feeling of the work in Calais.
Wherever Good Chance next raises its dome to give migrants the vital element of humanity which the arts afford, we shall gladly collaborate with our skills and experience.
Read, see and hear more about Pan’s involvement in the following articles:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p042y065#play Listen from approx.time: 02.36.27