Saturday, 17 October 2015

Dismal aid.


The Dismaland sign has been erected over new shelters for residents of the main Calais camp.

Image: Verifeye Media
LONDON — What appears to be the famous Dismaland sign has made its way to the huge refugee and migrant camp at Calais, albeit with a slight alteration; it now reads "Dismal aid."

In what seems to be a sarcastic reference to the recent flood of goodwill towards the camp known as the "Jungle," the letters from the recent west country art installation have been repurposed and erected over new shelters.

The structures have been built by teams in the camp associated with the shadowy artist and his recent theme park using leftover materials from its construction — something that was announced at the end of last month.

A regular visitor to the Jungle, who took the photos, which were verified by Verifeye Media, told Mashable she'd seen a "team of mysterious people" arrive three days ago and begin erecting solid structures. Around eight have been built and they've been set aside for women and children. Several are occupied already.

Shelters for families have been erected in the Calais camp, reportedly by people involved with Banksy's Dismaland.

"Families have already moved in," the woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said. "They're really quite happy — a lot of them are new arrivals."

"They're not massive, but they're warm and dry."

Rumours that Banksy's team — and possibly even the artist himself — were onsite have been doing the rounds for a few days, but the woman told Mashable the identity of the benevolent builders is almost irrelevant.

"I have no idea," she said, adding that they had English accents. "I don't care; they're doing so much good. They've been absolutely wonderful."

The Dismaland team have been sensitive to cultural factors, she said, and are open to adjusting the "Dismal aid" sign if necessary. "To anyone else it would be quite insulting," she said, 'but it's so desperate here. I love it."

More structures at the Calais camp.

Image: Verifeye Media
Will there be anything more than shelters from the shadowy group? Any of the art or cultural aspects of Dismaland? That's uncertain, but the woman said they do have long term plans of being involved.

"They want to have a real impact. It’s still early days. They’re very interested and they want to come back."

Their work will become more vital as the winter draws closer. "The camp has changed so much," she added, saying that hundreds have arrived in the last month. "It's expanded massively." Conditions in the camp have deteriorated with the weather too. "Today it rained and it's muddy everywhere and cold."

It's estimated that some 5,000 people live in tents and huts in the camps that make up the Jungle. They are displaced from a number of countries including Syria, Libya, Sudan, Eritrea and Afghanistan.

More structures at the Calais camp.

Image: Verifeye Media

An aid group associated with Banksy, meanwhile, are on their way to another camp at Grande-Synthe near Dunkirk.

Imogen McIntosh from Aid Box Convoy told the BBC the camp has grown from 400 people three weeks ago to more than 1,000 now.

Her convoy, which McIntosh says is going to Grande-Synthe, is made up of "aid boxes and wood for shelters we've been told not to build," she told Mashable. But declined to comment further on the project.

It also includes materials from the Dismaland park, but she told the BBC Dismaland organisers decided to divert their efforts away from the main Jungle when they heard about other camps that hadn't received any aid.

Dismaland "has all been taken down now and we are left with huge sheets of wood which we can use to build the shelters," she said.

"Dismaland is also sending a team of chippies and builders out to the camp, who will be creating any structures that we need with the materials."

Mashable has reached out to Banksy's representatives for comment.
Dismaland, Banksy's satirical theme park, ran for six weeks from late August in a disused lido in the west of England.


According to other reports, the local mayor has refused to allow any further 'homes' to be built and the building supplies are being held in dispute.

In a way, it doesn't matter whether these shelters are built or not - Banksy has highlighted what's going on in 'The Jungle'; 6000 refugees living in absolute squalor.

Yesterday, the sixteenth person this year died in or around the Channel tunnel, trying to get to the UK.

Obviously, these shelters would make a real difference to the refugees facing a wet and miserable winter. It's a scandal that the materials are there and not being used.

I've been reading about a number of aid groups just like 'Aid Box Convoy' which is based in Bristol, all of which have been set up by ordinary people shocked at what they've seen at 'The Jungle'. 

Which goes to show that anybody can make a difference......... if they want to.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

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