Calais – Three degrees of useful separation to save 1500 lives

calais-jungle-clearingThose who read my blogs will know that I am near despair to see what a Grady can do to help 1500 young people who are literally packaged in containers awaiting dispatch, with no water or food from the government which is dispatching them to another government that does not want them.

Here is an article in the Independent and above is their picture which I would retitle “this was my home”. And behind the picture you can see the same young person’s packing container – awaiting despatch to the UK…or not.

My daughter, Anna, is one of a small group of unofficial charity workers who are struggling to supply bottled water and hot food to keep them alive, or at the very least from despair. She and her colleagues are exhausted and the charity is despairing.

The French government seem to want to claim they do not exist. They have destroyed their homes, their schools, their places for food, their playground, and taken away their communities in buses to other parts of France. The British government could not care less. For both parties there are elections, and newspapers, and factions to be pacified – the last thing they need is the problem of something in a corner of a far off land.

I am embarrassed to say that I have left Calais, because I have to get back to a job which nearly pays my rent. I am today teaching in the University of the West of Scotland. Sitting this evening reflecting on my teaching I realised I was exploring with young producers the process of “six degrees of separation”. And that fits directly with my challenge to myself.

I do not have the influence to get two governments to knock their heads together and save the lives or minimize the psychological damage to 1500 young people. I do not have that power. But surely I know people, who know people, who can.

However a bit of lateral thinking from this old dog, and I realise I do know some useful people. So tonight I have written an email to 7 people who might, just might, choose to notice the immense power they could have in sorting this shit out. Each one of them could, if they chose, make a noise which would be heard by influential people. Each has access to a member of the inner government, the palace, or the loudest voices in France or the UK. However I have no idea whether they will notice the email, think it important, or realise the power they could unleash to make a difference.

Everything is against these 1500 young people. The Guildford Four had champions years after they were imprisoned, the Birmingham Six became Oscar film characters after some had died…But what of the Calais 1500. Do we care? Does the Daily Mail wish to use its power to make a difference to these damned foreigners with stubble on their cheeks ? Can Theresa May take it on the chin, save 1500 young people, and then sort the paperwork later? The answer to that question seems to be no.

So what can I do, except feel deeply powerless from the pub in which I write this. I have a comfortable bed to go to when I have finished my pint. If I need water in the night I can run a tap. These 1500 young people can’t do that – there is no running water. If I feel cold I can pull on an extra blanket. These 1500 young people can’t – the charity is not allowed to supply blankets from the warehouse 3 miles away. If I want to go for a walk and play a game on the beach, or visit a shop I can. These 1500 young people can, but they have to pass the CRS – the most powerful militaire guards I have met in my lifetime.

All I can do is write. So hence this annoying further blog – oh get over it Grady and get back to making theatre, and teaching theatremakers. Maybe that is all I can do. But can we first try and make three degrees of separation work in this real humanitarian crisis. Can you ??


  1. I believe in using what we are good at to help others. I’m with you Chris. Please support the cause and help in your own way, no matter how small or large.

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