Calais Tour 2015 – Day 1 in the Jungle

Bring smiles to Calais.
Clowns Con, Will, Michaela and Kim getting on the plane to bring smiles to Calais.

Written by Con Horgan

Greetings from Calais and clown central!

We flew yesterday and landed in Brussels, picked up the clown mobile and off we went into the Belgian night. Our arrival to Calais was very smooth thanks to GPS clown Kim, who safely navigated us through Brussels, past Ghent, Brugge and several towns named after famous beers (or were the beers named after the towns!?)

We awoke, had breakfast at our Moroccan owned hotel and practiced our Arabic. We got to do the first proper run of the show nursing our various injuries; circus hurts folks!

It was the first run with Michaela, as she couldn’t make rehearsals, so it was great to try the amazing finale we have for real! After the run through, it was off to the camp with our giant show suitcase and a bag of wellies.

The Jungle in Calais
The Jungle in Calais

We arrived and we knew we were there due to the increased police presence. And in we went……it’s a profound shock, mud, kids, lots of men (90% of the camp is young men 17-22 years old) and poor looking tents. Imagine a music festival where no one went home on the last day and then stayed about 3 years… I have never seen people so happy to see gravel arrive in my life! Even still you can see young lads cleaning the mud off their runners in an effort to look smart and cool in the biggest muddy swamp in Western Europe! That’s another shocking thing, that all of this is taking place in Northern France, not the Middle East or Africa..There’s a lot of volunteers here, people mending the roads, cooking, kids playing,a makeshift Ethiopian church, a woman and kids area, caravans, benders, people on benders, a little disco shack; a chaotic mix of humanity.

We eventually found the place where we were to do our show, it’s called Good Chance and it’s a geodesic dome plonked in the middle of a muddy swamp. A dome of hope! We introduced ourselves, had a dance to lovely music played by some residents of the camp and then began the workshop.

Check out this video of our show in the Good Chance dome in the Calias Jungle:

Michaela led the workshop and it went really well. You could tell there’s an appetite here for anything that’s not mud, cold, grim boredom, so it went great! We did pyramids, thigh stands and some of the lads were better than us! There was a nice mix of kids and adults. At the end, a guy appeared and leaped over an adult and two kids with a really small run up. It turned out he was a member of the Iranian national Kung Fu team.

Tents in 'The Jungle' in Calais
Tents in ‘The Jungle’ in Calais

After the workshop, off with us on another reccie around the camp. We found an Afghan restaurant (there are many here) where we had milky tea, kidney beans, aromatic rice and olives and bread. These restaurants are running on generators, which must be the most sought after items in camp! At the meal, we met with a crew of English lads who had just done a crowd funding campaign and driven over with a load of materials to build shelters.

So far we have met Farsi speaking Afgans, but there are so many nationalities here, Somalis, Iraqis, Syrians, the whole world is here.

The 'Good Chance' geodesic dome .
The ‘Good Chance’ geodesic dome .

And then we went back to do the show. There wasn’t a single child in the audience, it was all young men. They were like little kids though, they whooped, hollered, laughed and cheered their way through our show and it was an amazing celebration of the present. They left their cares and troubles, the cold, the rain, the ever present mud outside and for the length of our show enjoyed themselves enormously.

It’s one of the most satisfying shows I have ever been part of and I was buzzing from the reaction and the effect since! This is why we do what we do and it really works!

Calais Tour 2015 – Day 1 in the Jungle