Interviews with VAULT Festival Collaborators

We caught up with Loren O'Dair, Dom Coyote and Tom Biddle, the team behind Still Waiting. The show is part of the Crew for Calais season at the Vaults Festival and runs from the 1st till the 5th of Feb at 8.25pm. You can read the interview here

We also chatted with Maddy Costa, writer of Calais - part of the double bill performance of Borderland//Calais performing as part of Vault Festival on the 8th to the 12 of Feb at 6.20 pm. You can read it here





VAULT Festival and Crew for Calais


2017 sees a significant fundraising collaboration between the Vault Festival and Crew for Calais. As part of the underground Vault Festival, a magical and exciting performing arts space, hidden beneath Waterloo Station and running from the end of January to the middle of March (, Crew for Calais will be raising money and awareness of the work we have done and the work we will continue to do.

Crew for Calais exist to help motivate and mobilise people in the performing arts and technical theatre industries to put their skills to good use supporting refugees across Europe. Our primary focus has been on providing humanitarian support to refugees at the camps in Northern France during 2016.

For 2017 we want to continue to support citizen-led charities with their work tackling this ongoing crisis on the ground around the UK and Europe. We use our volunteers and our networks to provide these organisations with highly skilled volunteers, as well as useful equipment/supplies. During 2016 we sent Stage Managers to help run Warehouse distribution services in Calais, set builders to build shelters in Calais and Dunkirk camps alongside many other volunteers. We helped theatres and theatre companies donate sets and building materials to the Calais build team, we organised trips with pre-made shelters, constructed in theatres across the UK to provide warm, waterproof accommodation in the middle of the Northern winter. We even helped to provide a Trauma therapist to visit the Calais warehouse in the wake of the final closure to offer some training to volunteers on dealing with trauma.

This partnership is very important to Crew for Calais. It is a way of raising funds and awareness of our work, both within the Performing Arts Industry and with the wider public.

We hope to attract more volunteers from the theatre industry to donate their valuable skills and experience to help refugees and asylum seekers both in the UK and abroad.

On top of this all funds raised will support our work expanding the remit of our operations. It's our opportunity to scale up our fundraising and outreach work by working with another exciting theatrical partner in the UK capital.

About the Collaboration

Our contribution to Vault Festival is not limited to our charity fundraising efforts. Our volunteers and charity team are closely tied to the creative side as well. Vault Festival is our opportunity to start to address a key problem:

‘How can we change the prevailing narrative around refugees in the UK?’


Part of our answer has to do with the stories we in the performing arts industry choose to tell, how we choose to tell them and who has the right to tell them?

As creatives working within the industry we feel it is really important that we seek to challenge the negative portrayal of refugees that we see in the mainstream media, but also that we avoid the traps of just romanticising or pitying them either. Our approach is to commission and produce work that challenges both these narratives.

We have asked Crew for Calais volunteers, supporters and fundraising groups to create works of performance art/theatre for Vault Festival. Each piece of work has been crafted around data and statistics. Some of the shows are drawn from information in the Refugee Rights Reports. ( Some from the work of Charities and NGOs on the ground in France.

The Refugee Rights Data Project collect data directly from the refugees in the camps of northern France. Many of our members have volunteered there this year and the majority of the creatives involved in this work have first-hand experience working on the camps or with charity organisations here. These reports are filled with facts (not fury or romanticism, facts). 

In a collection of stripped-back performances, Crew for Calais artists use music, theatre, the Refugee Rights Data Project reports and lived experience to connect us with the day-to-day experiences of the refugees in Calais and beyond.




Eviction Begins

The eviction has begun today in Calais.

Refugees are being taken onto buses (which have plastic covers on the seats, as if the refugees are dirty).  Refugees do not know where they are being taken.

The best sources for current information are the Refugee Info Bus, and Help Refugees UK.  I'll post their twitter accounts here.  Both also have Facebook pages and websites:

The eviction is expected to continue over the next three days, and then the demolition is due to commence on Thursday.

Utopia 56 ( have emailed out today, with info about where the refugee buses are headed to, and the Facebook groups for you to join to find out how to help in the different regions:

"French authorities are starting dismantling the Calais camp this Monday and destruction starts Thursday

Although Utopia 56 is in favour of dismantling the camp, we fear the conséquences of such a quick evacuation.

Our volunteers are mobilizing in the regions of France where thousands of refugees will be sent to CAOs (orientation centres). Contact with the local population is vital for them to want to stay in France.

You can join a Facebook group to get information on what's happening in one particular region or contact"

Bretagne :

Bourgogne Franche Comté :

Centre Val de Loire :

Grand Est :

Haut de France :

Ile de France :

Nouvelle Aquitaine :

Normandie :

Occitanie :

Paca :

Pays de la Loire :

Auvergne Rhone Alpe :

Crew for Calais currently only have one volunteer over in France.  She is working directly with Help Refugees UK and will be out there for the next few days.

As it becomes clear where help is most needed (essentially, as the events of this week and next unfold) we will be announcing our next trips, and their locations.






Do Everything With Love

Like most great ideas this one was formulated over wine between good friends, whilst reeling in this year’s overwhelmingly depressing events. Deciding that it was time to positively contribute to the universe, Crew for Calais’ call out video was the perfect answer.

After a few e-mails and a morning of booking travel, accommodation, and insurance, it all seemed a bit too easy. But it really was, and not because it’s in my nature (and job description) to be organised and savvy with paperwork, anyone can book the trip with ease. The only other admin to take care of was crowdfunding the cost of some of the expenses to get the pair of us out there (it should be said that we both donated as well). We were completely humbled by the response from our friends and family, in the end raising nearly twice the amount needed, which will be going towards more volunteers getting out there in the future.

On a very practical note, Calais is very easy and cost effective town navigate once you are there too. The buses run regularly, and the routes are simple, so even me and my non existent french managed to get off at the right bus stop. There are also bike hire schemes similar to London as well if you prefer.

Arriving at the warehouse (half way through the working day) was very sobering, suddenly the gravity of the work being done there became very real. Not that there was too much time to acknowledge that, as we got stuck in sorting clothes and packing sanitary kits for the rest of the day.

The following two days were just as full on, there are jobs to suit everyone. Although, it was run on a potluck system while I was there, so my advice would be to give anything a go and get stuck in (unless you’re really bad at putting up tents). If you are there for a week or more you'll be working with one team in a way that plays to your strengths. As stage managers with a wealth of relevant transferable skills for the situation, we really wanted to try and make sure we were tasked with the jobs that would get the most use out of us. However, because we were there for only a few days it wasn’t practical this time round. Never the less, it really impressed on me the importance of just being there to help. Every individual made and impact on the workload, and it truly didn’t matter if you were a teacher or a student or a pensioner because there is always work to be done.

They were long days and was mostly spent on your feet, and without trying to romanticise it too much, everyone was playing for the same team. It was brilliant to see the diversity of skills and backgrounds in the volunteers, and this made for some excellent coming together of ideas in tasks and great chit chat whilst working. The co-ordinators did a great job of impressing upon us the social and political importance of the warehouse supporting the camp and why we were there.

I stumbled upon a post on Instagram* during a tea break in the warehouse that read “Do everything with love.”. There couldn’t have been a more fitting mantra for the warehouse. It functions to help a group of people in the present situation they find themselves in, regardless of where they have come from or where they are going. So whether quality checking bedding, or making a production line of people to sort and size bras, it didn’t matter what the task was, it was about remember the importance of those items to the people that so desperately needed them.

These basic things offer a piece of humanity and dignity whilst in a world of unknowns. It may not seem like much, but it means something to ensure that what is sent to them is right, and if you do it with love, with humility, and some common sense, you’re doing it well.

I cannot recommend more highly going out there and getting stuck in. I had an excellent 3 days and wish I could’ve stayed for longer, but we have plans to return later in the year.



* I won’t apologise for being a product of my generation considering I’m writing a blog post.



A Hundred Handshakes

Went to the Jungle today. That’s the headline. Yeah! I got in!

Learnt the word ‘voluntourists’ today. Thank goodness it didn’t apply to me. I was Working. Another line I landed on the right side of.

Did a hundred handshakes.

Did a thousand nod-and-smiles.

Gave out two thousand, three hundred and thirty-something people-for-a-week’s worth of wood. Not enough for a week actually, but the maximum weekly output of the woodyard divided by the number of people in the camp. Crikey, well done me. (And the team I’m a part of, of course). Oh stop it, I’m really just like everyone else, just blushing more. What’s my point? Well, I think something like:

Everyone* I’ve met in the last four days (yeah, I’m pretty long-term) shares a common feature I’d describe as Willingness:

The fluid population of the warehouse/woodyard/camp for volunteers; the residents of the refugee camp itself; the hosts at my Airbnb, who met me graciously at later-than-arranged and then invited me to join them in the main house for a glass from the bottle they were sharing, and spent half an hour suffering my schoolboy French (because, selfishly, they don’t speak my language better than I speak theirs... secret conclusion: well done me).

So, Willingness: to accept, to work hard; to do something for someone; to wait patiently for distributions of life-sustaining essentials and accept your meagre quota even when the truck looks full and the measure haphazard; to invite a stranger into your home... all quite different things, some easy, some hard; but all have struck me this week as different forms of the same quality, and I feel myself lifted on a wave of it.

*before moving on, I have to fill in the exception to the Rule of Willingness: the police officers at the camp gates. For some reason applying their rules with an inconsistency as lunatic as the rules themselves are incompassionate, they seem to be a group yet to reach an agreement on what their own version of willingness looks like.

One Small and Probably Insignificant Observation from Inside the Jungle:

There are many screaming unfairnesses on display to visitors of the camp (Hang on.. is the Calais Jungle at present the Number 1 Most Famous Refugee Camp in the World? I think it might be. Awesome, I went in at number one. Excellent). Most of these screaming unfairnesses are too obvious to list; too frustrating, too upsetting, and they’re being described far better elsewhere. But I’d like to mention my own one I spotted:

Along one edge of the camp (in its present shape and size) runs a road. A real tarmac road such as they have in many parts of Europe. Half way along, there is a Traffic Calming Measure. It’s a classic pinch and hump, such as you’ll have swerved and bumped through whilst driving along many a small-town high street. As we made our way from the camp and passed over the hump, I laughed humourously at the Traffic Calming Measure, an incongruous vestige I thought almost comic, of the real-world life this plot of land must once have had, before anyone had ever heard of the Calais Jungle, before the good citizens of this part of northern France thought refugees had anything to do with them.

Hearing my humourous remark, the driver of our truck (an old hand of some two months or more helping to run the woodyard here) smirked himself, but replied seriously: “Yeah. They’ve only just put that in.”

I don’t know how much it costs to install a Pinch and Hump on a road (€5,000? €10,000? A tenner?) but this is a small thoroughfare that can only be accessed by a tiny number of NGO and administrative vehicles, after stopping at an exhaustive and exhausting police checkpoint a few yards away. At around the same time as the camp was being given this road-safety innovation, the national police were systematically working through the camp’s home-grown high street, ensuring that the shops and restaurants which had sprung up like wild flowers on the verge of a dusty road, were closed down. Still now, all but a tiny few remain shuttered and closed, fresh groceries lying imprisoned inside.

So this is my chosen unfairness. A stupid bit of road work.

I know nothing about all this. I have come and chopped up some wood and learnt to use a few power tools most young dads would only dream of. And more significantly (but only to me) I have had many small, glistening interactions today with people whose life experiences have been as different to my own as if we were a separate species.

In fact, we just landed on different sides of a line.

I feel lucky to be here, and am trying not to feel worthy, as I return to my comfy digs, to my home comfort Bonne Maman marmalade (I was so thrilled to find they do it over here). I was no less of a tourist in that Jungle we’ve all heard of now than anyone else. I can only be grateful that I was welcomed by its residents as a guest into their home, and hope that I brought the right gift.








Calais Callout

Crew for Calais have space available on a trip from London - Calais on 11th-16th August. Travelling in a car from London, via Eurotunnel.  Accommodation is AirBnB in Calais town (either in own bedroom, or on the sofa bed in the lounge if you are the last person to confirm!)  Trip cost is £152 per person for travel and accommodation.  (We are able to subsidise part of this cost if it enables someone to volunteer in Calais who would not have been able to afford to otherwise.)  Contact as soon as possible to join the trip.


Volunteering in the warehouse and refugee camp in Calais (France)


Volunteering in the warehouse and refugee camp in Calais (France)

3rd – 8th April 2016

A few months ago I was watching a programme on television called Doctors on the Frontline.  I was very moved by the scenes of hundreds of people escaping from their war-torn countries desperate to find safety. I was also very moved by the Doctors and volunteers who actually went and helped these very frightened people in person.

I was shocked at how far they travelled and even more shocked that they were now literally round the corner from me, living in temporary, horrid conditions in a camp in France, dreaming of a better future in England.  I started to think about how someone ends up volunteering in France and I decided to try to find out if it was a possibility for an “average person like me”. 

I already knew quite a bit about the Migrant Crisis from the news but I didn’t really understand it fully and this BBC programme made me keen to find out the answers to all my questions and concerns.  For example I did not understand why people were so desperate to come to the UK (why not try to live in France?), why some people risked their lives to cross the channel under the chassis of a truck (why not try to escape to a country closer to Syria?) and so on. 

I began to do some investigating and discovered that there are lots of Facebook groups relating to the Migrant Crisis and they have thousands of followers. I started to follow a few of these groups: Volunteering in Calais, Refugee Community Kitchen, Calais Kitchens, Lift-share to Calais, Volunteer Room-Share.  I began to realise as I read more and more posts from “average people like me” that you don’t have to be a doctor or a saint to be a volunteer in Calais.  Anyone can go and it is surprisingly not difficult at all to organise. 

Before I knew it, I had found two girls from Brighton on the Facebook Lift-share group who were looking for a lift to Calais during my Easter holidays.  I originally thought I would go for a couple of days but as soon as I knew I had some fellow travellers, I decided to stay for a week.  I booked the ferry for my tiny car plus 3 passengers.  I then looked into accommodation and again, that was cheap and easy.  I found a studio flat on Air b’n’b. I ran a quick fundraising activity and raised £250 from my colleagues at Hazelwick Secondary School as well as my friends and family.  I also collected some tinned food, some Tupperware and lots of strong bags for life which are needed for food distribution inside the camp.

On my first morning I made my way directly to one of the warehouses (Auberge des Migrants).  This is ten minutes from the camp (also known as The Jungle) and is where all the food, clothes and camping equipment donations arrive from England and other countries.  This warehouse is incredible.  It is run by volunteers, predominantly from the UK.  There are long-term volunteers who have been staying in caravans and apartments close by for several months and they know the camp inside out.  Then there are short-term volunteers who pop by for a few hours, days or weeks.  They were delighted when they learned that I planned on staying for six full days as this meant they could teach me how the whole warehouse operates and I could really make a difference. 

 The warehouse is split into three key areas; 1. The Refugee Community Kitchen, 2. Dry Food Distribution, 3. Non-food Donations.  I attended the morning briefing for new volunteers and was given a job to work in the Dry Food Distribution area.  I was shown how to organise all the food donations that arrived and to then make up big bags of food for the residents in the camp.  I was taken into The Jungle in a van loaded with the bags of food that myself and the team had made up and helped distribute them in person.  I cannot express how incredible my first day of volunteering felt.  It was fantastic working alongside lots of volunteers in the warehouse all with different backgrounds and nationalities.  There was an atmosphere of real camaraderie, fun, enthusiasm, determination, passion and hope. What really shocked me was that it is run by long-term volunteers and there is no official charity like the Red Cross or Oxfam involved.  For example, chefs who are used to cooking for huge numbers of people at music festivals like Glastonbury, go over whenever they happen to have some free time and volunteer in the kitchen for week or two at a time.  Volunteers varied in age from 15 upwards.  Some younger people were there to get experience before they went to university. 

Despite the fact that these were just a group of volunteers, I was absolutely blown away by how efficient things were.  The receipt, off-loading, unpacking, sorting, labelling, re-packing, re-loading and distribution of donations from all over was amazing.  A lot of trial and error had obviously gone into the set up in order to finally find a system that works.  While I was there, there weren’t enough volunteers so we couldn’t keep up with the amount of donations that were arriving every day.  There was literally a mountain of unsorted goods.  Volunteers flood in on the weekend but it is very quiet mid-week.  Also, many people don’t check what donations are required and send over huge amounts of things that are actually not suitable.  For example, no one in Calais needs high heels or a wedding dress!  Neither do they want glass jars as they can smash in the delivery vans and potentially cause damage. 

It was incredible to see all the skills that the volunteers displayed.  Many had technical skills and were able to offer their help to build a kitchen and communal area.  I met two men from England who were paramedics and had just popped over to help out in the First Aid caravan inside the camp for a weekend.  Other people had problem-solving, project management and leadership skills.  Others spent hours peeling and chopping vegetables, cleaning shoes and decanting rice and lentils into small food bags. 

Below is a photo of the notice board in the dry food distribution area.  Tina, a long term English volunteer with an enviable amount of passion and drive, manages this whole area.  She was about to embark on an M.A. but decided to postpone it for one year after she heard about Calais.  She mapped out the whole camp and knows it inside out.  She depends 100% on people like us to send money and food to the warehouse so that she and her team can feed up to 5000 refugees each week.  She is definitely one of the most inspiring team leaders I have ever worked with.   

The refugees were so grateful to see us arriving in the van with all the bags of food.  The camp itself was quite shocking but I guess I had expected it to be that way.  It was just like a ghetto/shanty town.  People were all crammed in together and living in a mixture of flimsy tents, tarpaulin shelters, and government metal containers.  There were very few toilets and washing facilities.  The majority of people were from Afghanistan and Sudan.  It was very sad to see young teenagers all alone just standing around.  Some of the refugees have been there for many months already and have still got their health and emotional stability.  They have been proactive and have built cafes, restaurants, little shops and a youth centre inside the camp.  Others look quite ill and possibly depressed/anxious.  

Each afternoon, at Jungle Books, a shelter right outside the entrance to the camp, volunteers go to hold language conversations with the refugees.  I went along and taught French vocabulary to Adam from Sudan and English to a man from Iran.  They were extremely grateful as was I, for being given the opportunity to help them, even if it was just a tiny bit. 

One of the most moving and sad things for me was seeing the unaccompanied children.  The camp is not a nice place to stay for anyone but it is even harder for the children.  They miss their families and have no idea how long it will take them to be allowed to leave Calais and get into England.  There are over 500 children in the camp today and 74% of them are unaccompanied.  Many have applied for immigration as they have a family member already living in England.  However processing paperwork is slow and it is currently taking approximately 7 months.  In the meantime, their faces light up when they see the volunteers arriving with hot food, tins, rice, milk, cereal bars as well as sleeping bags, coats, walking shoes and so on.

So what next?  The situation will continue for the long-term unless the governments decide to declare the camp an official camp.  Then a professional organisation could go in and ensure the consistent and reliable flow of aid to all refugees.  They would get medical care and the children would receive an education while waiting to find out their fate. 

In the meantime, “average people like me” will continue to do our tiny bit to give these tired and frightened people back some of the dignity and respect that they deserve.  The day I left the warehouse I bid farewell to one of the long-term volunteers and he said “See you again soon.  Everyone comes back” and he was right! I am determined to return and to help as soon as I can.

- Michelle Rea  



Weekend in Calais

So it’s a couple of weeks later and we’ve all calmed down a bit (hopefully)

I spent a weekend in Calais with Katharine from Crew for Calais and our current volunteer out there Nell who has been doing an amazing job helping to organise and manage the Calais wood yard, distributing firewood to the camp so that thousands of refugees can cook for themselves; a vital part of normalising the experience they have. In a set of conditions that are still very challenging and deeply unpleasant these opportunities to interact according to your own wants and desires are so important.

Whilst we were out there I had a chance to touch base with the ‘on-the-ground’ team from Help Refugees, find out what has changed, what they are planning to do going forward, what they think will happen next and generally discuss with them how best Crew for Calais volunteers can help support their work out on the camps. Katharine and I had some really positive conversations and hopefully you’ll hear more about how we hope to continue the partnership between CfC and Help Refugees over the next few weeks. Ultimately it was a really important opportunity for us to remind ourselves of all the tough work that is still being done on the ground, and to remind ourselves that the problem hasn’t gone away, and that the media’s focus on the domestic pantomime politics mustn’t allow us to reduce ourselves to naval gazing.

It’s more important than ever that we come together to do the most we can to support the refugees on our doorstep who are still living in appalling conditions and requiring constant support to ensure that their most basic human needs are met.

You may have already seen one of our call out videos that we recorded out there. Part of our conversations was to think (from our experience and opinion) how best the skills of the performing arts community can feed into the work out in France. Expect to see a few more videos coming out over the next week or so.

Last week I gave you a provocation at the end of my piece. Asking people to think about how they might be able to support refugee and asylum services in the UK. It’s certainly an area that I find myself thinking about regularly. As a former venue programme manager I worked hard to make connections with organisations in my town and have supported Refugee Week activities for the last 3 years. Each year I see more individuals and organisations coming on board to help raise money and awareness of refugee issues. It’s so important that alongside the difficult and time consuming work of supporting humanitarian efforts over the channel we make time to have those simple conversations with our friends and neighbours that start to challenge the overriding narrative of fear and misinformation that pervades our national dialogue.

If you’ve been out to Calais with CfC and can give an hour from your life to go to speak to a church group, or a school or any gathering where a personal approach might help to come mind then please do so. Similarly, if you haven’t been out to the camps and you know of any opportunity then why not get in contact with us as we may have people nearby who would be able to bring their personal experiences and stories to those events and communities





UK Developments Post-Brexit

This week’s blog post is both late and rather short. Mostly because like many of us I am still processing what happened to us last week and torn between watching the unfolding shit-storm and hiding under the covers wondering when it will end.

I thought I would take a short time to talk about the future and how we can and should move on from this.

Firstly I recommend everyone reads two articles that I have read this week on the guardian website, one a direct response, the other from last year that seems even more pertinent now:

Zoe Williams writes about how we should move forward - Brexit Fallout: 6 practical ways to fix this mess - which if nothing else should remind people that we aren’t powerless and that we mustn’t sit around feeling miserable about the future.

The second article is a much longer one, and it’s not an easy read, but I think it deals really well with what I want to talk about and provoke a conversation with others about:

Paul Mason writes about the End of CapitalismPerhaps this second article doesn’t make much sense within the context of this post, but I promise you it will help inform some of the posts I will make in the next few weeks.

As a group of people interested in supporting refugees and migrants who currently find themselves in Europe, but would much rather be in the UK, we need to start to think about what we do next. Possibly it is unlikely that we will be able to work as successfully in France forever, although we will continue our work in Calais for the foreseeable future.

The calls from French local authorities to consider a renegotiation of the France/UK border controls in light of the Leave decision only mean that we need to think harder and longer about how we move forward with refugee and migrant support within our own borders.

The horrifying verbal, physical and cultural attacks that have been reported since last Thursday, legitimised and emboldened by the campaign that was fought almost exclusively on a fear of the other and untenable claims about migrant workers mean that we can no longer think exclusively in terms of the migrant crisis on the European mainland. Whilst there still continues to be thousands of people trapped in legal limbo in camps around Europe, desperate to reach safety and security, we must also be extra vigilant and careful to support those who have already made it to the UK and are now at risk of ghettoisation, persecution, political blame and even violence.

As well as continuing to support the work of charities over the Channel, responding directly to the on-going humanitarian crisis we must think about how we work to protect, support and integrate those refugees and migrants who are successful in making the dangerous and difficult journey across to the UK.

We can no longer assume that success in travelling to the UK is the positive and safe conclusion of the process for refugees.

We must redouble our efforts to find new ways to integrate those who do make it here, so that they are made to feel safe and welcome in the UK and so that we can do our very best to protect them and teach our fellow citizens (many of whom are frightened by a future they no longer understand) how to see the positives that can come from asylum seekers being welcomed to the UK.

My feeling is that, much like our current political systems and our establishments, we are still working within an old paradigm in the way we talk about, think about and go about working with migrant communities to the UK.

Our friends (it’ll take more than a stupid popularity contest to make me think of them as anything else) on the mainland are already thinking and testing many great new ways of working to integrate these migrants into their societies. As such they are also thinking about their own communities and how they can deal with all kinds of other problems that they face.

Next week I will share a few interesting stories about some of the ideas, processes and reactions to the crisis that are being tested in Europe and how we might be able to learn from them and test some of our own responses.

For now I want to leave you with a provocation:

Do you know any organisations near you that work to help refugees and successful asylum seekers in the UK? 

How can you help to support them going forward? 

Do you have any great ideas as to how we can help support and integrate those who are seeking refuge into our society

and as a result help to heal the fracture that seems to have occurred?






Outcome of the EU Referendum

Crew for Calais exists so that we can best meet the needs of the refugees in the refugee camps of Calais and Dunkirk.  Those needs change on a monthly, weekly and occasionally hourly basis.  

We will continue to serve the needs of those who need us.  How we do that may change, as the events of the coming months unfold.  It may or may not be more difficult for us to do the work we are committed to doing.  But will keep doing it.  And we plan to carry on doing so in solidarity with you all.



London! Saturday! Royal Court Theatre!

London! Saturday! 12 noon until 6pm! Royal Court Theatre. A duration theatre performance by the brilliant Chris Thorpe (Unlimited, Third Angel, Confirmation).

A durational theatrical experience that delves into the online expression of the great British public’s attitude towards migrants and refugees, as enabled by the great British press.

The event runs from 12noon-6pm. Ticket holders are welcome to attend at any time during the afternoon.

Proceeds from The Milk of Human Kindness will go to Good Chance Calais and Crew for Calais.



French State Takeover

French State Takeover: Changes in Dunkirk


As you know, since early March we have been acting in Grande Synthe camp, the first camp in France with the UNHCR standards. Since its beginning, we have supported this project launched by the city council and Doctors Without Borders, thinking that its success would allow the creation of another one, even a model to welcome refugees with dignity.

Yesterday, Anne Hidalgo, Paris mayor, announced that a camp on the model of Grande Synthe’s will be created. We had met her teams a few weeks before and we are delighted with this new initiative.

Her declaration occurred after that the State had taken over the management of Grande Synthe camp on monday. And many people are wondering what we are going to do from now on.

We are going to keep throwing ourselves in Grande Synthe where Utopia 56’s volunteers are still needed and necessary to deal with the laundry, the community kitchens, the deliveries, the cleaning and etc.

Furthermore, some volunteers are going to return to Calais where the situation has deteriorated for the last few months.

We invite you to read the release we  published on the occasion of Bernard Cazeneuve’s visit in Grande-Synthe and to discover volunteers’ accounts who tell how it is to act on the ground.

Press release, May 30, 2016




Our association has been organising 2700 volunteering days a month on this camp and carries on doing it today.

We are proud to have participated to the opening of the first camp in France who treats refugees as human beings and welcomes them with dignity.

We are particularly proud of the volunteers who worked day and night to help the security commission of March 25th to be passed.

We thank Grande Synthe city council and Doctors Without Borders for giving the associations the place they deserve in this project. The associations are independent and will stay watchful concerning the way refugees are going to be treated here.

Indeed, we are asking ourselves questions concerning the future of the camp. The convention which was signed today contains grey areas. How is it possible to prevent newcomers from settling? How is it possible to consider the total closure of the camp while the migratory crisis will get bigger? Will the State and the associations responsible for the application of the state policy be able to cope without the brutality that we have seen in Calais?

The families who have come here want to go to England and won’t go to any CAO. What are the alternatives if the camp gets closed? To return in the mud? Please let’s be realistic!

This camp was bound to be “a normal district of Grande Synthe”, had told us Damien Carème. We hope that his promise will be kept and that the camp will stay a free-access one for refugees.

To finish, we take advantage of the opportunity to launch a new call for donations and volunteers on the website Refugees need us and we need all the good wills. The State mistakenly thinks that the public opinion is not ready to welcome with dignity refugees while respecting their dreams concerning the future.

Grazia on Help Refugees




Hi everyone,

First of all, thank you so much for your support for Crew for Calais so far – whether that’s been through donations or spending time in Calais or attending one of our fundraisers or just spreading the word on social media – we really appreciate it.

We have some exciting new developments to tell you about, as well as new ways you can get involved.  But first, an update of what we have been up to over the past few months.

March, April and May in Calais and Dunkirk

Since the clearances in the Calais camp in March, and following the Crew for Calais Festival at the Arcola, we've had a permanent presence in Calais at a time when various NGOs have been less active.

Some of our volunteers have been involved with the building work at the new Dunkirk camp, including the big communal camp kitchens, with the Build Box Convoy team.  Most of our volunteers have been working out of the L'Auberge de Migrants/Help Refugees warehouse in Calais. Many of our volunteers work in the aid distribution warehouse in Calais and in fact one of our volunteers, Sana, is currently in Dunkirk working in clothing distribution.

Another volunteer, Nell, is out in Calais for the whole of May and has become very involved with the Calais Woodyard, a team working to distribute firewood across the Calais camp to the communal kitchens for both cooking and warmth.  She is working hard on the ground in Calais and fortunately was unscathed in the fire that took place on the camp this week.  She's been part of huge cleanup effort after the fire.

250 shelters burnt down in the fire. Help Refugees UK is doing an urgent callout for the sleeping bags, tents and roll mats. To help by donating them, click on this link:

Donated sets

The Youth Theatre at Nuffield Southampton recently donated all the timber and the corrugated plastic from a set that they had created about the Calais camp.  The whole set was used across the Dunkirk and Calais camps for building materials within 24 hours of arriving in France. If you know of any theatres or other venues throwing away old timber that could be used for this, please let us know.

Charity status

Crew for Calais is now a charitable fund under the auspices of Prism the Gift Fund, UK charity no. 1099682.  This is brilliant for us in many ways, the most exciting of which is that fundraising is lots easier and we now get Gift Aid from donations too.


Help us continue our work

We are fundraising again!  We'd love you to donate what you can, and spread the word around your families, friends and colleagues.

Donations will go toward:

1.  Keeping Nell out in Calais for the next few weeks to continue the brilliant work she is doing at the Calais woodyard.

2.  Get as many people over to Dunkirk and Calais in June, July and August as we can.  You hands, smiles, time and talents is still much needed over in France, particularly following the fire and taking into consideration that there are fewer NGOs, volunteers and donations than there were before March.

3.  Getting sets and other timber donations over to France to be used for building.


You can donate directly at

Click on the donate button on the right.

Please do share this link on your FB, Twitter and all the other places you hang out online.


Fundraising activities

On the same link – – there is an option to click on “Create a fundraising page”. 

You can raise money for us by:

  • doing a collection in your Green Room,
  • making baked goods and selling them to your cast and production team,
  • running a marathon,
  • doing a sponsored walk,
  • shaking buckets FOH in your theatre, or at the student's union (hi to all the students on our list!),
  • dyeing/shaving your hair for sponsorship (!),
  • and in loads of other ways.

Your fundraising and donations will mean that we can get as many people over to France in the summer as possible.  Every person makes a huge difference.

If you’re having trouble thinking of something you could do, have a look at for inspiration!

London Theatre Performance: The Milk of Human Kindness

In other fundraising news, the Royal Court Theatre in London is hosting Chris Thorpe’s durational event, The Milk of Human Kindness, on 11 June. The proceeds from the event will go to Crew for Calais and Good Chance Calais:

Tickets are £5.  The event runs from midday to 6pm and ticket holders are welcome to attend at any time during the afternoon. 

Volunteering in France

If you'd like to volunteer with us in June, please fill out your available dates on the poll linked here. Put CAR in capitals after your name if you have a car you can drive to France.

People who have been out to France already are very welcome to come out again – in fact it makes for more efficient volunteer teams, so please do sign up again in you want to. If you were one of the few people that gave available dates last time but didn't go to France in the end, please also feel free to volunteer again. We'd love to get you over the France this time around!

There are lots of things that people can do in the camps, and while there is lots of building to still be done in both Calais and Dunkirk, you absolutely do not have to have any building skills to be able to help.

Volunteer in the UK

We also still need volunteers here in the UK – there’s a huge variety of admin that goes into getting our volunteers to France. If you are good at publicity, press, social media, bookkeeping, legal stuff or event or production management, let us know by emailing  

If you've volunteered to do UK admin before, and not yet been delegated tasks – prod us gently by email. We are a group of volunteers working around sometimes hectic schedules and things get missed.  It is absolutely not a reflection on you or how much we value you if your brilliant offer has dropped through the net – we'd love you to be involved so do feel free to chase us!

London building site timber donation

There is a load of timber being donated from a building site in Central London.  We will need hands to make it recyclable (removing all screws) and hands to load it onto a van.  We'll also need a van.

The date for this work is this Friday 3 June. In the meantime email John ( if you want to help on Friday. We also need somewhere to store it, and of course to get it to Calais asap. Ideally we would load a van on Friday and someone would drive it to Calais on Saturday, negating the need for storage! 

Thank you again for your continued support. It’s great to know that we can continue to make such an impact on the lives of others, and this is all down to you wonderful people! So thank you!

Kelli, Katharine, Loren and the Crew for Calais team



Megan Clay-Dennis

Recalling the experience I had in volunteering at the camp is extremely difficult. The last few weeks have been some of the most profound, crucial ones I have yet experienced. I became aware of the fantastic organisation Crew for Calais about one month ago at one of their comedy nights at the Arcola to raise money for and awareness of the cause. As soon as I discovered the simple yet unsurpassable positive impact I could be part of in aiding the migrants living in several camps in and around Calais it was unquestionable that I would do whatever I could. 

My Journey 

I had very concrete ideas of what it would be like, mainly thanks to the media, before leaving for Calais and was very conscious that I would be arriving at some war-zone environment. My experience could not have been further removed from these ideas. The media seem to forget that these people are humans just like you and me, and I think it is easy to turn a blind eye to this particularly when they are displayed in a violent, anarchic light, but the reality is that these people are absolutely desperate for humanity to pull them from this terrifying state, and journalists/film crews are treating their homes as a spectacle and rightly they are reacting with anger and defensiveness. This portrayal is nothing like the truth of daily living on the camp. 

I met many people on the camp and never have I felt part of such a humble, appreciative community. What has been left of the camp after the destruction of 3,500 people’s homes by French authorities is initially heart-wrenching but also quite amazing in the ability to reconstruct a miniature society, as basic as its materials full of energy and love. 

It is not only work on the camp that is essential; behind the scenes is the backbone of the Jungle camp. My roles over the eight days of being in Calais were vast; a nearby warehouse contains thousands of boxes and glorious mountains of donations that all need to be sorted through in preparation for distribution on the camp, which happens daily by the volunteers. There is a great sense of community amongst the team of like-minded volunteers; new faces appeared daily during my stay and people had travelled from absolutely everywhere, nobody really knowing exactly what had made them come, just knowing that it was absolutely necessary that they do. 

Most importantly, this short experience has grounded me, and my efforts to support the humanitarian aid are resultantly ongoing. I hope that the more people who are made aware of the vast opportunities will create a snowball effect of efforts. I urge anybody interested in lending an hour, a day or a month to take action and come together to give the press something to really write about.




New opportunities for involvement in the UK and in France - Have a read, come on board.


For the next few weeks, whilst Utopia56 get on their feet in the Dunkirk camp, we’ll be housing our volunteers in Calais.

Most of our volunteers will be working with the L’Auberge de Migrants charity, based in the Calais warehouse and with most of our work happening in the Calais camp and Calais warehouse.

If you have building skills, you may be allocated to Dunkirk or Calais (but always via the Calais warehouse).

For those of you unable to visit France at the moment, there are plenty of things you can do to help from the UK. We’d love to have more volunteers involved. If you would like to volunteer for any of the UK opportunities please contact us as stating 'Volunteer in the UK' as the subject title.

Opportunities in the UK

- Helping to ‘tour manage’ our volunteers in Calais and Dunkirk

- Coordinating the occasional donated sets from theatre companies, and getting them over to France

- Press and publicity

- Fundraising

- Managing our database and doing mail outs

- Overseeing website content (we have two brilliant volunteer website builders) including curating a blog 

- Donating your time as our accountant/book keeper

- Administration

- Getting involved in organising more Comedy for Calais events

Opportunities in France

If you would like to volunteer in France please contact us at stating 'Volunteer in France' as the subject title, if you have transport please include the word 'CAR'. We will send you a doodle poll to work out which trips we can get you on. Dates in April that we are keen to fill are Sunday 10th - Sunday 24th.

Roles available:

- Working in the Calais warehouse and on the Calais camp

- Aid Distribution

- Repairing homes in the Calais camp

- Building the kitchens and public areas in the Dunkirk camp

- Replacing tarpaulin extensions with timber on shelters in the Dunkirk camp, to meet with planning regs

There are really exciting management roles in Aid Distribution in the Calais camp for those who are able to commit to a week or more in France (these roles work most closely with the refugees)


We look forward to hearing from you.

In hope, solidarity and respect,

Katharine and Team Crew for Calais



Urgent Call Out

URGENT CALL OUT - PLEASE SHARE - new refugee camp in Dunkirk


Crew for Calais are about to start working in the new refugee camp in Dunkirk. The camp has been built by Medecins Sans Frontieres and is being run by Utopia56 (

On account of recent events in the Calais camp, we are focusing our efforts in the setting up of the new camp. (We will advise you as and when we are working again in Calais in the future.)


We urgently require:

- skilled carpenters to build the camp kitchens

- skilled welders and carpenters to work on accommodation projects in the camp

- people who are competent with tools to assist with the above

- people who are able to work with a smile on their faces in the cold, to work in all other areas of the camp, including welcoming refugees, security and aid distribution

- people who have cars, who are willing to drive themselves and other volunteers to France, as well as between the accommodation and the refugee camp (we will cover the costs of fuel, tolls and the Eurotunnel)


We will provide:

- dorm room accommodation

- registration donation for Utopia56, which means you are covered by their insurance

- reimbursement for the cost of fuel, tolls and the Eurotunnel for volunteer drivers

- a daily subsistence payment for those who need it


The Dunkirk camp is brand new, and for now accommodation and essential utilities such as water and the camp kitchens are being completed. Following that, the cultural spaces will be set up.


We'd love you to be part of this. Come and play. Your time and talents are invaluable.

To get involved, email and we will send you a doodle poll to fill out and match you to any available trips.

If you have a car and are willing to use it, please put CAR after your name when you email.

Thanks for being part of Crew for Calais, and making it what it is.

Donations are always welcome on our crowdfunder, and help us fund more trips. Please share it far and wide:


Here's to new light in Dunkirk, after the recent darkness of events in Calais,

Katharine, Simon, Chloe and the rest of team Crew for Calais