Back in August, Hackney based Artists duo the Conner Brothers AKA Mike Snelle and James Golding launched a fundraising appeal for refugees in the ‘Calais Jungle camp’. They issued a limited edition print titled, ‘We must Be Careful What We Pretend To Be’ which sold out immediately. The appeal was also inundated by donations of clothes and by the end of September they went back to The Jungle and spent five days building shelters, in aid of the crisis which is gripping Europe.
“Needs in The Jungle change quickly and when we initially visited in August we were told that shoes and winter clothes were the priority. By the time we went last week the most urgent need was providing waterproof shelters. We took the decision to redirect the money from our fundraising to where it was most needed and sent £10,000 to Auberge de Migrants in order to buy building materials. Thanks to public generosity the living conditions of many refugees will be improved this winter, the artists said in a recent interview. “The situation in The Jungle has deteriorated significantly since our last visit. There are many more woman and children in the camp now, and around a thousand more people are living there, bringing the total number to between four and five thousand. It is difficult to describe how desperate the living conditions are in The Jungle, latrines are overflowing, rubbish is piled everywhere, and children play amongst human excrement. Most people are living in tents and when it rains the site frequently floods. We spent a week building shelters but the need there is overwhelming and a huge amount of help is required if the refugees living there are to survive the winter. Tensions with the French authorities are running high. During our visit we experience tear gas fired into the camp by Riot Police. Remarkably given the appalling conditions there is hope amongst the people living there, and we witnessed moments of extraordinary kindness and generosity”, they added.
“Building shelters is not the solution to the Refugee Crisis. Governments need to find their humanity and take collective responsibility for the many thousands of desperate people urgently seeking sanctuary in Europe. Everyone we met in The Jungle had escaped war or persecution. Many had undertaken dangerous and often deadly journeys with their families in the hope of finding refuge here, only to be stranded in appalling conditions in a make shift camp. Refugees cannot apply for Asylum in the UK from outside the country, and the UK government is intent on stopping legitimate asylum seekers from getting the UK, leaving people no choice but to attempt to make the crossing illegally”.
“We intend to visit The Jungle again in late November to build more shelters, and to provide solar power to the people living there. We are currently planning a further fundraising effort which we will announce shortly”.
Artists must be more proactive in creating awareness of this crisis on our doorstep .This group is actually putting in the time and energy kudos!
The Conner Brothers now plan to return to the camp at the end of November with Pussy Riot, with whom they have some shared projects. They are supporting the efforts in Calais and are discussing fund raising ideas currently.
The Connor Brothers ‘We Must Be Careful’ fundraising print edition of 50 Giclee print with silkscreen varnish, on archival paper41 x 26 cm unframed £120 Available here