‘CONVERSATIONS FROM CALAIS’ Humanise the Refugee Crisis, 2021

The Buildhollywood family of Jack, Jack arts and Diabolical have invited conversations From Calais to collaborate for the latest instalment of their Your Space Or Mine Project, which gives artists and creatives a platform on the street.

“We are honoured to be handing over our poster sites to Conversations From Calais. Not only does this simple yet powerful project commemorate these unheard voices but it’s also inspiring social change by placing a spotlight on the refugee crisis in such an empathetic and thought-provoking way – reminding us all to be more open, kind, active and generous.” Khaly Nguyen, Buildhollywood

Conversations From Calais document conversations between volunteers and migrants and pastes them onto city walls to re-humanise the refugee crisis. The collaboration saw these simple yet thought-provoking conversations take over billboards for the first time in eight UK cities.

Conversations From Calais started as a DIY poster project by French and Italian graphic designer and illustrator Mathilda Della Torre in October 2019, from a feeling of extreme frustration with the way refugees were being portrayed in mainstream media and by politicians in the UK. After having volunteered in Calais, Mathilda spent a year trying to find ways of documenting and sharing what she experienced there. She wanted to create an impactful and dignifying project for the volunteers and migrants she had met. She wrote down all the conversations she had with migrants she had met, and it grew from there.

“This ever-growing collection of conversations focuses on capturing the diversity of experiences and avoids creating new stereotypes of displaced people as villains, heroic figures or hopeless victims. There are so many different stories and some of them describe things like the beauty of a blue sky, the reassurance of a phone call with our mother or the need for hand cream. I think those are the ones that remind us that we are not as different as we are told.” Mathilda Della Torre

The project cites lives blighted by poverty, famine, conflict and persecution. Dreams have been shattered, choices curtailed. The collaboration saw the conversations take over billboards in cities including London, Manchester, Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Glasgow. The posters feature stark black texts on white backgrounds; the sparse design communicates in a matter of fact way the awful precarity experienced by displaced persons. Amidst the hurt, the Conversations From Calais project catalyses not just awareness but some hope too.

“Conversations From Calais started as posters pasted with homemade glue in the streets of Dover, then London and then the rest of the world. The process was a quick, easy and cheap way of getting these conversations read by large numbers of people, without having to go through censorship, curators or publishers. The posters became extensions of our walls, taking over public space and blending in with our cities’ stories. Billboards are the perfect extension of this use of public space, as they inhabit the same spaces but feel bigger in impact because of their size. These conversations cannot be forgotten, they need to be commemorated and for them to be printed the size of a house and put in so many cities around the UK feels like a first step to recognising that we refuse to turn away and forget.” Mathilda Della Torre

Mathilda Della Torre humanises the refugee crisis one conversation at a time …



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