Why Do Refugees Want to go to England ?

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DJ Jeff 23 (one of the founding members of Artist in Action) recently returned from Calais and Dunkirk where he was a volunteer aid worker. In this article he talks about his experiences and the friendships he made with refugees while there.

 

¨These shelves are starting to look worryingly empty,” said Steve Stavrinides of Refugee Community Kitchen with a concerned frown. “We urgently need supplies”

It was one thing having a deluge of volunteers and donations over the Christmas period where the festive spirit runs deep and the misfortune of others sharpens into focus. But with January upon us, the weather worsening and potential volunteers back at work, the future looked increasingly treacherous.

I glanced over at the Snack Shack, a 1984 kebab van that was donated to a sister charity in Calais. Just yesterday, Rufus one of the tireless Refugee Community Kitchen chefs who works with Steve had commented on the state of the engine and the telltale smell of burning oil emanating from the chassis. With a critical role delivering 800 hot meals a day to the Grand-Synthe camp, it began to feel that the infrastructure of the relief mission was starting to buckle.

kidsAs smoke billowed out from the van, myself and Bastien, a fellow volunteer with Artists in Action began to do some very uncomfortable maths. With funds increasingly scarce, buying a replacement vehicle could cripple the food supply.

It was my last day in the camps working with Refugee Community Kitchen and Artists in Action, two groups formed in response to the growing humanitarian disaster in Europe. I had been driving the spluttering Snack Shack van for a week, and as I reflected on the families I’d met, the children who inspired me and the courage I’d witnessed, I gulped back the tears.

I had made a particularly strong connection with a Kurdish group of refugees who had fled perpetual conflict and through my daily chats with them on the lunch round, I began to understand that even the concept of a homeland was fractured. The Kurds were divided across 4 countries in a crucible of conflict, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey and had been at the mercy of warring forces for over a century.

A Kurdish refugee revealed that he was a geologist by profession, and I couldn’t help but joke back to him that I was mystified why the UK hadn’t given him a visa considering their insatiable love of oil and natural resources. It was a feeble wise crack to be fair, and yet it rang poignantly true. Perhaps BP had their own geologists though, and it struck me that not only were we all fighting back against the military industrial complex in our own way, but that the DIY spirit of community ran through us all, no matter where we came from.

“My father is a colonel in the Kurdish army,” he said. “He forced me to leave our village as he knew that I could be killed any day. I owned a BMW and two houses until they were flattened.

This was a recurring theme. As the press paints the refugees as one step away from savages, I was genuinely astonished to discover just how successful the people around me had been in their former lives. This frail, bedraggled man showed me a picture of himself in a very stylish suit, standing in front of his flourishing porcelain factory. Before it was shelled by ISIS. He then showed me another picture; the pile of rubble and broken dreams that was left behind after the assault. And as he put his phone away, I realised I hadn’t seen a photo of his wife. It didn’t take a genius to work out why.

940902_10153782701047856_6217790439436076022_n-3Mohammed, the first refugee I met at the Grand-Synthe camp had no passport, no money and no-one left. I asked him why he and the other residents of the camps were so determined to get to Britain when they had passed through numerous European countries. The British press were using this to demonise the refugees as economic migrants looking for a ‘soft touch’, and with Germany offering greater benefits and a more open entrance policy, I felt I needed to ask directly why the UK was their destination.

In almost every case, it came down to family. Those who had relatives, no matter how distant, in other European countries had gone in search of them, while those who saw Britain and the family connections they had there as their only hope had no foundations anywhere else. It was family and the last shreds of identity that drove them towards the Channel.

On the way back from the makeshift toilets, I came across a teenager who we had been supplying meals to daily. He was in floods of tears. Unable to communicate through the language barrier, we just hugged and shared a moment of human empathy. He was an individual with a desperate story and there were thousands others just like him, adrift on a sea of crisis and uncertainty. The conditions are dire, the sanitation almost non-existent, and the freezing mud rising.

The next day as we made our deliveries, I found Mohammed crying. He was at the end of his tether.

“We can’t keep warm at night, hope is fading by the day, we’re trapped with no way forward and no way back. I feel like my sanity is slipping away. One small thing stops me going completely crazy, it’s the idea that I can still share a small beer with friends” . His cough was worsening by the day.

While there were many practicing Muslims in the camp, many were persecuted Christians and many others were simply not religious. Indeed the reason the Grand-Synthe camp had so many Kurds in it was because they worried about ethnic tensions with other refugees in camps like Calais. The Kurds had been persecuted in their own homeland, finding themselves a minority in 4 different countries, and they feared that they may not be fully accepted by other refugee communities.

boyThat night, a group of young Kurds danced with us to new electronic music coming from our young Kurdish Snack Shack DJ. Ragga beats with synthesized sounds and Kurdish vocals rocked the camp, and on the dance floor, the smiles were truly beautiful to see. A dance floor filled with people who had lost everything smiling, hugging and feeling the love as their future hung in the balance. Food and clothing aside, we felt that this coming together as a community, irrespective of our backgrounds or theirs was a testament to the human spirit.

To make a donation to help fund Artists in Action’s mobile kitchen please use paypal
artistsinaction33@gmail.com

New Album Now Available!

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The Artists in Action, fund raiser for refugees, compilation album is now available!

44 amazing tracks from your favorite underground artists including SP23!

SP23 – None of us are free until we’re all equal!

Artists in Action Album

 

 

Artists in Action for Refugees Paris Gig 14/11/2015

11209580_10206502196366654_3511472776339929530_nArtists in Action – Supporting Refugees

Sim Simmer, singer song writer with SP23 and The Bad Girlz writes about how she and DJ Jeff 23 were inspired to organise the huge Paris benefit Gig and compilation album to raise funds to help refugees.

Artists in Action came together after Jeff 23 and myself got back from doing a gig down in Salento, the heel of Italy. The organiser of the event they were playing at, Frank Sabado, also happens to work for a charity called SPRAR – who work specifically with refugees arriving on Italys’ shores. Literally millions of people are currently being displaced through war, dictatorships and climate change and the amount of people arriving around Italy has been steadily growing over the last year or so. Mostly people arriving by boat from Libya, that have come from Sudan, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and more and more now from Syria.

Frank gave us the lowdown on the situation and the realities of day to day survival that these people face – only a small percentage get taken in by SPRAR, who house them in small groups in local apartments and give language lessons, integrate them as best they can into the local area, plus aid with general day to day necessities and paperwork. The rest, if they don’t get away and manage to reach destinations further afield are taken to holding centres,that are more like third world prisons – where they become just a number waiting for a decision – most decisions for them to stay are refused and they are forced back to the very countries and circumstances they have risked everything to escape from. suicide rates at this point are high.

When we got back we had the idea to try and somehow raise awareness and funds – at the same time as the thousands of others who had been subjected to the harrowing images of the young boy washed up on a Turkish beach. A facebook page was set up and ideas started to flow. Jeff23 came up with the idea of a digital compilation album and I started collecting clothes and necessary items for refugees and migrants stuck at the French Italian border unable to move.

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The response and feedback has been immense – overwhelming in fact. So many people have been moved to action as this humanitarian crisis unfolds before us.

So in a very short space of time we have set up an association ‘Artists in Action’ and we are currently working with artists and event organisers to put on a series of fundraising concerts as well as get the digital compilation album out – so far there is an event planned for Sunday 1st November in Marseille, another in Paris the 14th November which will also be the same day the album is released.

All funds raised will go towards getting a convoy out to southern Europe with the aim of providing warm clothes, tents and sleeping bags plus a hot meal to people arriving across the Mediterranean sea.

There are more and more event s unfolding and projects being discussed daily – you can check out everything on our website.

Sim Simmer (SP23 and Bad Girlz)

Album out now! https://artistsinaction.bandcamp.com/

http://artistsinaction.eu
or on our facebook page
https://www.facebook.com/groups/596094290529584/?fref=ts
If you have any ideas or suggestions and would like to get in touch with us directly – or even make a donation, you can send an email to us here.
artistsinaction33@gmail.com

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SP23 Are Doing it Live!

What is the difference between a DJ set and a Live set?

SP23 doin it liveSP23 artist’s, Crystal Distortion, 69DB and Ixindamix have been pioneers of live dance music since the early 1990’s. Each of them with their own unique style, yet they share a belief that live music connects with the dancefloor in a deep and empowering way.

Ixindamix, ‘A large part of a DJ’s skill is the selection, whereas we as live-setters, actually create the music in real time… The beauty of the improvised set is that it allows us to craft a completely individual sound. A big part of my sound being real-time synth automation where new sounds are actually created live – which gives the music an incredibly fresh edge!’

69DB ‘When we go on stage nothing is mixed or arranged. This gives a really flexible way of making music, unique to each situation…’

In this way, SP23 generates a very special synergy between the musicians and the dancers. Because the live performance is created in the moment and is of the moment, the night-long event becomes a whole new shared experience, inwhich everyone is participating. The musicians tune in to the crowd, the crowd tune in to the musicians. It is the language of dance.

When asked why anyone should come and experience SP23’s live performances, Crystal Distortion replied, ‘ Because life will never be the same again!’

After smashing it at Boomtown, playing gigs in Japan, Berlin, Rome and Barcelona – SP23 (with full live and DJ crew, plus special guests) will be doing it live in Bristol!

07/11/2015       22.30 -07.00
Tickets from the Lakota.co.uk
SP23 Bristol Event on Facebook

 

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