‘breach’: short story collection based on interviews with refugees in Calais

Together with Annie Holmes I am currently working on a collection of short stories based on interviews and interactions with refugees in Calais. breach is a commission by Peirene Press.

breach noun: An act of breaking or failing to observe a law, agreement, or code of conduct. A gap in a wall, barrier, or defence…
breach verb: Make a gap in and break through (a wall, barrier, or defence). (Of a whale) rise and break through the surface of the water.

Displacement is as old as our need for home.

In the port of Calais, an illusion is being disrupted: that of a neatly ordered world, with those deserving safety and comfort separated from those who need to be kept out.

breach tells the story of the refugee crisis through six voices based on interviews with refugees in Calais. These stories uncover realities of fleeing one’s country by any means necessary. They demand to be seen, to be heard, to be let in

Why I wanted to work on this project

What does it mean to have no control over your life? When you have travelled often under extreme conditions, and are now at the mercy of the situation, aiming, quite literally, for the light at the end of the Tunnel?

I wanted to work on breach to deeply engage with people in the Calais camp. To confront the privilege which wich we often discuss the crisis in the UK, even amongst liberals. Some of these conversations, and the wave of negativity in media and society, have made a latent fear of mine re-surface: certain views are okay to voice again, they are not contextualised for their racist content. In the end the construction of the Other and us, the seemingly innocent voicing of stereotypical fears (the boat is full narratives and similar)  always leads down a dangerous path.

I want to think deeply about what humanity means, how we negotiate political and humanitarian issues. I want to sit with people and talk. See them, understand (as much as possible) how it is to be displaced, without freedom of movement, or choice of place. I want to produce stories that rectify the angle that strips people down to survival only, keeping them in a one-dimensional narrative. Stories that show complex beings with dreams and fears, lives that started long before their journeys to Calais.