26 Aug 2016

The Calais Sessions

From Access All Areas, 3:00 pm on 26 August 2016
The Calais Sessions

The Calais Sessions Photo: Sarah Hickson

'The Calais Sessions' was recorded in the vast refugee camp in Calais, known by its inhabitants as The Jungle. The driving force behind the album is Vanessa Lucas-Smith who talks about the recording, the refugees and their incredible resilience in the face of inhumane adversity.

"We never expected an album to come out of it," says curator and classical cellist Vanessa Lucas-Smith. "I think the major thing was to present a different side to the people there.

"In September (2015) there was a lot of bad press - and you only see one side of them and actually the side we see are people like us, professional people who have been forced to flee because of the war and persecution."

She had gone to the French port city as a volunteer, and became curious as to whether or not there were musicians at the camp. "We thought that if there were musicians there, they'd miss playing. So that was the beginnings of it."  

Vanessa and a group of volunteer musicians and aid workers set up a make-shift studio powered by generators and collected some instruments together for a weekend workshop. From that first session, they got three songs which appear on the album.

Vanessa reports that the conditions in the Calais camp are grim. There are about 9000 people there from nine different nations. There’s mud, make-shift tents, no electricity, massive rats, very few water sources. And the journeys people have made to get there have been soul-destroying.

"It's so difficult for people to tell their stories. They'll tell it to us in a tent or shelter, because they feel secure about it, but it's so emotional and harrowing and terrible to speak about it, they won't tell it on the news or a radio programme. But it's the stories that people need to hear."

The Calais Sessions is an exceptional and heartfelt album that reaffirms that music can be ‘bread for the soul’.

The Calais Sessions

The Calais Sessions Photo: Sarah Hickson.