Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Henk Wildschut - Calais, December 2012

Difficulty: 0

In 2005, I read an article about a settlement in the woods near Calais.

Supposedly inhabited by illegal immigrants en route to Dover.

I was fascinated and decided to take a look.

Since then, I have returned many times, driving 217 miles back and forth.

The situation was constantly changing. The settlements came and went.

I never knew what to expect. But it was a reason for me to keep coming back.

One of these camps was more or less tolerated.

At a certain point, it housed over 1,000 refugees.

Local authorities considered this a serious problem.

So with a vulgar show of strength it was torn down in September of 2009.

Since then, the situation has drastically changed.

Most people are now squatting in vacant buildings...

or decided to live in shelters further away from the city centre.

So these days, you won't find many tents here.

I think it was around here.

This was the place where, in 2006, I first saw a shelter in these woods.

These woods are generally known, not just in Calais, as the jungle.

People wanting to make the crossing to Dover came together in the jungle...

to build a temporary shelter.

When I first came here, the weather was the same as today.

A bleak sun, ivy-grown trees...

A fairy tale forest, across which you could see shelters everywhere.

Some of which were really beautiful, with their colourful rags.

I remember being startled by what I saw.

But I was also struck by the beauty of it all, which was confusing to me.

But my confusion also made me realize this would make an interesting series.

To me, this is really fascinating. I feel like a wildlife expert.

When you look at this...

It's like an archaeological find from a shelter that was built six years ago.

Sticks held together by a scarf, which has almost perished.

As if nature tries to digest it.

You can see nature trying to erase the traces of the sadness and misery.

They start to intertwine.

For me, the shelters became a metaphor for the tragedy of migration.

But even more so, they are a symbol of human ingenuity and strength.

The strength of people on a mission. A mission to seek a better life.


Apparently people are still living here.

This is a new camp of tents.

Three in total, all battered down by the fierceness of the wind and rain.

It's very cold. I just went to take a look, but I couldn't find anyone.

It's quite unusual. I'm guessing these tents have been donated to them.

Apart from the jungle, there are a number of settlements in the area.

This one is strategically placed near the harbour.

From here, it's easy to hide in the back of a truck.

So you could say this is an ideal place for these people.

However, the area is very desolate. They are left to their own devices.

This is really depressing.

Because we can just go home and shelter from the cold.

We can just go once we're done here.

But these people are not that lucky.

And their dream of reaching the UK might never even come true.

But their willingness to hope and dream is what keeps them going strong.

It makes them able to endure the pain.

Hopes and dreams can take us a long way.

And that's what I want my photographs to communicate.

That human beings possess an enormous amount of strength.

And despite their sufferings, they're still able to create a home for themselves.

However strange it might sound, standing here.

My work is on display in a museum, but this is where it originated.

This is the foundation of what my work is really about.

But for us it's over. We're going home.

The Description of Henk Wildschut - Calais, December 2012