The first time I ever visited The Jungle in Calais was at the start of April 2016. I’d recently been to the annual With Banners Held High event in Wakefield – a coming together of the coal-mining community across the generations. There was a workshop on The Jungle, delivered by a group of activists called We Are Wakefield – some of whom I knew through Love Music Hate Racism and various other things.

I walked out of that room almost in a trance. I was determined to visit The Jungle and help out as soon as possible, and told them so. Within a fortnight, I was on a Megabus down to London to catch the Eurostar, where Sally Kincaid picked me up and took me to The Jungle.

It was a real roller-coaster weekend, and I can’t possibly do it justice in a few paragraphs on here; hence me spending the last 3 years crafting poems and lyrics about my experiences there.

Anyway, when we set off from Calais on the Sunday, I realised that I’d left my passport, wallet and keys in somebody else’s car. They’d left for the earlier ferry and had already gone through border patrol. I rang ahead to alert them, but there was little they could do. When we arrived at the port, there was a queue of cars a good 500 metres or so long. So me, being the fool that I am, got out of Sally’s car and started running towards Leda at border patrol.

Now this was very soon after some terrorist attacks in Brussels, so everybody was on red alert. And let’s just say that the border patrol at Calais isn’t the friendliest place at the best of times. Within 20 seconds or so, I had several guns pointing at me and several Frenchmen ordering me to stop, which I thankfully did.

Had my friend Leda not been pleading with them in their mother tongue, I almost certainly would’ve been shot – I like to think it would’ve in the leg, but still. She gave me my things, and we boarded the next ferry, and at that point – not realising quite what’d happened – my only concern was that I had a gig to get to.

That gig was at Chesterfield Labour Club. We raced up the M1 and Sally managed to get me there on time. And then I performed, drank like a fish, went home and couldn’t sleep. I’ve been back to Calais since then, but not Chesterfield Labour Club, and it’ll feel surreal but really special to perform ‘Two Little Ducks’ in that room.

Support on the night comes from Ichabod – a brilliant local singer-songwriter who I had the pleasure of sharing a stage with on that night back in April 2016. Tickets are on sale here and you can shout about it on Facebook here. See you there….? Ta.

poet, educator & activist

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