An account of the ‘Jungle’ refugee camp from one of our team Dervla.
Last week I went to the ‘Jungle’ refugee camp in Calais with The Worldwide Tribe, a grassroots organisation that started up in August 2015 after their accounts of visiting the camp went viral and sparked huge debate about the dire global crisis unfolding just across the border from the UK.
Audio brand Skull Candy had reached out to The Worldwide Tribe offering to come over and film myself and a member of WWT gigging in the camp to make an awareness video. The refugee crisis has become somewhat of an abstract concept in traditional news reporting, so it was incredible to be able to meet some of the real people affected and hear their story.
The camp is everything you have seen and heard of and worse – makeshift shelters made from donations on a wasteland area with people surviving with what little is available to them. It was a bleak reality and eye opener which provided the exact motivation for our musical collaboration with Skull Candy.
We walked around the camp talking to people and stopping to play impromptu gigs for willing audiences. Setting up a gig where participants from the camp played traditional Afghani music played from hand-made instruments from metals found in the camp, and in return we shared some western songs with the musicians.
Our audience were incredibly receptive to the change of pace and entertainment, and there was a real sense of community as we sat and appreciated each others musical interests. In the moment it was easy to forget the situation these people were in.
The day ended with a larger gig in the ‘Dome’ that we’d organised through word of mouth. Skull Candy gave out headphones which was met with great enthusiasm from people in the camp who have no entertainment and no regular access to music.
The headphones signalled something we all had in common, the need for music, sound, familiarity and enjoyment.
It felt incredibly humbling to be able to sing for people in the camp. Individuals who each have a unique, unimaginable story, and had been through so much, but still welcomed us with open arms and remained hopeful for a brighter future.
What struck me by this experience from a branding perspective was brands have a powerful tool at their disposal to procure positive change: their audience.
The strength of social media and content marketing provides a real platform of which to share ideas, achievements and creativity.
Skull Candy made a decision to utilise the resources available to them to empower some people in need. It was a brave move and required someone stepping out of their everyday routine to be proactive. Visiting the camp for one day to share our music won’t change the landscape of things to come, but it was a small thing we were able to do.
As individuals we can make a real change, but as a collective we are even more powerful. It is important brands are aware of their power on a social and humanitarian level, and even better if they can harness it.