BEHIND THE SCENES with Jungala Radio

A conversation with Jungala Radio volunteers Kathy O'Hare. Ciaran Henry, and Abi Andrews.

What is Jungala Radio, and how did it begin?

KO: Jungala Radio is a digital audio training program in the Calais refugee camp. We facilitate training for refugees and then we use social media tools and networks to disseminate the work created. We work under the ethos of community broadcasting, and create a safe learning space that nurtures camp residents and volunteers. The project was set up on the premise that, if given the opportunity and access, camp residents can challenge negative stereotypes generated by mainstream media. In this way, the participants become the narrators and controllers of their own political selves.

Ciaran Henry and I co-founded Jungala in November, 2015. We felt that there was a real need, as so much was not being documented in the camp and, furthermore, it was not being documented by camp residents. We felt that it was extremely important for refugees to document their own political, social, and cultural narratives should they choose to do so. Abi began volunteering with us shortly after our initial setup.

We were very conscious of the kind of learning space we wanted to create. We did not want a situation where camp residents were simply coming in to tell stories about their personal experiences of war and trauma, thus contributing towards a model of disempowerment and a “sympathy” narrative. We wanted the space to focus on supporting all types of digital creativity and skills development.

Why use audio for this kind of storytelling in Calais? Did you consider other mediums?

KO: We knew that refugees felt uncomfortable showing their faces in case it affected their future asylum outcomes, and so we felt that audio was perhaps a more suitable way of doing things. People do want to express themselves, and radio is an amazingly creative medium that allows you to do that without risk of exposing your identity.

What have you learned, radio-wise, from the Jungala reporters and producers?

CH: The array of different styles is inspiring. It's been amazing working with such a diverse group making really varied content. [Editor's note: for a taste of this diversity, check out the nature doc Save the Oceans! the audio art What Is It? and the news report Jeremy Corbyn Visits Calais ]

KH: The Jungala producers have taught me to bring more humour and fun into my radio recordings and to experiment more with creativity, vision and ideas. Courage, dignity, willingness, perseverance and determination are just some of the qualities that our participants regularly exhibit, and to spend time with people that demonstrate these qualities is simply joyful.

Abi : Many times over we have our own assumptions challenged! Especially working with younger trainees, sometimes we feel the need to shelter them from the very distressing environment in the camp. Then they demonstrate that, although children, they are often wiser and have seen more than most of the adults we know.

For example, we supervised young reporters who made a show about protesting Iranian hunger strikers who had sewn their mouths shut. When at first we hesitated, they told us ‘we see this in Afghanistan all the time’, and it seemed futile to try and dissuade them.

The hunger strikers were happy to speak to members of their community, over press from outside the camp, and our trainees took the responsibility of conveying their message very seriously. Our reporters have gotten very good at keeping their ears to the ground, getting information from community leaders every morning, so that as we arrive they are ready to brief us on the expected unfolding of the day. They've became known within the community as the camp's own journalists, and are offered suggestions, ‘you should report on this’, ‘you should cover that’.

What are some of the most memorable moments the Jungala crew has had?

KO: The energy in the camp can be unpredictable, volatile, overwhelming and dark, and yet, at the same time extremely positive and euphoric. For me, the most memorable moments lie in the smaller exchanges, the group and individual interactions, the jokes, the stories, the listening and learning from each other, and most of all the laughs.

Abi: One memorable experience seeing all of the hard work and training pay off was on the day of a court hearing over a proposed eviction of the camp, when one of our young reporters had the unflinching confidence to insert herself into the court room in order to report, before being removed. Afterwards, gumption never waning, small enough to weave through the dense crowd, she marched right up to the lawyer and made herself the first journalist to interview her on the outcome of the proceedings.

CH: Long nights spent editing with driven and focused individuals in the thin wooden radio classroom during the winter months is something I will always remember. Even with coats, gloves and hats the gas heater couldn't stop our hands from going numb, our noses constantly dripping while our breath was as thick as cigar smoke. It was still a warmer environment than most of the camp though.

If our community is interested in supporting Jungala Radio, how can they get involved?

KH: There are many ways of helping our project. First of all, simply listen to our programmes and encourage your family friends and social media networks to listen by sharing, liking, etc. Secondly, you can donate through our website: https://www.gofundme.com/jungalaradio. We urgently need funding to keep the project going. Thirdly, if anyone would like to volunteer in the Calais camp or with Jungala then please also contact us by email and we can direct you.