Arcola theatre hosts comedy festival for Calais refugees


The current migrant crisis is no laughing matter, but a theatre in Dalston is hosting a “heroic” event to help those in need through comedy.

The Crew for Calais Festival is a week of entertainment aimed at raising money for refugees from around the world stuck in squalid conditions just miles away from the English coast.

Crew for Calais is a group of individuals who work in theatre and the creative industries determined to apply their expertise to make a positive difference.

Many have experience in set design, and since December 2015 they have travelled to Calais on seven occasions, using their skills to build shelters for the refugees.

The group organised the festival to help pay for future trips that could also see them travel along the French coast to camps in Dunkirk.

Arcola Theatre

Crew for Calais
Work takes place on the Calais ‘jungle’ camp; Credit Crew for Calais

This latest fundraising project is being held at the Arcola Theatre, Dalston, and features performances from a litany of comedic talent including Stewart Lee.

Although tickets to the event are free of charge, fundraisers are asking the public to pay what they can, with all donations going towards helping those in need.

Katharine Rose Williams Radojicic founded the initiative after an initial visit to a camp in France. She told Hackney Post that their work is especially important in the wake of recent evictions of thousands of migrants.

“Spending time in the refugee camp changed me,” she said.

“I stood in the mud, shaking with cold, hungry and tired. Nothing like the coldness or exhaustion of the people that had travelled thousands of miles to get there. Nothing like that.

“In that moment, it was very clear to me that I know an industry full of people that have the skills to do something about this, and who would want to help if they could. So I came home with a plan to make this happen,” she added.

Calais aid

Shelters go up at the Calais refugee camp; Credit: Crew for Calais

Chris Coltrane is one of the comedians performing during the festival. He paid tribute to the work of Crew for Calais and told Hackney Post that he believes that people in this country should do more to help those living in camps like the infamous “jungle”.

“There are more things that British people should, and could be doing,” he said.

“The Crew For Calais team are truly heroes, but of course, not everyone has the time or the money to get out to Calais to get hands-on with offering aid.

“But I do think people don’t realise that there are other ways that they can help, both as individuals and as part of a team.”

The Crew for Calais Festival is running until 12 March. Tickets can be secured via Arcola’s website at

Featured image: Stewart Lee performs at the festival on Sunday; Credit: Crew for Calais

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