Jazz singer who jams with Jagger and brings hope to the Calais Jungle

A piece about the jazz singer Ian Shaw, and the work he is doing in the Jungle refugee camp in Calais. As it says he launches a charity single on Wednesday.



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By Simon de Bruxelles, December 12, 2015

It was dawn, and Ian Shaw was running the gauntlet of riot police surrounding the Jungle refugee camp as he tried to get a badly injured Syrian teenager to hospital.

He had been called by a friend after police had refused four times to call an ambulance for the 18-year-old migrant, who had been hit in the face with a CS gas grenade and a riot shield and was bleeding heavily. His jaw was broken in two places, three of his teeth had been smashed and his lip was split wide open.

As Mr Shaw drove him to get medical treatment the wing mirror of his black Peugeot was smashed with a baton and his passenger seat drenched with blood. The teenager, called Osai, is still recovering in hospital in Lille.

The next night, Mr Shaw was performing at a private party in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, accompanying Sir Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood and Jeff Beck as they sang Christmas carols.

The award-winning Welsh singer is leading a double life, spending half the week on stage at venues such as Ronnie Scott’s, in Soho, and the rest in the mud and squalor of the Jungle.

The unofficial camp is home to about 7,000 migrants and is growing by the day. Refugees, most of whom have fled wars in the Middle East and Africa, arrive to find themselves in the midst of another one.

Hope that they will find sanctuary in Britain turns to despair when they find their journey halted by razor wire, riot police and tear gas.

Mr Shaw, who was twice named vocalist of the year at the BBC Jazz Awards, is angry and frustrated.

He first visited the Jungle in June this year, partly out of curiosity. “I can see the Calais lighthouse if I stand in my bath. I thought I would go and visit this place I’d read about,” he said. Appalled by what he found, he organised fundraising concerts and collected instruments so that the migrants had some way to pass the time. He set up a restaurant providing free food and performed two concerts in the camp. For the past couple of months he has been spending all his free time there.

He said: “I move in the most ridiculous circles at the moment but I can tell you where I want to be the most, even though it is cold and when it rains the whole place is reduced to a fetid mud slide.”

He was there when a fire started by a candle swept through the camp on the night of the Paris massacres. More than 100 tents were destroyed and many of the migrants lost the few possessions they had.

Each week he fills his car with shopping and he has set up a first aid station manned by a refugee doctor in a caravan. He is frustrated that there is no mechanism for the refugees to claim asylum in the UK without first getting here illegally.

“We need a humane way of processing the ones that are most in need, and the ones who are most in need are those who have ended up living on a rubbish tip in Calais, not the ones living in the safety of a refugee camp in Jordan or Lebanon,” he said. “It would not have to be expensive or time-consuming.”

On Wednesday he is releasing a charity single entitled My Brother, because that is how the refugees greet him in the Jungle.


©News UK Ltd. The original piece is on The Times website here. (Pay wall.)

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