Next to the RER station is a big black-and-white graffitti: "FLUCTUAT NEC MERGITUR. St.Denis 93."
C**** runs youth workshops at a home-made circus space next to the central RER station. She is a strong and generous woman. She could be 25 or 40. We go to pick up Syrian refugee children from outside a local "hotel". Many of them are being herded into their parents' cars so that they can go and work "les lumieres rouges" (the traffic lights), begging for money. The children recognise C***** and usually expect to see her on Wednesdays when she holds the free games sessions. Also outside the "hotel" is the landlord-proprietor, who says some pretty explicitly racist things about the families he is hosting, showing dismay at the fact that they eat whilst sitting on the floor and that the children climb in trees along the road. He advises that C**** should not hesitate to call the police if she sees or hears of any untoward behaviour.
C***** considers this man to be a sort of "marchand de sommeil".
From what we hear, the heavily mediatised police raid on Avenue de la Republique was a shambles and led to many innocent members of the public being terrorised and shot at. Apparently there was even a point where two separate police units were shooting at one another within the building. The building is still closed off and the former inhabitants have been relocated. The quartier is no longer cordoned off but remains on high alert.
Big military presence, in full camouflage garb and with machine guns slow patrolling through the market, the park, down the main drag.
Children are having a water fight by the pump in a central park during the heatwave. They chase and spray each other. "Les garcons contre les filles!". A military troop enter the park (around 6 of them) - they enter at a slow pace and spread out to cover the exit. The children stop playing and go quiet. They watch the soldiers. A soldier walks slowly up to the pump and takes a drink, then he leaves with the rest of the troop. Continuing at the same slow pace. The children don't take long to start playing again.
In front of the town hall and the basilica a far-left political rally (poorly attended) play a punk song through their portable P.A. system. "Les Patrons C'est Comme Des Cochons" (Bosses are like Pigs). There will be a classical music concert (ticketed) inside the basilica that evening, well attended by more affluent Dionysiens and Parisians from the other side of the peripherique.
S****** works at the Bourse de Travail. He tells us he is proud to be from St.Denis and that he still has a lot of family and friends here. He has recently moved into a new house in a neighbouring, "calmer" suburb, but still works in and visits St.Denis most days.
He tells us that he feels uncomfortable in central Paris, and that people there quickly pick up on mannerisms, verbal tics and clothing choices that are uncommon to the posher neighbourhoods. He feels a strong prejudice (from others) about being from "the 93".
At the general assembly for sans-papiers, we hear about the fears of non-documented workers who are being asked to take a day off on Friday so that they can participate on a protest rally. Many feel they are caught in a Catch-22 position, where they need to lie to their bosses and skip work in order to get more work (hopefully) in the long run. The panel of sans-papier delegates offer impassioned speeches about the necessity of showing solidarity through the march. Throughout the meeting, members emphasise the importance of the constitutional successes achieved by previous generations of migrants and non-documented citizens who, until fairly recently, were known as "clandestines".
L****** asks us what we think of when we hear the word "radicalised". He is a muslim but makes fun of the local Imams for their lack of understanding of the Quran. "Il n'y a pas la peur a St.Denis". He is afraid of deep water, since his good childhood friend died at sea.
In the rehearsal space:
Not as much transposition work or dramatic exploration as in Tunis. This was largely a research residency (interviews and walks).
We push some of our trust exercises further. Continuing the eyes closed/blindfolded and guiding work which we had started to find in Tunis.
We experiment with the possibilities offered by constructing shifting scenographies around the audience.