Until 8 February 2018, St James’s church in Piccadilly, London will be home to a suspended mass of 700 items of clothing, previously belonging to refugees and salvaged from the beaches and olive groves of the Greek Island of Lesbos. The installation, entitled Suspended is the work of British war artist Arabella Dorman and features a baby-grow and red bib sporting the words “My 1st Christmas Ever!” among the swathes of fabric.
Arabella set out to create Suspended as a way to bring the refugee crisis back into the public eye – especially around Christmas – and to raise funds for the Starfish Foundation. The artist first visited Lesbos in 2015, having previously spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan but her experience of being confronted by the refugee crisis particularly moved her.
“Christmas can very easily be bankrupt of meaning,” says Reverend Lucy Winked, the rector of St James’s, adding that “as a Church we’re saying there’s no better time to talk about this big issue.” By suspending the clothes within the church, Arabella is reflecting the limbo experienced by the thousands of people forced to flee their homelands.
Each item of clothing in the installation serves as a powerful reminder that at some point, it belonged to someone. Labour peer Alf Dubs, who arrived in Britain as a child refugee, spoke of how it’s impossible not to be moved by the piece: “Every one of these items represents a life, it’s very poignant.”
He has called for the government to honour its commitment under the Dubs amendment to “provide safe passage to the UK for 480 unaccompanied minors living in refugee camps.” To date, The Guardian reports that 202 children have been brought to the UK, including two from Greece this week.
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