Canceled TV Show Set Recycled as Refugee Housing

The end of British program ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ means shelter for people living in a camp in Calais, France.

Children stand at the entrance to their shelter in a new migrant camp in Dunkirk, France, on Jan. 6. (Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images)

Jan 8, 2016· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

People living in tents and tarp shelters in a horrific refugee camp in Calais, France, are about to experience London music halls, smoky 1930s nightclubs, and the office of a doctor with a split personality. Those were the atmospheric haunts of Robert Jekyll, the main character of period fantasy drama Jekyll and Hyde, and they’re all being recycled into housing for refugees.

This week, the show’s creator, Charlie Higson, confirmed on Twitter that the program, which debuted in October, had been canceled by British network ITV owing to poor ratings. But Higson shared his happiness over a silver lining to the show’s demise.

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“One small good thing to come out of #JekyllandHyde cancellation. Our sets have been shipped to Calais to make refugee shelters,” Higson posted on Wednesday to his 116,000 followers. He subsequently tweeted that the donation was organized by the head of the show’s design team but didn’t share any other details.

The show’s materials can certainly be used in the camp, which is in a port city on the shore of the English Channel. It’s home to an estimated 6,000 refugees, many of whom hope to gain asylum in the United Kingdom. Men, women, and children, most of them fleeing violence in the Middle East and Africa, live without basic sanitation or heat.

Conditions in the camp are so squalid—it’s at a former trash dump—that it has acquired an infamous nickname: the Jungle. Last summer it became a symbol of the refugee crisis when up to 2,000 people a day attempted to cross from France to England through the adjacent Eurotunnel.

The sets from Jekyll and Hyde are just the latest attempt by cultural creatives to help folks living in Calais. In September, Dismaland, the pop-up dystopian theme park set up in England by street artist Banksy, was dismantled and sent to the camp to be used to create shelters.

With as many as one-fourth of new television shows canceled after one season, Higson’s decision to repurpose Jekyll and Hyde’s set materials in this way could serve as an example for other show runners. But more comprehensive steps are needed to help people living in the camp. In August, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said in a statement that meaningful action based “on the principles of humanity, access to protection, solidarity and responsibility-sharing” is needed to help the refugees.

A scene from 'Jekyll and Hyde.' (Photo: YouTube)