Big Mother, no housing

The artist Stik has painted the tallest mural in the UK. Big Mother might seem simple, but that’s what makes the image so immediately arresting: a mother and child, painted on the side of a condemned block of council apartments.

By Claude Crommelin and Joye Division

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Council housing is what British people call projects. They’re properties owned by the local government (called councils) that can be rented at affordable rates. Under laws passed by Thatcher’s government, council housing took a hit and has been on the decline ever since.

Stik, the formerly homeless street artist who painted the mural said: “Affordable housing in Britain is under threat, this piece is to remind the world that all people need homes”. Charles Hocking House was built for low income families in 1967 and is earmarked to be torn down in 2016.

Like a lot of things in the UK, public perception of council housing is tied to class issues. Council estates (especially apartment blocks) are generally thought to be crime-ridden and full of stabbings (remember, it’s very tough to get guns here!), drug deals, low-class people, and whatever other horrors one can think up. The reality is different, and there are good and bad council properties just like there are good and bad areas everywhere.

A really excellent movie that’s set on a council estate is Attack the Block. Obviously it focuses on an alien invasion and not normal day-to-day life, but you should watch it anyway. Plus it takes place on Bonfire Night, so that’s buy one get one free for your British culture quotient. And it’s deeply hilarious.

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