Late on Tuesday evening when the revellers are drinking up and about to stagger towards the tube is not the time I normally find myself entering Covent Garden. But the location and the timing was important because this was the night before the Big Issue’s ‘Little Man Hunt’ and we needed to go and hide the little men.
Part of the magazines campaign to raise the issue of homelessness, the Big Issue had joined forces with Roy’s People to create a series of little figures which would be dotted around the area. The idea being that people could hunt them down, take a picture, send it into the magazine and stand a chance of winning a unique piece of Roy’s artwork.
Roy and I had only met the week before, featuring as he did in the Inspiring Interview to promote his new show at the Curious Duke Gallery. His art features little figurines set into fantastical scenarios which are then photographed and made into prints. The worlds he creates giving a different perspective on the norm.
The Big Issue have worked with artists before, most notably Stik in 2013 when the vendors become mini art dealers able to sell limited edition prints of the popular street artists work. This time the focus had been on raising the awareness of the vendors visibility, often they are seen but not seen as they become part of the background in the hustle and bustle of daily life. Roy’s little people were to become a metaphor for that, visible, in plain view but not seen by the average passer by.
So it was here that we met, at the corner of Long Acre and Neal Street at the spot where the first figurines would be placed, a mini vendor and cat reminiscent of former vendor James Bowen and his cat Street Cat Bob. James had been a vendor himself and this was one of the spots on which he would sell the Big Issue with his faithful Ginger Tom Cat Bob. The two became a popular sight around the area and eventually James became an author writing a series of books based around Tom and the life they had together living on the streets. The books became hugely popular and since then James and his cat Bob have continued to work with the Big Issue to raise awareness of homelessness.
Once placed we went in search of other spots, moving down into the market square, by the Transport Museum and the Actors Church then heading down towards Leicester Square, into Seven Dials and back again via Long Acre towards the spot at which we started. Each mini figurine telling the story of a vendor and once the little man had been spotted only then could the story could be read.
We pottered around looking for suitable locations for just over two hours with the streets becoming ever more deserted and Roy becoming ever more adept at sticking the little guys to the walls, fences, signs and whatever else seemed like a good idea to attach them to. Each location was then recorded meticulously onto a map with as good a description as possible so that the vendors in the morning would know where they were and be able to watch over them. In total 30 of the little figurines had been placed in order for Little Man Hunters to search out the next day, a mini invasion of Roy’s People to spot.
I don’t mind admitting that it all felt a little bit naughty, we were like a pair of gentrified taggers forsaking spray paint and marker pens in favour of model men and sticky back plastic. Starting off warily we wondered if people would be thinking that we were up to no good but in actual fact no-one batted an eyelid or even paid us any attention at all. Shifty though we may have looked people just walked on by without a second glance. Apt really considering the purpose of the ‘Little Man Hunt’ was to raise awareness of the invisibility of Big Issue Vendors, in plain sight yet all too often not in view.
‘Street Life’ the solo show by Roy’s People is showing at the Curious Duke Gallery until 26 April 2014. The Big Issue ‘Little Man Hunt’ took place on Wednesday 3 April 2014 and was supported by the Big Issue Foundation which aims to connect vendors with support and solutions that enable them to rebuild their lives.
Roys People Little Man Hunt Gallery