Last year artist Stuart Semple’s campaign against anti-homeless bars on benches inspired Bournemouth Council to remove them – now he’s recreated the bench for his new show.
Semple has rallied against hostile design in his art for some time. But in his look back at two decades as an artist in Dancing On My Own: Selected Works 1999-2019, he will be using cuddly toys to create a new bench that will banish the memories of Bournemouth Borough Council’s “design crimes”.
Even Professor Green was outraged after seeing Semple’s campaign to remove the bars that were placed on the bench in early 2018. After the rapper and pal Max Murdo went down to the Dorset town to remove them – and a 27,000-strong petition also shouted about how they blocked rough sleepers from lying on them – the council finally caved and removed the bars. The local authority even took the bizarre step of sharing a YouTube video of engineers cutting the bars in the dead of night.
Now, Semple will be showing off a new bench at the Bermondsey Project Space – and he told The Big Issue he is still revelling in his victory against hostile designs.
“It was brilliant! It was so cool to see them remove the bars,” he says. “What’s weird is their attitude to the whole issue of homelessness and rough sleeping seems to have shifted massively over the last year or so. They just can’t be seen to be like that anymore or people will come down on them like a ton of bricks. So slowly, slowly, they are getting the message.”