Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Memorial day - 12

Every Wednesday for the last couple of months, I have posted blogs on memorials and public art works. These are normally prestigious works of art located in prominent locations. Today’s memorial is very different, and is probably the most moving.

A hundred metres south of Waterloo Bridge, London, there is a roundabout at the junction of four roads. To allow access from the South Bank to Waterloo Station there is a warren of underpasses radiating from the roundabout. In the 1970’s, 80s and 90s these underpasses were the site of a large cardboard city; the home for hundreds of homeless, drug addicts and mentally ill patients prematurely discharged from hospitals as part of Margaret Thatcher’s discredited “Care in the community program”. The existence of the homeless squat was an embarrassment for the “well-to-do”, passing men and women sleeping in cardboard boxes, as they made their way to a concert at the Royal Festival Hall, or to watch a play at the National Theatre.

The cardboard city was removed in 1997 to allow an IMAX cinema to be constructed in the centre of the roundabout. The homeless were dispersed, some to hostels, others to find new nooks and crannies to sleep in.

About two years ago, a few started to drift back to the underpasses, to beg for money.

Early this year a very simple memorial was painted on the walkway from the National Theatre.

The words are heart felt and poignant.

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