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Figures: A new project to make visible the human cost of austerity / 28 November 2014

a photo of a series of crude figures made of clay

Prototype figures made of clay for Liz Crow's project

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Roaring Girl Productions and artist-activist Liz Crow are launching a new project. Figures is a mass-sculptural performance that is setting out to make visible the stark human cost of austerity and urge action against it.

The intention behind the project is to build strong emotional connections with difficult facts in order to encourage deep public questioning and debate that will continue long after the work is over.

Over a period of 12 consecutive days and nights, on the foreshore of the Thames and in the run-up to next year’s general election, Liz will sculpt 650 small human figures from excavated raw river mud, each one representing an individual at the sharp end of austerity. 

The number echoes the 650 constituencies throughout which the effects of austerity are felt, as well as the number of MPs whose choices determine those of others.

Once dried, the figures will be toured en masse in a mobile exhibition that will visit city centres along the route of the M4, from west of Bristol to London, over five days, the figures creating a talking point to involve diverse members of the public in discussion about the questions raised by the work.

In London, the figures will be returned to the foreshore and raised into a cairn. A bonfire will burn into the night, firing the figures, while their corresponding stories of austerity are read aloud, until the returning tide douses the flames. At first light, the figures, fired, burned and broken, will be reclaimed, gathered and ground down to dust.

In the final phase of the performance and on the first day of the new government's tenure, the ground remains of the figures will be scattered from a tugboat on the Thames alongside Parliament. Figures will end with a poignant reminder of the human cost of austerity and a completion of the lifecycle of the work.

The 650 stories of people at the sharp end of austerity, across a range of topics, including benefits reform, local authority spending, homelessness, malnutrition, NHS rationing, etc, will be read whilst the bonfire burns into the night. Alongside this roll call of experience at the sharp end of austerity, the project team will engage members of the public in discussion about the issues raised by the work.

Figures will raise profound questions about how we treat each other, what kind of society we want to be, and what role we might each of us have in bringing that about.
We need your help to get Figures off the ground.

To make Figures a possibility, Roaring Girl have started a crowdfunding campaign and need your help.

To find out more about the project and to make a donation, please go to