As the UK gears up for a general election on Thursday, the British artist Banksy has taken to the streets of Birmingham for his latest piece, which highlights the growing homelessness crisis in the country.
In a 20-minute film, which Banksy posted a clip of on his Instagram account earlier today, the artist filmed a homeless man called Ryan settling down for the night on a city bench, which appears to be pulled like Santa’s sleigh into the sky by two prancing reindeer painted on the wall.
A cover version of Bing Crosby’s I’ll be home for Christmas is the soundtrack to the distressing scene, which shows Ryan drinking from a bottle of water before lying down on an army-style bag. More than 3,500 veterans are estimated to sleep rough every year, although there is no suggestion that Ryan is a former serviceman.
Fittingly, the Christmas ballad’s finale is: “I’ll be home for Christmas—if only in my dreams.”
Captioning the work “God bless Birmingham”, Banksy pays tribute to the people who stopped to give Ryan a hot drink, two chocolate bars and a lighter “without him asking for anything”.
Rough sleeping has more than doubled since 2010 while the number of people dying while homeless increased to 726 in England and Wales last year, according to official figures. Around 135,000 children are homeless at Christmas.
All three of the main political parties have vowed to end homelessness by the end of the next parliament, although Labour’s plans are the most comprehensive.
The left-wing party is proposing £100m for emergency winter shelter every year and a £600m “modern hostels fund” to provide quality homeless accommodation over five years. The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has also said he would give up the prime minister’s country residence Chequers if he wins the election.