As globally recognised artist Laurence Vallières worked on her huge cardboard creation in Hull’s Humber Street last week, it became increasingly apparent to passers-by exactly what her installation was set to be.
From a huge pile of recycled cardboard sheets, the urban contemporary artist has created stunning life-sized sculptures of a family of three elephants – with her incredible and thought-provoking piece of art having become the talk of the street.
With the elephants now in the room, a stunning visual symbolisation was created around the social issue of homelessness – the plan all along of Hudgell Solicitors, who commissioned the artist to display her work in the city.
The firm used the completion of Vallières’ week-long live public installation to announce new partnerships with three UK charities providing support and sanctuary for those who find themselves homeless and on the streets.
“We’ve got the elephants in the room, so now it is time to talk about homelessness and do something to help those in need,” said Jo Hudgell, chair of the Neil Hudgell Trust, which is to coordinate the support.
“It is an increasing issue in many towns and cities across the UK, certainly in the areas we work, and it is something we’d certainly like to help tackle.
“The Neil Hudgell Trust was first established five years ago to address issues of social inequality, so choosing this direction for our relaunch in 2017 fits perfectly as something for us to support as a business.
“In years gone by we have supported many organisations with small one-off donations, but now we want to do something a bit different and commit to longer-term support which we feel will have a lasting and significant impact. That is why we have announced this support for three charities all working to tackle the same issue.”
Projects tackling homelessness in London, Leeds and Hull supported
The Trust will support The Hull Homeless Community Project, Simon on the Streets in Leeds, and The West London Mission to provide ongoing support through both funding and taking part in events and campaigns.
An initial donation of £5,000 has been made to each charity to mark the start of its support, but it will also provide continued help in kind throughout the year, with staff from the solicitors firm set to be involved with fundraising efforts and volunteering.
Andrew Smith, chief executive and founder of Hull Homeless Community Project, said: “Homelessness is very much a taboo subject for many, with strong misconceptions and stereotypes that make raising awareness and helping people understand the truth about homelessness very difficult.
“I believe our new partnership with The Neil Hudgell Trust will help us to dispel some of these myths, open up about homelessness and make a significant social impact in our region together.
“As a small unfunded charity we have to work extremely hard to ensure we can raise sufficient funds and resources to be able to provide the best service possible to our beneficiaries. This financial support will not only ensure we can continue this work but also improve and extend solutions and support we offer to those we work with. We are extremely excited to see where the next year takes us.”
Martha Awojobi, Corporate Development Officer at The West London Mission, says the £5,000 donation will support some of the most vulnerable people in the capital.
“We are incredibly excited to begin our partnership with The Neil Hudgell Trust,” she said.
“Every day up to 100 homeless people come to our centre, many of whom have suffered severe trauma. As well as providing immediate provisions to alleviate the hardships of sleeping rough, such as food, showers, clothes and medical care, we work alongside our service users and them to transform their lives through live changing advice and support.”
Through the Trust, Hudgell Solicitors staff have already shown their willing to support Simon on the Streets in Leeds, as five employees last month helped raise more than £1,000 by taking part in its annual ‘Sleep With Simon’ fundraiser.
The challenge sees people face a night in the open to not only raise funds through sponsorship, but to gain a better understanding and appreciation of the issues the homeless face, and as a result have a deeper sense of empathy for those who live that way every day.
Gordon Laing, General Manager of Simon on the Streets, said, “It is fantastic news that Hudgell Solicitors have chosen to support Simon on the Streets.
“We are very excited at the prospect of working together to help raise awareness of the plight of the homeless and, in particular the rough sleepers in our region. We are looking forward to the support from the Hudgell team and we are sure that it will be an enhancing experience for us both.”
Jo Hudgell added: “We’re keen to help in any way we can. As soon as our staff heard about the sleep out event we had a number sign up, and now others are keen to step up for the next event.
“What we want to do is establish a long-term relationship with the charities that we support which is about more than financial donations.”
Humber Street ‘Elephant In The Room’ exhibition available to view until November
Laurence Vallières’ ‘The Elephant In The Room’ public art exhibition was brought to Hull with the support of the Art of Protest Gallery in York and was her first publicly displayed installation in the UK outside of an art fair setting. It will remain in the Humber Street unit, opposite Butler Whites restaurant, until November.
The Montreal-based artist’s previous installations had been commissioned for cities and galleries around the world including in Korea, Spain, Russia, U.S.A, Canada, Germany, France, and The Burning Man Festival Nevada.
“We’re delighted that Laurence agreed to come and support what we are doing by creating this stunning piece of art in Hull,” added Jo.
“We are grateful to the Art of Protest Gallery in York, where Laurence has a five day residency this week, and to Fruit Market developers Wykeland Beal for helping make this happen.
“It was a great addition to the City of Culture year and something Hudgell Solicitors have been very proud to have been a part of.”