New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. Election 2024
2 March 2018updated 01 Aug 2021 12:04pm

“They’re still here, they’re still cold”: This artist is making homeless people out of snow

Chris Newson, who has lived on the streets himself, is raising awareness about rough sleeping in freezing weather.

By Anoosh Chakelian

Four men sit despondently outside a shopfront in the town of Leiston, in Suffolk. They have been there for three days. They’re cold and you can see the pained expressions on their faces.

They are snowmen, created by the Suffolk artist Chris Newson, to raise awareness of the many homeless people in Britain today having to face the freezing weather that has seen nearly three days of snow across the country. The artwork is called “Rough Sleepers”.




“Rough Sleepers”. All photos courtesy of Chris Newson, www.artistchris.co.uk

“If it brings any highlight to the plight of the homeless people, then great. So be it,” Newson tells me over the phone from his framing shop and gallery, where his snow sculptures are sitting. “They’re still here, they’ve been there for three days, they’re still cold.”

He’s about to make a dog to join them.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

“I built a snowman and then I looked at it and it sort of had a life,” Newson says. “Someone said it reminded them of a homeless person, and it all sort of flooded back to me because I used to be homeless quite a few years ago. I’ve lived on the streets. It struck a chord with me.”

Newson, 56, who was born in Suffolk, tells me he slept rough for two or three-week periods over 15 years ago, when he was struggling with addiction and in and out of rehabilitation centres.

“It was hard, it was hard,” he tells me. “It was all to do with alcoholism and drug addiction, due to a very troubled childhood. But I’m good now and that’s all to do with my art.”


Chris Newson

Usually an oil painter, who paints often for 14 hours a day (you can find his work here), he is using his first ever big sculptures to urge the government for more provision for homeless people. “They do have to be out all day in this and it is cold,” he says. “I think there should be more rehabs and I think there should be more social workers for people – but with the government cuts obviously that’s not going to happen, and it’s a sad state of affairs when in England at the moment, someone’s [living out in the] cold.”



As temperatures were forecasted to drop below zero for three consecutive nights, emergency shelters have been opened for homeless people by some councils and charities. A record number of homeless alerts in 24 hours have been sent to Streetlink, a system that connects homeless people with local services available to help them.

This follows rough sleeping in England rising for the seventh year in a row, with the 2017 figure up 15 per cent on the previous year – and up 169 per cent since 2010, according to homeless charities.

It’s a sign of the times that even snowmen tell a story about the effect austerity is having on the UK. Newson’s hope is that his sculptures will help people notice the real-life people out on the streets in this weather. “I’ve got to make a snow dog now,” he tells me, before returning to the cold.

You can find Chris Newson’s art at www.artistchris.co.uk.

Content from our partners
"Heat or eat": how to help millions in fuel poverty
We need an urgent review of UK pensions
The future of private credit