Courtesy of Chris Newson
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“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.

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,

“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.

“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

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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I’ll miss the youthful thrill of Claire’s Accessories – but the tween Mecca refused to grow up

From an adolescent rite of passage to struggling to stay open: how the tackiest shop on the high street lost its shine.

The first day I was allowed to go into “town” (hailing from rural Essex, that’s the local shopping centre, not London) with a friend – unsupervised by a parent – was a real cornerstone of my childhood.

We were 13, and looking back, we had neither mobile phones nor contingency plans, and my mum must have been sat at home for the entire two hours scared shitless, waiting for when she could pick me up again (by the Odeon carpark, 3pm sharp).

Finally free from the constraints of traipsing around department stores bound by the shackles of an adult, my friend and I had the most grown-up afternoon we could imagine; Starbucks Frappuccinos (size: tall – we weren’t made of money), taking pictures on a pink digital camera in the H&M changing rooms, and finally, making a beeline for tween Mecca: Claire’s Accessories.

As a beauty journalist, I’m pretty sure Saturdays spent running amok among the diamante earrings, bow hairbands and fluffy notebooks had an influence on my career path.

I spent hours poring over every rack of clip-on earrings, getting high on the fumes of strawberry lipbalm and the alcohol used to clean freshly pierced toddlers’ ears.

Their slogan, “Where getting ready is half the fun”, still rings true for me ten years on, as I stand on the edge of dancefloors, bored and waiting until my peers are suitably drunk to call it a night, yet revelling in just how great my painstakingly applied false lashes look.

The slogan on a Claire's receipt. Photo: Flickr

On Monday, Claire’s Accessories US filed for bankruptcy, after they were lumbered with insurmountable debts since being taken over by Apollo Global Management in 2007. Many of the US-based stores are closing. While the future of Claire’s in the UK looks uncertain, it may be the next high street retailer – suffering from the surge of online shopping – to follow in Toys R Us’ footsteps.

As much as I hate to say it, this is unsurprising, considering Claire’s commitment to remain the tackiest retailer on the high street.

With the huge rise of interest in beauty from younger age groups – credit where credit’s due, YouTube – Claire’s has remained steadfast in its core belief in taffeta, rhinestone and glitter.

In my local Superdrug (parallel to the Claire’s Accessories, a few doors down from the McDonald’s where we would sit, sans purchase, maxed out after our Lipsmacker and bath bomb-filled jaunt), there are signs plastered all over the new Makeup Revolution concealer stand: “ENQUIRE WITH STAFF FOR STOCK”. A group of young girls nervously designate one among them to do the enquiring.

Such is the popularity of the three-week-old concealer, made infamous by YouTube videos entitled things like “I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS CONCEALER!” and “FULL COVERAGE AND £4!!!”, no stock is on display for fear of shoplifters.

The concealer is cheap, available on the high street, comparable to high-end brands and favoured by popular YouTube “beauty gurus”, giving young girls a portal into “adult life”, with Happy Meal money.

It’s unlikely 13-year-olds even own eye bags large enough to warrant a full coverage concealer, but they’re savvy enough to know that they can now get good quality makeup and accessories, without going any higher than Claire’s price points.

They have naturally outgrown a retailer that refuses to grow with them; it’s simply not sustainable on Claire’s part to sell babyish items to a market who no longer want babyish things.

Adulthood is catching up with this new breed of teenagers faster than ever, and they’ve decided it’s time to put away childish things.

Tweenagers of 2018 won’t miss Claire’s Accessories if it goes. The boarded-up purple signage would leave craters in shopping centre walls soon to be filled with the burgundy sheen of a new Pret.

But I will. Maybe not constantly – it’s not as if Primark has stopped selling jersey dresses, or Topshop their Joni jeans – it’ll be more of a slow burn. I’ll mourn the loss of Claire’s the next time a pang of nostalgia for blue-frosted shadow hits me, or when it’s Halloween eve and I realise I’m bereft of a pair of cat ears. But when the time comes, there’s always Amazon Prime.

Amelia Perrin is a freelance beauty and lifestyle journalist.