❚ WHAT A BRILLIANT WAY to promote a good cause! Every fan of Sue Tilley will instantly recognise these tiny models on her table top in Bethnal Green. Here she is depicted asleep on the sofa in the studio of Lucian Freud and on the painter’s 1995 canvas titled Benefits Supervisor Sleeping (Sue’s occupation at that time) (supervising, not sleeping!). Not only did Ms Tilley become a face about the 80s known as Big Sue by vetting on the doors of London’s wildest club-nights, but soon after was made a notorious muse in the paintings of the German-born Freud who died in 2011. A grandson of Sigmund Freud, he fled Nazi Germany with his family in 1933 to be granted British citizenship, settle in London and become widely considered as the pre-eminent British artist of his age. In 2008 his painting of Sue set a world record auction price for a living artist when it sold for $33.6m.
Sue’s urgent message is: “I’m sure that you all listen to Inspirit on BBC Radio London on Sunday mornings… Anyway I’m on tomorrow at about 8am talking about Red Cross Refugee Week. This year’s awareness campaign conveys a really important message: that refugees have made huge contributions to all aspects of life in this country.”
The spectacular clay models were created as street art in collaboration with the British Red Cross for Refugee Week (June 17–24) by Leeds University sociology graduate Marcus Crocker who chose to remember the roots of some very famous people. He says the tiny sculptures celebrate the huge impact that refugees make on British history and they are scattered around London near sites with which they are associated (Freud outside National Gallery; Italian-born Richard Rogers as architect of the O2 dome; Zanzibarian Freddie Mercury at Dominion theatre).
As a self-taught artist, Crocker says he decided recently on making sculptures that look at social problems and address them in a new way. An earlier series, Winter Warmer, highlighted the struggle faced by the homeless in cold weather.
Sue says of the Red Cross campaign: “Modelling for Lucian was an unforgettable experience for me and to have that time recreated in street art is fantastic. The models are incredible. The UK should be proud of giving refugees the opportunity to rebuild theirs lives in society.”