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Thatcher’s Children

Thatcher’s Children

by Craig Easton

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Thatcher’s Children, a long-term project by photographer Craig Easton, examines the intergenerational nature of poverty as experienced by three generations of the Williams family in the north of England. The passage of time shown in the book demonstrates how deprivation is connected to the social policy failures of successive governments.

A selection of the work from the series will be included in the exhibition Is Anybody Listening? at Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool from 12 January – 26 February 2023, before touring the UK.

A donation of 20% of proceeds from sales or pre-orders of the book purchased directly from will be donated to The Trussell Trust.

More about this book

Thatcher’s Children was born out of a series first made in 1992 focusing on two parents and six children living in a hostel for homeless families in Blackpool, England. The project was made in response to a speech by Peter Lilley, then Secretary of State for Social Security, in which he announced his determination to ‘close down the something-for-nothing society.’ French newspaper Libération dispatched a journalist to northern England to find out what this society looked like, and Easton was commissioned to take the accompanying photographs. His resulting monochrome images of the overcrowded two-bedroom council flat in Blackpool sparked a reaction by both the public and the press. His images attached human faces and nuanced realities to a group of people casually maligned by politicians and media as an ‘underclass of scroungers.’

Decades later Easton revisited the project and tried to find the family with the simple intention of sharing his original images and to fill in the intervening years. When he found them, their current situations carried echoes of the past. Both generations were impacted by housing insecurity and dependence on a labyrinthine welfare system which led to a precarious nature of existence. The vital difference is that in the 1990s it was unemployment that led to hardship, whereas now in the 2020s most of the family are in work and yet are still confronted by similar financial challenges.
Easton’s original connection with the family, and their trust of him, had endured. He began to visit them regularly, taking trips to the supermarket, hanging out in their living rooms, attending weddings and witnessing moments of crisis and resolution. His recent photographs, combined with the early images, create a portrait of deprivation in modern Britain and of the ongoing disconnect between policy makers and poorer citizens.

The photographs in the book are combined with quotes from the family juxtaposed with those from politicians. Families like the Williams’ are often talked about but rarely listened to, and their words and experiences expose the contradictions and false promises by those in power. The ‘children’ of the book’s title refer not only to the family featured in the photographs, but also the politicians and wider society who are all influenced or impacted by empty aspirations of ‘social mobility.’ The influence of the political thought and policy, from the 1980s—and Thatcher’s slogan, ‘There is no alternative’—still pervades. Easton’s project challenges the acceptance of this.

Exhibition information

Is Anybody Listening? - Craig Easton
Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool: 12 January - 26 February 2023
Blackpool School of Art: 11 April – 31 May 2023
New Adelphi Gallery, University of Salford: 18 September - 22 December 2023
Williamson Art Gallery and Museum, Birkenhead: 25 January 2024 - 30 March 2024
Accompanied by Our Time, Our Place engagement programme

Published February 2023
Text by Jack Shenker
212 x 265 mm
136 pp, 11 duotone Images and 52 full colour images
Hardback clothback
ISBN 978-1-910401-84-2

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  • Craig Easton’s work is deeply rooted in the documentary tradition. He shoots long-term documentary projects exploring issues around social policy, identity and a sense of place. He often working collaboratively with others to incorporate words, pictures and audio in a research-based practice that weaves a narrative between contemporary experience and history. BANK TOP, his first monograph published in 2022, was shortlisted for the Rencontres d’Arles Book Awards 2022 in the Author Category and for the Aperture PhotoBook Award 2022 in the first PhotoBook category. His work is held in private and public collections including the FC Barcelona collection, St. Andrews University Special Collections, Hull Maritime Museum and University of Salford Art Collection.

    Jack Shenker is a journalist and author based in London and Cairo. Formerly the Egypt correspondent for the Guardian, his previous work has covered Gaza, Central Asia, Southern Africa, the US and the Indian subcontinent, and has been published in a wide range of newspapers and magazines around the world.

  • 'My job is to shine a light into dark corners. And I want to hold people to account for what I find there.'

    ‘What has emerged from that project is an intensely personal lens through which to view a widespread social emergency: the persistence of poverty in one of the wealthiest countries on earth and the insidious ways in which it gets reproduced down the generations.’

    - Craig Easton