When I think of Ellie Pennick, images of a female Batman instantly come to mind. The dark caped crusader, although Ellie doesn’t wear a cape, the only thing she needs is her voice, her utility belt is no place for fancy gadgets but art materials. What I love about Ellie’s work is its boldness, she slaps her feelings in your face - unapologetic, if anything her work demands your attention, your sudden gasps of shock and a dry sense of humour.
Born and bred in Yorkshire, she comes from a small mining town, growing up in a highly politically driven family. One side of her family witnessed first-hand Thatcher’s vindication against the miners.
The National Miners Strike, 1984-85, was one of Britain’s biggest and bitterest industrial disputes in British history! Thousands of miners went on strike across the country. The British coal industry was publicly owned and employed entire communities in many areas of the country however the Tories, led by Thatcher, aimed to not only close many of the pits but to privatise was what left of the industry. Thatcher's eagerness to brand the workers as enemies of democracy clearly demonstrated her extremist views and determination for class revenge. 30 years on, Thatcher’s agenda has played a major role in bringing us to where we are today.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock it’s impossible to escape the controversy surrounding the Tories and their new leader, Theresa May. From Brexit, DUP deals, cuts and worsening living conditions for the working class, it's no wonder Ellie came out all guns blazing! Her weapon of choice, a sculpture, Our Theresa, she single-handedly made this politically driven piece in 3 weeks, 2 weeks before the snap election. Perfect timing!
“I am now part of a generation that is undermined and scarred by the post-Thatcher, neoliberal society in which I now operate.”
What questions do you want this piece to raise?
I hope the piece has made people openly talk about politics and choices made by the current government, and hopefully question the effect it has on us as a society both collectively and individually.
I hope it makes people question if Theresa May is the correct leader to take us through the Brexit negotiations be it for now and the future. I believe Britain under Tory rule is destructive.
If my piece helps one person to question the current state of Britain’ s social and economic situation, I would feel that producing the piece was well worth doing.
What political role did you want this piece to play?
‘Our Theresa’ was a response to the many communities who voted decisively to leave. I completely respect those who voted leave as this is a democracy - although I do not agree with them. People from communities who have been neglected by this government need to be educated on immigration in comparison to their actual issues, it was an anti-establishment vote. ‘Our Theresa’ was created to kick-start a conversation about these points.
This piece was intended to represent the working class, how have they responded to it?
It has kick-started a conversation, using social media as a platform has allowed different generations to communicate to each other for better and for worse. I love the comments from people from back home in the north. People have messaged me telling me it's cracking them up at their workplace. That makes me happy.
Did you expect Our Theresa to gain media attention?
I did not expect the reaction from the public on such a large scale. I do appreciate the negative comments, online as I am thick skinned. Although some of them were a step too far. For example:
‘This is wrong. Whoever made this can go choke’ - @xxx.
‘My comment was facetious and tactless. I had a bottle of red wine so that’s my excuse’ - anonymous
‘You are simply a nasty piece of work’ - @xxxx
I would like to point out , I am a ‘Nasty Woman.’
What was it like appearing on London Live, the first 24hr channel devoted to London?
It was the day after I worked a 7-day shift at the frieze art fair. I was exhausted., all I could think of on the way there was how the day before a women slapped her shoe on the cloakroom counter and ordered me to scrape chewing gum of it. She explained to me they were £500, which is the same price as my rent, what a kick in the teeth. I didn't realise how much of a big deal the interview was going to be. I wasn't prepared and swore on the first take but managed to just pull it around. I was cringing watching it back, I didn't realise how strong my accent actually is.
Fingers crossed Theresa May doesn't watch London Live.
What are your thoughts on those who feel you have disrespected our PM?
The current Conservative government has made most deprived communities pay for a crisis that was not of their making.
The blame on immigration has become the prism through which millions of people see everyday problems: the lack of affordable housing, unemployment, poverty, strained public services and many more everyday issues.
The prime minister has disrespected us as a democratic country. I am sure a little pink sculpture of her having a wank is nothing compared to that.
At any stage during the creation process did you experience doubt?
Yes, I was driving back from Birmingham where it was milled. and stopped off at a petrol station. I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw a women behinds shocked face as Theresa faced her in all her glory. I thought at that point, fuck what have I done.
What does this piece mean to you?
I recall someone asking me 'why don't you become an MP'.
I replied because I do not have the education to become an MP. I can express my political beliefs and create a conversation through art instead. This piece did just that. Although I do think MP Pennick has a ring to it.
We strongly agree, MP Pennick does have a ring to it!
Follow Ellie on Instagram: @elliepennick