The initial concept of www.thebeniceproject.com has been bouncing around my head since May.
The ‘Egg Man’ characters were just silly doodles in my sketch book and the message was inspired by just how rude people can be whilst traveling around central London. Just trying to get anywhere in Central is a complete nightmare. Just because of the sheer volume of people. I heard a rumor somewhere that there was an idea to install slow and fast walking lanes on pavements in Central London. (I have no idea if that’s actually true.) I’m not so sure if this would work. However I would propose the idea that a little common decency from every individual in question would go much further.
I know how frustrating it is to be stuck behind a family of tourists with absolutely no idea where they’re going carrying 2 suit cases, a push chair and everything but the kitchen sink between them. On the flip side, I’m sure I have deeply frustrated fellow commuters as I’ve climbed onto a packed out Victoria Line with a huge backpack, a pop up tent, sleeping bag and headphones blasting out music which nobody else wants to hear.
I originally toyed with the idea of placing the Egg Men and their messages in empty London settings, with the idea that even nice words are often ignored by the general public. However after knocking together a couple images with some photos I had taken previously, I was more intrigued to see if this was actually going to be the case.
On my way home from work one evening armed with an A4 sized crudely made cardboard cut out I wandered through Soho and placed him in a few areas. The only attention he really got was because I had to keep walking over and propping him back up again.
The next attempt with an A3 sized cutout also had very limited success.
Photograph by: David Westwood
So after blagging a picture frame and getting the picture printed up, Mark Palmer, Nick Frend and I set off into London. The reactions that the message received as we filmed were all mainly positive. They mainly consisted of smiles, laughter and people stopping to take pictures with it.
The image attracted a lot of attention in mainly tourist areas such as Trafalgar Square and walking up and down Oxford Street. I surprised that it was largely ignored in places such as Stockwell Skatepark and Neals Yard. However I figured if there’s already so much street art or graffiti already there this transportable picture simply blends in.
The reactions of the day have to be awarded to the ticket tout who was trying to sell tickets to the Pope’s public appearance. He proceeded to sing “Have a Nice Day” by The Stereophonics at us as we walked passed. Followed by the drunken hooded, 13 – 16 year old grubby looking chav clutching a Super King fag and a can of Stella walked up to it, shouted “Have a shit day … Banksy” and pretended to tag the words on the frame and stumbled off laughing.
Photograph by: Mark Palmer
The Be Nice Project wouldn’t have been possible without: Luke Billing (Music), Noel Deiton (Video Editor), Nick Frend (Camera Operator), Charlie Kirby (Web design), Mark Palmer (Photographer) and David Westwood (Educational innovations researcher). Thank you also to everyone that posted it on Facebook and Twitter or passed it on to their friends and family via email.
The Be Nice Project Part 2 Coming Soon …
Since the first installment of The Be Nice Project, I was contacted by the University of Lincoln Alumni blog and they were kind enough to feature me and the project on their site: Click Here