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Cover Letters Sports Banger Boris Johnson
Photography Emma Davidson

Kids direct a big ‘fuck you’ at Boris Johnson in this new exhibition

‘Covid Letters: A Vital Update’ is a rude, riotous time capsule of 2020, as seen through the eyes of the UK’s youngest people

Way back in March, as the coronavirus crisis gripped the world in a chokehold, a letter was shoved through the letterbox of every door in the UK. Unprecedented in its nature, the A4 piece of paper was stamped with 10 Downing Street’s official letterhead and signed at the bottom by Boris Johnson. Sandwiched between was the Prime Minister’s plea for those receiving it to stay at home to stop the spread of COVID-19, protect the NHS, and save lives. 

While one of the letters didn’t actually land on Jonny Banger’s doormat, seeing them infiltrate social media sparked an idea. Sending a message out to his 50,000 Instagram followers, the Sports Banger founder called on kids across the UK to create a poster using the letter as their canvas. It was a way to give them a voice amid the chaos, he explains. “I gave them a bunch of words to get them started, too: rave, willy, dogs, fruit, dance, earth, world, boobs,” he laughs. 

What came next was a barrage of illustrated messages that told of the righteous anger and frustration of the youth of the nation, demonstrated through submissions that spanned abstract finger painting, razor sharp satire-infused cartoons, and a shitload – quite literally – of poo emojis, waggling bums, wonky penises, and piles of vomit spilling from the mouths of grotesque caricatures. Some were hilarious, some were sad, some, well… he couldn’t tell wtf was going on. What united them all, however, was just how disgusted the kids of the UK were by the Tories’ response to the crisis, and the ‘bumhole men’ running the country in general.

With almost 300 letters making their way to Banger, now, a huge number of them are going on display. At the invitation of Turner Prize winner and friend Jeremy Deller, Covid Letters: A Vital Update is taking over London’s Foundling Museum for the next three months, meaning visitors will be able to see the young artists’ interpretations of the wild era we’re living through.

The museum’s history, Banger explains ahead of Covid Letters’ launch, is also pretty poignant when it comes to the placement of the exhibition. As the first ever children’s charity in the UK, the Foundling Hospital took in and cared for children whose parents could not afford to keep them, with benefactors including artist William Hogarth and musician George Frederick Handel. Known for his own satirical observations of society, Deller points out that Hogarth would have likely loved to see Yves Klein-esque bum print-emblazoned letters hanging alongside his own works.

Making our way through the museum a few days before launch, we also note how wild it is that such little progress has been made when it comes to looking after our youngest and most vulnerable members of society. In the early days of lockdown, Banger spent much of his time dropping huge runs of his now iconic NHS Nike Swoosh mash-up tees, spending the proceeds on feeding medical staff working on the frontlines in a number of hospitals in East London, as well as setting up and helping run a food bank in a local school in Tottenham.

As of this Monday he was back there, just days after the Tories callously denied half term meal vouchers for the kids who need them most. Deller explains that he hopes that this year has been enough to radicalise many within the upcoming generation. 

With the exhibition set to run until January, and plans for a book compiling them well underway, the letters are a vital time capsule documenting life in the time of COVID-19 through the eyes of the next generation. And while the kids’ artwork is, for the most part, extremely funny, the funniest thing of all may just be the fact it’s been funded in part by the government’s Cultural Recovery Fund. “If they had any idea about what it was going to be used for, I highly doubt they’d have given us it,” Banger grins. 

Covid Letters: A Vital Update is now open the The Foundling Museum. Head here to pick up tickets.