40ft picture of teen on Cowgate aims to change thinking

Stumbling across a “hoodie” in the darkest corners of the city would give many people a bit of a fright.

So it’s hard to imagine what passers-by will make when they set eyes on a 40ft tall version in the Capital.

The three-storey high paper print, on the gable end of 20 Cowgate, is the first in a series which will appear in locations across the city over the next ten days.

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The “Our Nation’s Sons” project is the brainchild of artist Joe Caslin, 30, a student at the Edinburgh College of Art.

He hopes the prints, created with the help of youngsters from St Thomas Aquins School on Chalmers Street, will challenge negative stereotypes towards teenage boys.

All the boys in the prints, developed from intricate pencil drawings which took days to do, are pupils.

Joe said: “I’m trained as a teacher and I saw kids that have the same aspirations as everyone else. It’s difficult to watch society have such a detrimental outlook on them.

“Because lads hang around in gangs and are wearing hoodies doesn’t necessary mean they’re bad, they’re just hanging around with their friends.

“The installations aren’t necessarily about the individual story of the kid, it’s what the kid represents.

“The scope of the project is quite broad – homelessness, broken homes, the talents of these kids. By putting up these images, we can create a platform for discussion.”

The 18-month project received a grant of £5000 from the City Centre Neighbourhood Partnership – which Joe described as “pretty spectacular” for a street art venture – and is supported by the Lothian and Borders Police Safer Neighbourhood Team.

It is hoped the paper images, which will be put up with the help of pupils from St Thomas Aquins, will remain in place until the Edinburgh Festival.

Last July, Joe was among a group of “guerrilla” artists behind a 40ft portrait of a hooded man on the stair at Warriston’s Close in Cockburn Street, which was eventually removed for health and safety reasons. Speaking of his latest project, Joe said: “Getting planning permission was difficult at the start, because there’s no precedent for this and there’s no particular form for us to fill in.

“I went into St Thomas’ and held a workshop on street art, then showed the pupils the proposals for what they were going to do.

“Street art is not necessarily graffiti, it’s not tagging – people will be able to see that these are beautiful images.”

Councillor Charles Dundas, chairman of the City Centre Neighbourhood Partnership, said: “When this came forward the partnership thought it looked like a good way to make more attractive a part of the city that needs as much help as possible to make it look attractive.

“We were pleased to support it, partly because it’s something different from the projects we have given grants to in the past.”

For more information, visit www.joecaslin.com