Big Issue Vendor

Why an artist is travelling the UK collecting people’s fingerprints

Elaine Robinson has even inspired politicians to put their finger to paper after her art piece took her to parliament on the date of the first Brexit meaningful vote

Elaine Robinson’s mission to travel the UK to collect people’s fingerprints left her an unexpected bystander as MPs rushed to cast their vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

The Barrow single mum has been travelling the UK on her SPOTtimespotTIME tour since 2015 in a bid to sum up Britain’s collective identity.

So far she has taken in cities like Liverpool, Cambridge and Newcastle asking people to add their fingerprint to her collection, whether it be the rich and powerful or homeless people.

As the project will have encompassed pre-and-post-Brexit Britain, Elaine is hoping that the wide spectrum of participants will uncover lessons about division and togetherness as EU Withdrawal debates remain at a deadlock.

Her trip has even taken her to Westminster to see the state of affairs first-hand when Elaine asked politicians to add their fingerprint to her collection on January 15 as the Prime Minister’s deal was rejected.

In Cambridge, housing was the issue. In Liverpool, it was people living in poverty.

Among the faces who obliged were Big Issue founder John Bird as well as Melvyn Bragg, Justine Greening, Baroness Ruth Lister and Prisons Minister Rory Stewart.

“I have learned so much from each city,” said Elaine. “In Cambridge, housing was the issue. In Liverpool, it was people living in poverty. In Sheffield, I was confronted with quite a few right-wing views that upset me.

“I have actually found that less someone has, the less likely they are to give up their fingerprint. A lot of the homeless people I have encountered have been a reluctant to do it when I have been chatting to them and I think that is because a fingerprint means more.

“Then when I walk to the more affluent areas of town people are much more willing to do it because they are so used to giving out information like that.

“I always walk from a deprived city area through the main shopping area and then into a more affluent area. I believe art, expression and comment is for all.

Each city is represented by a different colour and Elaine will be adding to the spectrum on show with a trip to Birmingham this weekend before taking in Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh as well as a return to London in 2019.

Once she has completed her journey, each city’s panel will be encased in clear resin to create a larger national fingerprint.

To lend a hand with Elaine’s project, visit or search for #fingerprintofunity on Twitter.

Image: Elaine Robinson