Discarded Dreams


Camelot, the company that runs the National Lottery, uses the by-line Serving Nations’ Dreams but the reality is a little different.

Scratch cards are the second most popular form of gambling in the UK. The heaviest users amongst the employed are manual workers and their families [30% of this group] and the heaviest users of all are the unemployed [32% of this group][1]. Anyone over the age of 16 can buy cards

One disabled man spent his life savings £60,000 0n scratch cards over six months.

Scratch cards are bought at a retail outlet along with other purchases and quickly discarded if they are not a winner

What are the purchasers imagining as they scratch off the thin film that conceals their fate? Do they conjure up something that they have always wanted or just hope they will at least get their money back?

For most players their card will be a loser. I became interested in whether how they felt at that moment was reflected in what they did with the card so I began collecting discarded cards in about a 100 yard radius of my local scratch card sales point, which happened to be a Londis Supermarket. I  have over the last year picked up over 500 cards with a potential face value of over 100 million pounds.  Some of these cards have been torn very systematically into fragments, some have been just been torn in half, others have been crumpled, but most are just discarded intact.

I have come to see my collection as bundles of discarded dreams.

I have now used some of the cards as part of the building materials for an imagined Camelot [renamed Looselot]. Torn up cards form an insurmountable curtain wall around a golden castle. Outside these walls is a shanty town of make shift shelters.

The piece has already been displayed at an event in the studio in which I created it and at the University of Kent in  both venues it generated lively discussion of amongst other things:

  • Is the National Lottery a stealth tax?
  • Do “Players” understand the real odds of winning? These appear to be exaggerated on the reverse side of the cards which state:


  • Should the poorest people in the UK be subsidising the leisure activities of the richest through the National Heritage Fund?
  • Is it ethical for the State to draw people into a potentially addictive and expensive activity?

Looselot also featured this year at the Edinburgh Festival in a show called the Castle Builders.

I am now in the process of developing other pieces made from discarded scratchcards, including models of luxury items which people crave, like sports cars, speed boats and trips to Disneyland.




[1] Gambling Commission Report 2010 and 2014

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