Very Little Helps Banksy
Banksy’s screen print Very Little Helps – also known as Tesco flag or Tesco kids – is based on a mural of the same name that he painted on the side of a pharmacy on Essex Road in North London. The mural soon became the subject of public and media speculation and sadly was subsequently vandalised provoking further discussion on the distinctions between street art and graffiti. Today it remains partially damaged with the Tesco flag painted over and replaced with a tag from rival artist King Robbo.
In 2008 Banksy released Very Little Helps as a series of 299 signed prints. The screen print version shows a group of three children surrounding a flagpole. Instead of raising a flag, one of them is raising a Tesco branded plastic bag while the other two are pledging their allegiance with their hands on their hearts, against a serene blue background.
A cutting reference to Tesco’s famous slogan ‘Every little helps’, the work seems to denounce the presence of the supermarket chain on almost every high street in Britain, and its forcing out of diversity and independence. The choice of the symbol of the flag also seems to emphasise the theory proposed by some political theorists that corporations have been allowed to grow into such big entities under late capitalism that they can almost be considered to be the new nation states.
In its barbed critique of Tesco, the work joins previous prints such as Soup Can which focuses on the ‘Tesco value’ range of soups. In a play on Andy Warhol’s iconic Campbell’s Soup series, the work seems to highlight the poverty present in our society, a theme that seems even more relevant today when food bank use is increasing steadily year after year under government austerity measures.