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.   hunkin





There’s a spectrum of satire from bitter and twisted to gentle and silly. I live on the silly end of the spectrum but I hope my machines re-enforce our lack of respect for society’s villains in a gleeful way. Bankers, politicians and overpaid CEOs certainly know we don’t respect them. It hasn’t changed their behavior in the short term, but its good to let off steam and shifting public attitudes can have long term effects.

This machine started from the crazy tales told to me by my employees at Novelty Automation about finding places to live in London, so I got interested in the politics of house building.

For years the UK government has set a target of building 200,000 homes a year, but never manages more than half the number. The house building companies claim they need less planning regulation and more ‘greenfield’ sites. But obviously the number of homes built is actually set by the number of people who can afford the enormous prices. House building companies are never going to build more than they can sell, and certainly not encourage any reduction in prices.   

From BDO, the house builders' lobbyist

House building is very profitable. The price of a home is considerably higher than the price of the land plus construction. Most of the recent entrants in the FT 100 index are house building companies.  Large developments are supposed to include a proportion of ‘affordable’ homes. Not only are the ‘affordable’ homes still unaffordable, but developers frequently mange to reduce the proportion on appeal.

 Entire London squares are now dark at night because no one lives there. London property has become a magnet for money laundering. No disclosure is needed and the ‘investment’ increases in value every few years. Saville’s, the estate agent, reports that 32% of London homes sold in 2015 were to non-doms.

Investment isn’t the only problem. The press is curiously quiet about second homes, maybe because so many journalists own one. I live near a posh seaside town (Southwold) where second home owners have priced locals out of the market. In winter the town is nearly as dark as the dark London squares – there are fewer than 1000 full time residents. St Ives in Cornwall recently banned people from buying second homes.

Housing is a problem in many countries. There are more and more people, and more and more people living alone, and more and more people buying homes as investments or second homes. The government claims to be trying to solve the problem, but the politicians are constantly lobbied and entertained by the house building companies (which we know from the rules of MPs disclosure of interests). Career politicians seem totally unaware of the extent that power corrupts. No wonder there’s such a rebellion against them.

My Housing Ladder won’t solve the problem, but I’m sure most people will enjoy cursing the villains. Most of the second home owners in Southwold realize the ridiculousness of the situation.

Although I'd become interested in housing crisis, I hadn’t thought of the subject as an arcade machine. One day I was in my Southwold arcade ‘The Under The Pier Show’ struggling with CELEB, the arcade machine I'd just installed. A confident older man, wearing rust coloured corduroy trousers, told me he didn’t like the machines like CELEB with joystick control, he preferred the more physical ones. I was so fed up with it at the time, it was such a pig to get it to work reliably, I rather agreed with him. Leaving the pier I saw the exercise machines in the park opposite in a new light. All their simple mechanisms could be the basis of arcade machines. A housing ladder suited the step exercise machine perfectly.  


prototype video


I spent a week making a prototype to try out on my grandchildren. I found a satisfying mechanism to make the little man climb as you step up and down on the big ladder. The simplest game I could think of was a version of ‘Grandmother’s footsteps’. When a villain appears the man goes down instead of up the ladder. Even the prototype needed a PLC to make the game work. They seemed to enjoy the game so I started making the final machine.

Real ladder, sawn in half                       Rope linkage between halves of ladder

I enjoyed carving the figures. I use Jelutong, a soft, straight grained wood, using a combination of bandsaw, palm chisels, power file and sandpaper (I'm no purist woodcarver). People have such different body shapes and they are so expressive. I’m not interested in life drawing, clothes add so much to peoples' character.  I paused to photograph the figures before painting them. In raw wood they look sculptural, it showed off their shapes but they were ‘works of art’. When I painted them, their characters lept out, they become the instant ‘cartoons’ I had in my mind when I started. Artists today admire ancient Greek statues but they were all originally painted, I’m sure for similar reasons.  

I dithered about the style of the house and the exterior of the machine. I was bored of making little houses, I’d recently made one for Divorce. But when I put the bare plywood house on top of the machine I realised it had to be gold (or at least gold leaf) – houses are now so ridiculously valuable. Then the concrete on the rest of the machine became the foundations. The font for the lettering reminded me of the Finsbury Health centre in London, a revered idealistic post war architectural icon. A more idealistic period of house building.  


The house didn't look as valuable than I had hoped, the gold leaf just looked like cheap gold paint. To make it look expensive I had to copy Damien Hurst and cover it in diamonds. I didn't bother with real ones, just a product called crystal ribbon (£7.99) from Ebay.    





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