London’s Protest Stickers: Mainstream Politics

Protest has a complicated relationship with mainstream politics. Governments and political parties are frequently the targets of social movements and demonstrations, such as the recent Anti-government protests after the 2015 General Election. Political parties and politicians often appear as the subject of protests stickers. In London, the frequency of these kind of stickers increased in the weeks before the recent General Election. Generally, the streets of London did not agree with Britain’s voters.

There was a decidedly anti-Conservative tone of many of the protest stickers that appeared in the weeks before the 2015 General Election (Tottenham Court Road,  17/04/15).

There was a decidedly anti-Conservative tone of many of the protest stickers that appeared in the weeks before the 2015 General Election (Tottenham Court Road, 17/04/15).

UKIP also received a certain amount of criticism on the streets of London, although it then went on to win 12.6% of the vote (Gordon Street, Bloomsbury, 17/04/15).

UKIP also received a certain amount of criticism on the streets of London, although it then went on to win 12.6% of the vote (Gordon Street, Bloomsbury, 17/04/15).

This example, more of a poster than a sticker really, directly referenced the election (New Oxford Street, Holborn, 03/05/15)

This example, more of a poster than a sticker really, directly referenced the election (New Oxford Street, Holborn, 03/05/15).

These stickers criticized the electoral system as a whole rather than specific politic parties. They had been removed the next day (28/04/15).

These stickers criticized the electoral system as a whole rather than specific politic parties. They had been removed the next day (Borough High Street, 28/04/15).

A sticker calling for Muslims not to vote. Some argue that voting is polytheism, because no one has the right to make laws except God. The sticker has an official appearance, looking more like a warning sign than a protest sticker (Euston Station, 12/05/15).

A sticker calling for Muslims not to vote. Some argue that voting is polytheism, because no one has the right to make laws except God. The sticker has an official appearance, looking more like a warning sign than a protest sticker (Euston Station, 12/05/15).

This sticker, by the Anarchist Federation, is also calling for people not to vote, although I'm sure the motive was very different. This sticker was located on a bin, which might have been an attempt to equate voting with rubbish. Or it might have been a coincidence (Camden High Street, 20/05/15).

This sticker, by the Anarchist Federation, is also calling for people not to vote, although I’m sure the motive was very different. This sticker was located on a bin, which might have been an attempt to equate voting with rubbish. Or it might have been a coincidence (Camden High Street, 20/05/15).

The writing on this sticker has been removed, but the image of David Cameron with vampiric teeth gets the message across I think! (Borough High Street, 28/04/15).

The writing on this sticker has been removed, but the image of David Cameron with vampiric teeth gets the message across I think! (Borough High Street, 28/04/15).

This sticker, along with the next one, rank amongst my favourite stickers come across so far in London. Avengers: Age of Ultron was released in UK cinemas on the 23rd of April, so the reference is topical as well as humorous. (New Oxford Street, Holborn, 03/05/15).

This sticker, along with the next one, rank amongst my favourite stickers that I’ve come across so far in London. Avengers: Age of Ultron was released in UK cinemas on the 23rd of April, so the reference is topical as well as humorous (New Oxford Street, Holborn, 03/05/15).

Not to be left out, Nigel Farage also gets the Avengers treatment (New Oxford Street, Holborn, 03/05/15).

Not to be left out, Nigel Farage also gets the Avengers treatment (New Oxford Street, Holborn, 03/05/15).

This sticker also criticises Nigel Farage's party, using wordplay to warn of the dangers of complacency (King's Cross, 05/05/15).

This sticker also criticises Nigel Farage’s party, using wordplay to warn of the dangers of complacency (King’s Cross, 05/05/15).

This sticker is another criticism of UKIP, but it has been grafittied, accusing the person who made the sticker of bigotry (Regent's Canal tow path, Camden, 20/05/15).

This sticker is another criticism of UKIP, but it has been grafittied, accusing the person who made the sticker of bigotry (Regent’s Canal tow path, Camden, 20/05/15).

Many people are disillusioned with the current political system, and feel like the current political parties do not offer real choice. They all argue that there is a need for continued austerity, for example. This sticker is referring to that sense of disillusionment (Euston Road, 06/05/15).

Many people are disillusioned with the political system, and feel like the current political parties do not offer real choice. They all argue that there is a need for continued austerity, for example. This sticker is referring to that sense of disillusionment (Euston Road, 06/05/15).

This sticker refers to an entirely different vote, although the issue of Scottish independence was still an important one during the election campaign. This sticker is from the Yes Campaign, that argued for Scottish independence during the referendum in 2014 (Malet Street, Bloomsbury, 17/04/15).

This sticker refers to an entirely different vote, although the issue of Scottish independence was still an important one during the election campaign. This sticker is from the Yes Campaign, that argued for Scottish independence during the referendum in 2014 (Malet Street, Bloomsbury, 17/04/15).

Highs and Lows of the AAG: Perspective of a Lone Travelling PhD Researcher

Who Am I?

My name is Llinos Brown and I am a final year EPSRC CASE award PhD student at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), Preston. My PhD research explores energy cultures in a workplace case study environment. I am particularly interested in exploring how energy cultures differ between manufacturing and office environments within the same workplace. If you are interested in hearing more about my research please get in touch – Lbrown5@uclan.ac.uk or follow me on twitter @LlinosBrownGeog


The AAG this year was held in Chicago, the city that invented the skyscraper.

The AAG this year was held in Chicago, the city that invented the skyscraper. The main conference venue was the Hyatt Regency hotel, to the left of this image (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Like the majority of conferences, the AAG is a great opportunity to catch up with colleagues/friends, build up relationships, meet new people and network…..what you would expect from any conference. But the AAG is a bit different to any conference I had attended. It is extremely big – over 9000 geographers attending, with over 1700 sessions submitted – split over two main venues and two smaller venues, with over 90 parallel sessions. It has a conference app and there are lots of very well-known geographers in attendance (someone should create a Geographer Bingo).

Something that I struggled with and something that overwhelmed me was – how do you systematically go through which session to attend? My approach was first look at the speciality groups, the main one for me– energy, and highlight them. Then look for some key words – for me energy, workplace, and behaviour, and highlight them. Finally if there are any gaps (and I had time to look in more detail) look through particular session slots and highlight anything that you think was a bit different. I spent around 20 minutes each evening going through what I had highlighted for the next day and working out what I really wanted to see. Each day I also popped in something a little bit different into my schedule. I would definitely recommend this, some of the most thought provoking sessions that I attended were sessions that had nothing to do with my sub-discipline of energy geographies. The AAG has a bit of everything, embrace the amazing discipline of Geography and the variety of sessions that are on offer.

The printed program for the AAG is the size of a telephone book!

The printed program for the AAG is the size of a telephone book! (Photo: Hannah Awcock)

One of the highs of the conference for me that I did not realise until I was on the plane home, was how embracing geography for a week helped me formulated new ideas. It’s not just about presenting your paper, networking, or handing out business cards. The conference has helped me develop empirical chapters for my thesis and it has made it much clearer to me how all the bits of my future thesis will link together. Maybe this wasn’t the AAG and it was just having time away from my desk and not directly thinking about my PhD but it was very extremely beneficial all the same.

One of the lows of the conference for me was its size. It is extremely big and it can be a lonely experience. Lunch and refreshments are not provided by the organisers so you can easily end up on your own at lunchtime. There are not the opportunities to chat to the person in front of you or sit next to someone while eating dinner and get chatting to them – which I’ve done at the RGS Annual Conference.  One thing I noticed at the AAG is that there are a lot of British geographers in attendance but they often stay in their university groups which mean if you’re the sole representative from your university it can mean you’re on your own for an evening or two. I was lucky enough to gate crash the Royal Holloway ‘crew’ so most evenings I joined them for food and drink – Thanks guys!

Llinos doing a bit of networking.

Llinos doing a bit of networking (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

The N word – ‘Networking’ – we all know the benefits of it and how beneficial it can be but sometimes it can make you reflect on your experience as a researcher and make you wish you were in the person you are speaking to shoe’s. Yes, there is the saying ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’ and this might link to me being the only person from UCLan attending the AAG but some evenings when I was back in my hotel room and had time to reflect on the day, I was a bit jealous of the additional support networks, the variety of supervision and the diversity of PhD research communities at other universities. This can be a bit of a low but there are also some positives such as realising you’ve got better resources than other PhD students – such as a permanent desk.

So to round up some top tips from me:

  • Don’t attend every session, there is a lot going on and you need time to digest the information you’ve obtained;
  • Get in contact with people you have met at previous conferences and see if they are attending, buddy up with them, exchange details and go for a drink.
  • Follow the twitter hashtag, if you’re ever not sure what session to attend check out twitter and see if something exciting is happening.
  • Head to a random session not related to your discipline – embrace Geography

Llinos Brown, University of Central Lancashire.

On this Day: The Nore Mutiny, 12th May 1797

A caricature of the Nore Mutineers (Source: Wikipedia).

A caricature of the Nore Mutineers (Source: Wikipedia).

On this day 208 years ago a mutiny started at the Nore anchorage in the Thames estuary that would last for a month and would come to threaten the beating heart of London, they city’s incredibly lucrative trade economy. Great Britain was at war with revolutionary France, which put a huge strain on the nation’s navy, and also meant that the government could not afford to have the navy mutinying. Discontent had been brewing within the navy since the start of 1797; the men were poorly treated, their wages had not changed for over a century, and high rates of inflation were severely eroding their value. As well as this, the French revolution had badly scared Britain’s ruling elites, and they feared a similar uprising here.

In April the ships at the Spithead anchorage near Portsmouth mutinied, demanding better pay and working conditions. They won their demands, and everyone who took part was pardoned. The seamen at Nore took inspiration from those at Spithead, but their mutiny was not destined to be so successful, for a number of reasons.

The crew of the Sandwich were the first to mutiny, on the evening of the 12th of May 1797. They were joined by other ships, but some ships left the Nore to avoid taking part in the mutiny. Organisation was difficult amongst the sailors at Nore, as the ships were spread out, and they didn’t belong to a single fleet, as was the case at Spithead. Nevertheless delegates were elected from every ship, and a man named Richard Parker was elected ‘President of the Delegates of the Fleet.’

On the 20th of May (which also happens to be my birthday!), the mutineers presented a list of 8 demands to Admiral Charles Buckner. The demands started off fairly average, including pardons for the mutineers and increased pay. However the demands soon took on a more radical turn, as the mutineers demanded that the King dissolve Parliament, and immediately make peace with France. This turn outraged the Admiralty, who offered the Nore sailors only the same concessions they had given to the men at Spithead.

The mutineers blockaded the Thames, and tried to prevent any ship from entering or leaving London. Had they been successful for any great length of time, they would have crippled London’s booming economy. They also made plans to sail to France, a plan which alienated many of the sailors, causing more ships to abandon the mutiny. The government and Admiralty didn’t want to make any further concessions, especially as they were wary of the political aims of some of the more radical leaders.

The mutineers were denied food, and eventually so many ships slipped away, despite being fired on by those that remained, that the mutiny collapsed. Richard Parker was swiftly convicted of treason and piracy and hanged from the yardarm of the Sandwich, where the mutiny started. 29 leaders were also hanged, and others were flogged, imprisoned or transported to Australia.

An engraving of Richard Parker's hanging from the Newgate Calendar (Source: Wikipedia).

An engraving of Richard Parker’s hanging from the Newgate Calendar (Source: Wikipedia).

The men at Nore were fighting for better conditions and pay, but their more radical demands meant they the government and Admiralty could not be seen to back down. The mutineers also threatened London’s economy, which the authorities could not allow to stand. The seamen’s status as members of the navy put them in a different position to civilians when it came to their working rights. Members of the armed forces do not have the same rights as the average worker; to this day, they are not allowed to join a union or go on strike. These restrictions make the actions of the sailors at Nore all the more admirable. They faced dire consequences to stand up for themselves, and Richard Parker and many others paid the price when the mutiny collapsed.

Sources and Further Reading

Anon. ‘Research Guide B8: The Spithead and Nore Mutinies,’ National Maritime Museum. Last modified April 2008, accessed 15 April 2015 http://www.rmg.co.uk/researchers/library/research-guides/the-royal-navy/research-guide-b8-the-spithead-and-nore-mutinies-of-1797

Anon. ‘Spithead and Nore Mutinies,’ Wikipedia. Last modified 13 February 2015, accessed 15 April 2015. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spithead_and_Nore_mutinies

Anon. ‘The Naval Mutinies at Spithead and the Nore,’ Socialist Appeal. Last modified 15 January 2008, accessed 15 April 2015. http://www.socialist.net/the-naval-mutinies-at-spithead-and-the-nore.htm

Moore, Richard. ‘Mutiny at the Nore,’ Napoleonic Guide. No date, accessed 15 April 2015. http://www.napoleonguide.com/navy_nore.htm

‘Still the Enemy Within:’ May Day Screening

‘Still the Enemy Within’ film poster.

Last Friday (May the 1st), I went to a showing of the documentary film Still the Enemy Within (2014), organised by Reel Islington and Radical Islington at London Metropolitan University. The film tells the story of the 1984-5 miner’s strike, from the perspective of those who took part. The film’s executive producer, Mike Simons, and Mike Jackson, the secretary of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miner’s (LGSM) were there for a Q&A after the screening. I have been meaning to see the film for a while, and it seemed like an appropriate thing to do with my May Day.

Still the Enemy Within reconstructs the narrative of the miner’s strike using archive footage and photos, interviews and dramatisations. It starts in 1979, when Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister, and runs right through to the recent anti-austerity protests, although these only get a brief mention in the last few minutes. It is engaging and entertaining, and does a fantastic job of telling the story with a nice balance of poignancy and humour. With the 30th anniversary of the strike recently, and films such as Pride and Going through the Change!, I had an awareness of the miner’s strike and knowledge of specific parts, but Still the Enemy Within improved my general knowledge of the strike immeasurably. It goes through the major events of the strike in chronological order, including how the strike began, the reluctance of Nottinghamshire miners and other unions to join the strike, the death of David Jones at a picket, and the eventual defeat.

With the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to think of the miner’s strike as doomed to fail, but the interviews with strikers and their supporters tell a different story. Especially at the beginning of the year-long strike, the miners were confident in their ability to win, largely thanks to their victory over Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath in 1974. The National Union of Mineworker’s (NUM) was one of the strongest in the country, and the miner’s had faith in the NUM’s president, Arthur Scargill. Hearing the story from the perspective of those who took part gives a sense of what it was like to live through the highs and lows, the joys of solidarity and strength and the bitterness of hunger, failed marriages and defeat.

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Mike Simon and Mike Jackson after the screening of ‘Still the Enemy Within’ (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Those interviewed for the film also have a wonderful sense of humour, which brings me to my next point. I think the film really benefited from being seen with a large group of politically-minded people. Some of the jokes and stories that the strikers tell are laugh-out-loud funny, and I enjoyed the experience of everyone else in the crowded lecture theatre laughing along with me. A political audience also made for a lively, if brief, discussion after the film. It turned out there was a former Nottinghamshire miner in the audience, who was keen to share his experiences.

However, I would highly recommend watching the film even if you were on your own. It really is a wonderful resource, and would be fantastic for undergraduate teaching. The film-makers have a list of screenings on their website, from which you can also buy the film. I myself am now a proud owner of the DVD!

The AAG: Why Did I Sign Up For This?

The Chicago skyline from the top of the Willis Tower, the tallest building  in the Western hemisphere.

The Chicago skyline from the top of the Willis Tower, the tallest building in the Western hemisphere (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Last week, I attended the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers, otherwise known as the AAG. Probably the biggest Geography conference in the world, the AAG continues to grow every year and this year over 9000 delegates gathered in Chicago for the 5 day event. It was my first time attending the conference, and although I had a fantastic time I did find the whole thing a little overwhelming at times. Amongst everything, it is easy to forget why you’re there in the first place. I decided to put this post together of what I believe are the 3 main purposes of going to a large international conference like the AAG, so you can reassure yourself when you find yourself asking the question, which you almost certainly will at some point, ‘Why did I sign up for this?’

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A welcome sign at the AAG (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

  1. Present. And/or organising a session. Although you don’t have to present your work when you go to a conference, it seems a bit daft to fly all the way over the Atlantic Ocean and not present. Each presenter at the AAG only gets 20 minutes for their talk, including questions, so it really isn’t a big commitment. Presenting allows you to share your work with, and get feedback from, people outside your normal academic circle, which can be incredibly helpful. Presenting at such a prominent conference also allows you to stake your claim to your research topic, to make sure other people know what your research involves. Plus, it can actually be quite fun- you might actually enjoy yourself!

    Me Presenting at Chicago AAG

    Yours truly presenting a paper on the Battle of Cable Street (Photo: Innes Keighren).

  2. Network. The sheer size of the AAG makes it a unique opportunity for networking, particularly for international contacts. Some really big names in Geography attend the AAG, and it can be a great chance to introduce yourself (I was sat behind David Harvey in one session, although I didn’t say hello!) If you are thinking about publishing your work, many publishers have booths in the exhibition hall, and a lot of journal editors also attend, so there are plenty of people to talk to about your ideas. It is a great chance to meet other PhD students, and catch up with existing friends who you haven’t seen since the last big conference. A PhD can sometimes be a lonely experience, so I like to take every chance I get to socialise with other people in the same boat.

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    My business cards, an invaluable networking tool! (Photo: Hannah Awcock)

  3. Learn. My final purpose of going to a large international conference is a bit cheesy I know, but I think it’s a really important one. Conferences are a great chance to find out the latest ideas, theories and concepts in geography and your particular field. As I said, some of the biggest names in Geography attend the AAG, so it’s a great chance to hear them speak, and learn directly from them. Plus, it gives you the chance to ask questions about things you don’t understand, which you can’t do when reading a journal article or book. You can develop your own current projects by listening to others, and perhaps even get some ideas for future projects.

And if all that wasn’t enough to convince you to go along to the next AAG, the 2016 meeting is being held in San Francisco, so if you’ve always wanted to see Alcatraz or the Bay Bridge, then why not squeeze in a massive international conference whilst you’re at it?