This design normally reads ‘Refugees Welcome.’ The bottom section of this poster in Elephant and Castle has been torn off, suggesting someone objected to the original message (Photo taken 13/09/15).
Thanks to recent events, immigration has been a hot topic across the country over the past few months, not just in London. However London has a particularly special relationship with the issues of migration and race. As the historian Roy Porter explains, London is no stranger to migration; “Founded by immigrants, London has had a ceaseless history of immigration.” For most of the city’s history, the death rate has been higher than the birth rate, so London wouldn’t be here today without millions of migrants from across the UK and the rest of the world. Unfortunately, memory can be selective, and many argue against welcoming more migrants and refugees into the UK.
Sadly, London is also no stranger to racism. From the murder of prominent Jews at the coronation of Richard the Lionheart in September 1189, through to the Battle of Cable Street and the fight against fascism in the East End in the 1930s and 40s, anti-Semitism has been a persistent problem for London and Londoners. More recently, immigration from former British colonies starting in the 1950s has led to tension and discrimination against Asian and Black Londoners. In the worst cases this has resulting in racially-motivated murder, such as those of Altab Ali in 1978 and Stephen Lawrence in 1993.
The stickers below all relate to migration, or the interconnected issue of racism.
Anti-racist stickers have been a relatively common sight in London since at least before I started looking for them (Elephant and Castle, 25/06/15).
Specifically pro-immigration stickers are a more recent occurrence, they began appearing around the same time that the refugee ‘crisis’ began (Waterloo Bridge, 17/06/15).
The design from the poster above has become a common sight on stickers, posters and banners. This picture was taken in Borough High Street on 29/05/15.
This version of the sticker was photographed in Gower Street, Bloomsbury on 12//05/15. The same or similar stickers can often been seen in various locations around London.
This sticker, which attempts to complicate the definition of illegal immigration, is another sticker which I have seen all over the city. This particular example, outside the Inner London Crown Court in Southwark, has had a cross scratched through it, perhaps because someone disagreed with the message (18/06/15).
This sticker, photographed on a bus stop in Upper Street in Islington refers to racism in sport. Kick It Out works to promote equality and inclusion in football (14/04/15).
I’m sure that cute pandas actually have no opinion on racism, but I like this sticker anyway! (Union Street, Southwark, 08/09/15).
Some stickers get weathered or torn, so that their message is obscured. This sticker, made by Worker’s Liberty says “Open the Borders: The Enemy is the…” I can’t make out who the enemy is, perhaps the ‘Right’? (03/09/15 Euston Road).
This sticker refers to raids carried out by the UK Border Agency trying to catch illegal immigrants. It was produced by the Anti-Raids Network, a loose network of organisations and individuals trying to combat raids (Elephant and Castle, 05/08/15).
Unfortunately, not all stickers are anti-racism or pro-immigration. The Creativity Alliance are white supremacists who believe in race as a religion (Euston Road, 10/08/15).
This sticker in Brick Lane questions who only white nations (allegedly) have to live up to standards of diversity. Someone else has used a marker pen to make their opinion on that perspective very clear (17/04/15).
Sources and Further Reading
Beckman, Morris. The 43 Group. London: Centerprise (1993).
Hindley, Geoffrey. Magna Carta: The Origins of Liberty, from Runnymede to Washington. London: Robinson (2015 ).
Porter, Ray. London- A Social History. London: Penguin (2000 ).