Introducing the Turbulent London Map

London has been the subject of an untold number of maps over its long history, and now there’s one more. Maps serve many more purposes than getting you from A to B, they can also educate, entertain, and look good, as the maps featured below demonstrate. As a geographer, it’s basically compulsory for me to have an interest in maps, and I have always enjoyed looking at, and thinking about, them.

London simplified map

This map won’t help you find your way around London, but it does make a point, effectively and comically (Source: Nad).

london-borough with album covers

This map depicts the London boroughs using album art and photos of musicians. Again, not very useful, but it looks good! (Source: Moore Wilson).

London rent map

This map shows the average price of renting a 1-bedroom flat within a kilometer of each stop on the London Underground. Its purpose is to inform, and perhaps persuade people that something needs to be done about affordable housing in London (Source: Thrillist).

I have been thinking about the potential of mapping protest events and protest stickers for a while now. It can help build up an image of how protests and stickers are spread out across the capital. If you can identify areas of concentration for example, you can begin to think about why that might be. Unfortunately I haven’t had the skills to put this idea into practice…until now.

So without further ado, I would like to introduce the latest innovation in the world of London mapping: The Turbulent London Map! It features the location of every London protest and protest sticker featured on the blog. Purple pins are protest events, and orange pins are protest stickers. Click on the pins for more information and images.

 

The map is far from complete; to map every protest that’s ever taken place in London would be a gargantuan task that I cannot feasibly do alongside a PhD (although it might make a good post-doctoral project!). I will keep adding protests as I mention them in the blog. Also, the spread of the protest stickers is biased to reflect my own personal map of London; I have more pictures from locations that I visit most often, and no pictures from the places I haven’t been to (or the places I went to in the dark- my camera phone has not always been up to scratch). Again, it would be a huge project to map protest stickers across the whole city (another post-doc idea!), so here I’m asking for a little help. If you’re out and about in London and see a protest sticker, please take a picture, take a note of the street you’re on and the date, send it to me, and I’ll add to the map. I would really like to start building a more complete picture of protest stickers in London.

Reading the Riot Act 2: Luddites and Micks

Last year, I wrote a post about the protest-related origins of the phrase ‘reading the riot act,’ amongst others, and since then I have been on the lookout for other phrases which also have their origins in periods of strife. What I’ve found are two terms to describe people. If you have ever called someone, or been called by someone, a ‘Luddite’ or a ‘Mick’ (to describe an Irish person, not someone who’s name is Michael), then you have been referring to Britain’s long history of dissent.

An engraving of Luddites destroying a weaving machine (Source: Wikipedia).

An engraving of Luddites destroying a weaving machine (Source: Wikipedia).

A Luddite is a term frequently used to refer to someone who disapproves of new technologies. For most people, it is an insult, but others embrace the name with pride. If the origins of the term were more widely known, perhaps more people would be proud of the name. The Luddites was the collective name given to English textile workers who protested against the mechanization of their trade between 1811 and 1816. The new technologies of the Industrial Revolution meant that textiles could be mass-produced by unskilled, low-wage workers, forcing skilled artisans out of work.

The (probably) fictional leader of this movement was called General, or King, Ludd, and reportedly lived in Sherwood Forest, the home of another mythical champion of the people, Robin Hood. The name may come from Ned Ludd, who allegedly smashed two stocking frames in 1779.  The Luddite protests began in Nottinghamshire and quickly spread through the midlands and North of England. The demonstrators sent threatening letters to employers and broke into factories to destroy new machines. In 1812, machine breaking became punishable by death, and 17 men were executed the following year. Obviously the Luddites were unsuccessful at halting the march of the Industrial Revolution, but they made such an impression that their name is still used, 200 years later.

A comic mocking modern-day Luddites (Source: htmlgiant).

A comic mocking modern-day Luddites (Source: htmlgiant).

‘Mick’ is a derogatory word to describe an Irish person. There are several explanations for the origin of the term, but my favourite comes from London’s contentious past. Michael Barrett has the dubious honour of being the last person to be publicly hanged in England. In May 1868 he was executed for his role in the Clerkenwell Outrage on the 13th of December 1867. 12 people were killed in a bombing outside the Middlesex House of Detention in Clerkenwell, shocking Londoners and turning them against the cause of Irish nationalism. Michael Barrett’s name became synonymous with all Irish people.

The bomb was a failed jailbreak that went disastrously wrong. Prominent Fenians Richard O’Sullivan Burke and Joseph Casey were being held in the Clerkenwell prison. A barrel of gunpowder was placed against the wall of the prison’s exercise yard and set off with a firework, with the aim of blowing a hole in the wall so Burke and Casey could escape. Far too much gunpowder was used and the blast damaged a row of tenement houses on the other side of the road. 12 people were killed and up to 120 were injured. The prison authorities knew something was being planned, so the prisoners were locked in their cells instead of exercising at the time of the bombing, and Burke and Casey failed to escape. Although Michael Barrett was charged along with several others, he was the only one who was actually convicted of the bombing.

Engravings of the Clerkenwell bombing from the 'Illustrated Police News'.

Engravings of the Clerkenwell bombing from the ‘Illustrated Police News’.

The English language has many phrases which, when you actually stop to think about them, appear to be absolute nonsense. But when you start to trace it back, you often find a great story that explains it, and offers a tiny window onto Britain’s chequered past.

Sources and Further Reading

Anon. “Luddite.” Wikipedia. Last modified 7th June 2015, accessed 12th June 2015. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luddite

Anon. “Michael Barrett (Fenian).” Wikipedia. Last modified 17th December 2014, accessed 23rd June 2015. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Barrett_(Fenian)

Anon. “Mick.” No date, accessed 12th June 2015. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Mick

Webb, Simon. Dynamite, Treason and Plot: Terrorism in Victorian and Edwardian London. Stroud: The History Press, 2012.

Turbulent Londoners: Bernie Grant, 1944-2000

Turbulent Londoners is a series of posts about radical individuals in London’s history who contributed to the city’s contentious past. My definition of ‘Londoner’ is quite loose, anyone who has played a role in protest in the city can be included. Any suggestions for future Turbulent Londoners posts are very welcome. The next Turbulent Londoner is Bernie Grant, who devoted his life to campaigning for equality across various forums.


Bernie Grant (Source: BBC)

Bernie Grant (Source: BBC)

Bernard Alexander Montgomery Grant, known to most as Bernie Grant, was an influential campaigner for civil rights in Britain and around the world. In a political career that spanned four decades, he fought to promote equality of all kinds as a trade union leader, a member of local government, and a Member of Parliament. Although he spent the majority of his career in mainstream politics, he still deserves the status of a Turbulent Londoner as he continued to fight for what he believed in once he was elected, and acted as “a red rag to the bulls of rightwing politics” (Phillips, 2000).

Born in Georgetown, Guyana on the 17th February 1944, Bernie Grant moved to London with his parents when he was 19. He studied at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, but left in 1969 in protest against discrimination against black students. He started working as a telephonist for the Post Office at the International Telephone Exchange in King’s Cross, and became involved in trade union politics during the Post Office strike in 1970. In 1978 Bernie became an Area Officer for the National Union of Public Employees, a full-time job.

Bernie Grant was dubbed 'Bermy Bernie' by the tabloid press (Source: Social Abjection).

Bernie Grant was dubbed ‘Barmy Bernie’ by the tabloid press (Source: Social Abjection).

Also in 1978, Bernie became a Labour Councillor in the north London borough of Haringey. He founded the Black Trades Unionists Solidarity Movement, and worked there full time between 1981 and 1984. In 1985, he earned the nickname ‘Barmy Bernie’ from the tabloid press because of his leadership of the opposition against the Conservative government’s rate-capping, which meant that central government could restrict the spending of local councils. He is in good company; the name ‘Suffragettes’ was coined by a reporter at the Daily Mail.

Haringey Council emerged from the dispute with central government with Bernie Grant as leader. He was the first black man to hold such a position in Europe. Bernie practiced what he preached, and Haringey was one of the few local councils to develop policies that tackled discrimination on the basis of disability, gender, race, or sexual orientation. After the controversial Broadwater Farm riots on the 6th of October 1985 Bernie stood up for the local youth, despite widespread and frequently vicious criticism.

Bernie Grant in Parliament in 1996 (Source: The Voice)

Bernie Grant in Parliament in 1996 (Source: The Voice)

The Broadwater Farm controversy didn’t damage Bernie’s reputation enough to prevent him being elected the Member of Parliament for Tottenham in 1987. He caused a stir by attending his first state opening of parliament in African dress, another of his ‘red rag’ moments. Once in Parliament, Bernie continued to fight for what he believed in. He founded the Parliamentary Black Caucus, and campaigned to end racism in the UK and abroad, against racist policing methods, deaths in police custody, and institutionalised racism in education, housing, and health. He also fought for the rights of refugees, greater resources for inner city areas, the elimination of overseas debt for poor nations, and the recognition of past colonialism and enslavement. He worked hard for his constituency, campaigning for a major cultural and arts facility, now called the Bernie Grant Arts Centre in his name.

Bernie Grant remained the MP for Tottenham until his death on the 8th of April 2000, aged 56. He was a man who never shied away from what he thought was right, even in the face of party politics and widespread criticism. He proved that it is possible to make positive changes from within the official system of government, a lesson which is worth hanging onto in the face of modern mainstream politics.

Sources and Further Reading

Anon. “Bernie Grant.” Wikipedia. Last modified 4th May 2015, accessed 18th June 2015. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernie_Grant

Phillips, Mike. “Bernie Grant.” The Guardian. Last modified 10th April 2000, accessed 18th June 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/news/2000/apr/10/guardianobituaries.obituaries

The Bernie Grant Archive. No date, accessed 18th June 2015. http://berniegrantarchive.org.uk/

Protest Stickers: Chicago

Like most cities around the world, stickers are a common sight in Chicago.

Like most cities around the world, stickers are a common sight in Chicago (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

In April 2015, I went to the annual conference of the American Association of Geographers, which this year was held in Chicago, Illinois. Seeing as I was flying almost 4000 miles, I also took some time to look around the city. There are plenty of protest stickers to be found in Chicago, just like in New York and London. As in other cities, protest stickers in Chicago give us a clue as to what social movements and subversive political campaigns are striking a chord in the city. These movements reflect multiple scales, from the local to the international. Below are some of my favourite pictures from the Windy City.

This was the first sticker I found in Chicago, on my first evening. That was when I knew I was going to like this city!

This was the first sticker I found in Chicago, on my first evening. That was when I knew I was going to like this city! (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Many of the stickers were about local issues. Such as this sticker promoting mayoral candidate Emanuel Rahm, who I assuming has an Irish background because of the clovers.

Many of the stickers were about local issues, such as this sticker promoting mayoral candidate Emanuel Rahm, who I assume has an Irish background because of the clovers. I don’t know if the ‘Get Real’ sticker below is intentional or just a coincidence, but I like to think it was put there on purpose! (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Or this one, supporting Rahm's opponent, Jesus 'Chuy' Garcia. It plays on the Chicago flag, which is four stars on a white background between two blue stripes.

This sticker supports Rahm’s opponent, Jesus ‘Chuy’ Garcia. It plays on the Chicago flag, which is four stars on a white background between two blue stripes. The election took place on the 7th of April 2015, so it’s not surprising there was still a lot of evidence of it when I was there in late April (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Rahm won the election in April, but he is clearly not universally supported. This sticker is a drawing of him.

Rahm won the election in April, but he is clearly not universally supported. This sticker is a drawing of him (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

These stickers also relate to electoral politics. I assume they were handed out at a polling station, but I don't know how they ended up on this chain link fence.

These stickers also relate to electoral politics. I assume they were handed out at a polling station, but I don’t know how they ended up on this chain link fence close to Lake Michigan (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

The recent controversy surrounding the relationship between the US police and African Americans was also a common theme. This sticker was advertising a demonstration. Similar stickers were in New York, advertising a protest on the same day.

The recent controversy surrounding the relationship between the US police and African Americans was also a common theme. This sticker was advertising a demonstration. I found similar stickers in New York, advertising a protest on the same day (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

This sticker is decidedly anti-police, playing rather unsubtly on the fact that police are often called 'pigs'.

This sticker is decidedly anti-police, playing rather unsubtly on the fact that police are often called ‘pigs’ (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Another recurring theme were unions,. This sticker reminds people of the various workers' rights that unions have fought for in the past.

Another recurring theme were unions. This sticker reminds people of the various workers’ rights that unions have fought for in the past. It is also a good example of how the message of stickers can become harder to decipher as they age and deteriorate (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Some themes were not so familiar however. This sticker is about anti-bullying.

Some themes were not so familiar however. This sticker is about anti-bullying (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Another uncommon theme was feminism. This sticker criticises censorship of the female body.

Another uncommon theme was feminism. This sticker criticises censorship of the female body…(Photo: Hannah Awcock)

...whilst this handmade sticker encourages women to celebrate their body.

…whilst this handmade sticker encourages women to celebrate their body (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

This image of Barack Obama references the Obey theme from the work of street artist Shepard Fairey. It also looks very similar to the iconic poster from Obama's 2008 election campaign, which was also designed by Shepard Fairey.

This sticker is a version of the poster designed for Barack Obama’s 2008 election campaign, which normally has a red and blue colour scheme. It was designed by the street artist Shepard Fairey, who’s Obey street art is world-famous (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

This sticker also references a national campaign. The Fight for 15 is part of the movement demanding a $15/hr minimum wage. Protests took place all over the country on April the 15th, or 4/15 in the American style of dating.

This sticker also references a national campaign. The Fight for 15 is part of the movement demanding a $15/hr minimum wage. Protests took place all over the country on April the 15th, or 4/15 in the American style of dating (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

These stickers are a little more intellectual than usual, and don't exactly make it easy to understand the argument being made.

These stickers are a little more intellectual than usual, and don’t exactly make it easy to understand the argument being made (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Fascism is a world-wide issue, and so too is the anti-fascism campaign.

Fascism is a world-wide issue, and so too is the anti-fascism campaign. I have seen very similar stickers in London (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

This weathered sticker is for the Stop Staples campaign, which is attempting to prevent Staples from doing a deal with the U.S. Postal Service which would involve setting up postal counters in Staples stores with low-paid, untrained Staples employees.

This weathered sticker is for the Stop Staples campaign, which is attempting to prevent Staples from doing a deal with the U.S. Postal Service which would involve setting up postal counters in Staples stores with low-paid, untrained Staples employees (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

This sticker doesn't appear to be linked to any campaign in particular, and could be referencing any number of issues such as climate change or consumerism.

This sticker doesn’t appear to be linked to any campaign in particular, and could be referencing any number of issues such as climate change or consumerism (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

This is not a protest sticker, but I just liked it so much that I decided to put it in. It's pretty good advice too!

This is not a protest sticker, but I just liked it so much that I decided to put it in. It’s pretty good advice too! (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Special thanks to Llinos Brown, who put up with my odd habit of taking close-up pictures of random bits of street furniture and also helped me find a few stickers whilst we were in Chicago.