Manchester’s Protest Stickers: Brexit

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The bee is strongly associated with Manchester. This stenciled design is a clear symbol of support for the EU in the city (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Sometimes it feels as though we might be stuck in Brexit limbo forever. It’s been over two years since the EU Referendum, and we’re no closer to any kind of resolution. Brexit has been a topic of protest stickers since before the referendum. Manchester is one of the best cities I’ve been to for protest stickers, and I’ve found loads of Brexit stickers there, including ones that I haven’t seen anywhere else. I haven’t seen any of the stickers featured in this post anywhere other than Manchester, although if you have I would be very interested to know where!

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I found this sticker almost as soon as I stepped out of Manchester Piccadilly train station. I like stickers that use word play, and this sticker can be read two ways, depending on whether or not the reader replaces the stars with letters. Word play like this is amusing, but it also allows you to convey more meaning in a small space. This is an important consideration when it comes to protest stickers, which are often not much bigger than a credit card (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This sticker was produced by EU Flag Mafia, which was started after a photo of an EU flag hanging from a bridge on the M40 went viral. The website sells EU flags and other anti-Brexit merchandise. They are the producers of the florescent yellow “Bollocks to Brexit” stickers that can be found in most towns and cities around the UK (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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Part of this sticker has been removed, but it is still possible to make out what it says: “We were conned. Only the rich can afford Brexit.” The hashtag is #StopBrexit. This sticker is using the famous red, white, and black design that was popularised as I heart NYC, but has since spread to cities around the world (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This sticker also refers to the argument that the Leave Campaign made unsubstantiated, exaggerated, and even false claims in order to win the Brexit referendum. This is a key reason why many people feel that we need a second referendum (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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Like the previous one, this sticker has a design that is simple, but quite effective. It plays on the uncertainty surrounding the economic impact of Brexit. No one really knows what effect leaving the EU will have on our economy. This uncertainty is in itself damaging (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This sticker was perhaps designed to be worn by a person rather than a lamppost. A lot of British people, especially younger generations who grew up in the EU, identify as Europeans as well as British/English/Welsh/Scottish/Northern Irish (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This sticker is a variant of the ‘Smash Fascism’ motifs that are quite common on protest stickers. In this case, the EU is ‘smashing’ a swastika, a reference to the argument that the EU helps to maintain peace and democracy in Europe (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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Most protest stickers I come across related to Brexit are pro-Remain. I have found some pro-Brexit stickers however, such as this one. It was produced by the Leave means Leave campaign, which does pretty much what it says on the tin. Some people believe that Britain is better off out of the EU, and that our fortunes will improve once we leave (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This sticker is more basic in its design compared to the others so far. It is referring to the argument that Remainers should just accept the result of the referendum and by extension, Brexit. I find it hard to believe that Leavers would have quietly accepted the referendum result if they only lost by 2% of the vote, but there we go (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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Part of this sticker has been removed, but the top line probably said “Leave means Leave,” which has become quite a common motto over the last few years. It refers to the idea that we might end up with Brexit in name only; we will leave the EU, but very little will actually change. Most Leavers are opposed to this outcome (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This sticker has also had the top line of text removed. I am less sure about what it said though, perhaps “Brexit means Exit”? It is again referring to the idea that because the Leave campaign won the referendum, that should be the end of any debate or discussion over how to proceed (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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I thought it might be nice to end on a positive note. Whilst the design of the sticker implies that those who made it are pro-EU, the message is universal. There is no doubt that Brexit has been an incredibly divisive issue, and it may take a long time for UK politics to recover. However, an increasing number of people (including the Queen) are calling for the vitriol to be toned down, and for both sides to focus more on what we have in common than what divides us (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Politics and Street Art: Brexit in Brick Lane

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Street art is a format the frequently expresses political viewpoints (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

If you’ve spent any time in the UK over the last few years, then you won’t have been able to escape Brexit. Britain’s exit from the European Union may well be the most significant thing that’s happened in this country in decades, and it hasn’t even actually happened yet. Brexit has seeped into every aspect of life. Brick Lane in Shoreditch is one of the best places in London to see street art (and to get bagels!). The street and surrounding area has a fascinating social and cultural history, and in the last twenty years or so has become one of the most painfully cool parts of London. It is a hub of independent shops and cafes, art galleries, and gentrification. Brick Lane itself is an informal open air art gallery, covered in street art that is painted or covered over regularly. Street art is a format that often engages with politics, and the artists who produce it are not afraid of expressing subversive or critical views in their work. On a recent visit to Brick Lane in December 2018, I noticed a distinct anti-Brexit theme to much of the street art I found.

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This is an example of paste-up art, which has been produced elsewhere then attached with wheat paste or wallpaper paste. It looks hand drawn rather than printed. The artist, Honesy, has a bold, simplistic style that I quite like (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This is also an example of paste-up art, although it was obviously printed rather than hand drawn. This means the artist can produce as many identical copies as they like, although I only saw this poster once on Brick Lane. It was produced by a pair of artists called Quiet British Accent, who make street art based around pre-decimal pennies, a red white and blue colour scheme, and the acronym QbA (in this case it has been expanded to Quiet Balanced Advice) (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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To be honest, this is the least artistically accomplished artwork that I came across in Brick Lane that day. It looks like permanent marker on a bathroom or kitchen tile, but I don’t know if the tile was installed by the artist, or if it was already there and the design was drawn on in situ. There is so much street art and grafitti in Brick Lane that it is often layered on top of each other, with new stuff partially or completed obscuring older artworks. My gut instinct is that this tile was already on the wall, and the artist made use of it rather opportunistically. That doesn’t mean that there wasn’t time and thought put into the design, however. This might not be as high-quality as the other artworks featured here, but someone still put some effort in (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This is another example of paste-up street art, this time produced by Uberfubs, also know as the Street Jeweller. This artist is known for images of skulls, often adorned with rhinestones or crochet. Their works also often contains a political message, such as this one. (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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I haven’t been able to find out who produced this poster, another example of paste-up art. Many of the key architects of Brexit have been accused of acting to serve themselves, rather than in the best interests of the country (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This poster was obviously produced by the same artist as the previous one. It features the inexplicably influential Jacob Rees-Mogg, comparing him to Voldemort, the evil villain from Harry Potter (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This mural was produced by American street artist BK FOXX, who is known for her photorealist style. It was painted in September 2018. It doesn’t explicitly mention Brexit, but it is hard to interpret it any other way. (Photo: Hannah Awcock).