For the past year or so, I have been living in my home city of Brighton. As a place with a general anti-authoritarian vibe, the city has a pretty lively culture of radical street art and protest stickers. I have featured Brighton’s protest stickers on Turbulent London before, but now I’m living in the city again I’ve decided to do some more blog posts on the topic. Electoral politics often feature in protest stickers, mostly as the target of criticism. Occasionally, however, stickers are supportive of mainstream political parties, particularly Labour. Perhaps because Brighton regularly plays host to the Labour Party annual conference, quite a few of the protest stickers in the city relate to mainstream electoral politics. Below are some of the stickers that I’ve found on my various wanders around the city.
A common side effect of academia can be moving around a lot. For the first 2 years of my PhD I lived in London, and I am now back in my home town of Brighton, but for a year in between that I lived in Haywards Heath, a semi-rural commuter town on the London-Brighton train line in Sussex. Like Egham in Surrey, it is not the sort of town where you would expect to find protest stickers. It is not the sort of place where you expect to find any alternative politics, to be honest. Nevertheless, I did find protest stickers, although not all of them promoted the left-wing, progressive politics that I normally expect to find.
On the 25th of August, Frankfurt City Council approved a bill that will ban the use of municipal funds for Boycott, Divestment Sanctions (BDS) activities targeting Israel, if it is approved by the city parliament. Frankfurt is the first German city to take this step, but it looks like Munich will follow suit in the autumn (Jerusalem Post, 2017).Uwe Becker, the deputy mayor and city treasurer for Frankfurt, argues that the movement is anti-Semitic. The BDS movement campaigns to put economic pressure on the Israeli state in order to compel Israel to obey international law in its dealings with Palestine. Founded in 2005, BDS is a coalition of groups from Palestine and around the world. London’s protest stickers suggest that support for the BDS movement is much stronger here than it is in Germany. In fact, every sticker I have found in relation to the Israel-Palestine conflict in London is pro-Palestine.
You can see where I found these stickers on the Turbulent London Map.
A few months ago, I spent a couple of days in Manchester. I’ve already blogged about the brilliant museums I visited whilst I was up there (the People’s History Museum, and the Imperial War Museum North), but I also found some great protest stickers whilst exploring the city. Paying attention to a city’s protest stickers helps me get to know a place, by giving me an insight into the issues that matter to the city. Manchester had a lot of protest stickers, many of which I hadn’t seen before, which is just one of the reasons I liked it so much. Manchester is a vibrant city with a fascinating history. Protest stickers in some cities are dominated by only one or two issues (Newcastle, for example, had a lot of stickers relating to animal rights), but this was not the case in Manchester. Its diversity is reflected in the wide range of issues that are represented in the city’s stickers. There were also a lot of stickers in Manchester that I haven’t seen before; I have not seen any of the stickers featured in the post anywhere else. I’m not saying they are all unique to Manchester, but it is an indication of the city’s healthy culture of dissent.
Around the time I was putting together the first Protest Stickers: Egham blog post, person or persons unknown went on a protest stickering spree on and around the Royal Holloway campus. I can’t know for certain that they were all put up at the same time by the same person (or people), but I suspect that they were. The next time I was back on campus two weeks later, quite a few had been peeled or scratched off, so I think that I just happened to be at Royal Holloway just after they were all put up. All of the photos in this post were taken on one of these two days, the 16th and the 30th of November. Most of the stickers were anti-fascist, which is a very common topic for protest stickers, and also another reason why I think that they were all put up at the same time.
Apart from anarchists, anti-fascist groups may be the most prolific sticker-ers that I have ever come across. So much so that they’ve provided me with enough material for a second blog post (the first post can be found here). In this post, I am focusing on the ways in which anti-fascist groups interact with, and make use of, history and geography. For many activists and social movements, the memory of past protests and events is an important source of inspiration and morale. This process is demonstrated by stickers that refer to significant moments in the history of anti-fascism. Geography also seems to be significant to anti-fascists, as many stickers refer to particular locations or local groups. It seems like anti-fascists might be as pre-occupied by time and space as geographers are!
The location of all the stickers featured in this post and others are marked here, on the Turbulent London Map.
The city of Brighton and Hove, on the south coast of England, has a reputation as one of the UK’s most cosmopolitan, radical, and open cities. I have blogged about protest in Brighton before, as well as the city’s role in the campaign for female suffrage. Brighton must also be home to a large number of sticker-ers, as the streets are covered in stickers of all kinds, including protest stickers. I have already blogged about the stickers I found on one walk down London Road, but I have found some other great stickers elsewhere in the city that I wanted to share.
The conflict over Junior Doctors’ contracts was arguably one of the biggest news stories of 2016 with the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, imposing new working and pay conditions. The NHS more generally is one of the biggest battlegrounds of modern British politics, with constant debates about funding, privatisation, and the quality of the services provided. Like other key issues and events in politics (such as the EU Referendum, immigration, and housing), the conflict over the NHS has manifested itself in London’s protest stickers. Some stickers refer to other health-related issues, such as the legalisation of drugs and mental health.
To see where I found all these protest stickers, check out the Turbulent London Map.
Generally, protest stickers tend to be found in large towns and cities rather than smaller towns and villages. There are some exceptions however, such as Egham, a small town in suburban Surrey. It is the location of Royal Holloway, the University of London college at which I have been studying for the last seven years. Students have historically been associated with radical politics, and student politics has experienced a resurgence since the campaign against the increase in English university tuition fees in 2010.
As regular readers of my blog will know, you can find all kinds of different issues represented on the protest stickers that plaster London’s streets. Over the last year and a half, I have written about protest stickers relating to immigration and race, housing, and the EU referendum, amongst others (see the Turbulent London Map for locations of all the stickers I’ve featured). But all of my topics so far have been rather human-centric, and many activists concern themselves with the non-human. The way that humans treat animals has been a topic of fierce debate for decades. It’s a complex issue, which can escalate rapidly into a philosophical debate about whether or not animals are entitled to certain rights in a similar way to humans. The debate also manifests itself in practical ways however, such as opposition to experiments being carried out on animals, and concern for the treatment of farm animals bred for human consumption. In recent years, ethical consumerism has reduced the amount of product testing carried out on animals, and vegetarianism and veganism has increased (the number of vegans in Britain has gone up 360% in the last 10 years (Source: The Telegraph, 2016). This has not been enough to satisfy everyone, however, and animal welfare continues to be a topic of protest stickers.
If you want to see where all these stickers were located, take a look at the Turbulent London Map.