Brighton’s Protest Stickers: Electoral Politics

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This is too big to strictly be a protest sticker, but it was too good to leave out! (Photo: Hannah Awcock, King’s Road, 26/03/17).

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.

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Some stickers are critical of the political system as a whole. This is a quote from the well-known American activist and scholar, Angela Davis (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Prince Albert Street, 09/08/17).

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Brexit is just as controversial in Brighton as it is in the rest of the country. This sticker dates from before the referendum, and is encouraging people to think carefully about the implications of voting Leave (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 18/05/16 Queen’s Road).

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68.6% of Brightonians voted to remain in the European Union, and if this sticker is anything to go by, there are still people who are actively opposing Brexit (Photo: Hannah Awcock, West Street, 01/10/17).

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This sticker could be interpreted as supportive of Brexit, suggesting that Britain is making a timely exit from a burning building, escaping whilst it has the chance. I think it’s a clever use of imagery, reproducing a symbol that is so familiar to us in order to convey and political message (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Upper Gardner Street 09/05/16).

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The message of this sticker is much more explicit. I would guess that it was meant to be worn on clothing, but was placed somewhere on the street instead (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Gardner Street, 26/03/17).

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Some stickers are related to specific political parties. This sticker uses the colour scheme and logo of the Conservative Party to criticise their policies (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Ship Street, 09/08/17).

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This sticker has superimposed the face of Theresa May onto the face of Margaret Thatcher, implying that no matter who leads the Conservative Party, their policies and attitudes remain unchanged (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 09/08/17, King’s Road).

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The snap election called by Theresa May in June this year inspired it’s own set of anti-Conservative protest stickers. This sticker is playing on the use of the word landslide to describe an overwhelming victory in an election (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 10/06/17, North Street).

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This sticker is referencing Theresa May’s favourite catchphrase during the election campaign, ‘Strong and Stable.’ It is drawing unfavourable comparisons between that phrase and May’s own behaviour (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 10/06/17, North Street).

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There are two universities in Brighton, as well as many schools and colleges, so there is a high number of students in the city. This sticker is appealing to them, although it doesn’t specifically mention the general election in June 2017 (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 10/06/17, North Street).

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Whilst protest stickers about the Conservative Party tend to be negative, those about the Labour Party are more likely to be supportive. This one is linking the Labour Party to support for the NHS (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 18/05/16, Queen’s Road).

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This sticker could be interpreted as critical of the current Labour Party leadership. Ed Miliband wasn’t especially popular when he was leading the party, but this sticker implies that even he did a better job than Jeremy Corbyn. Whatever the intent, the #Imissmiliband hashtag hasn’t caught on (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 24/12/16, London Road).

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Brighton is the only city in the country that has a Green MP. The colours of the sticker suggest that it is also supporting something else Brighton is well-known for, the city’s large LGBTQI+ community (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 04/02/17, Church Street).

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It is not just British electoral politics that is the subject of protest stickers in Brighton, American politics, particularly Donald Trump, is also a focus. This sticker is fairly self explanatory, I think (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 26/03/17, York Place).

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I particularly like this sticker, as I think it would really upset Trump if he ever saw it. He is an incredibly vain man, and I don’t think his vanity would cope well with the representation of him (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 24/03/17 Queen’s Road).

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I also think that this sticker would massively upset Trump, so it’s another favourite of mine! It was produced by Sonny Flynn (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 18/05/16, Queen’s Road).

Protest Stickers: Brighton

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Brighton has a lively street art culture, which reflects the city’s accepting and radical atmosphere. This photo was taken in Trafalgar Street on 24/05/15 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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.

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After the UK general election in 2015, the South of England became a sea of blue, apart from a small oasis of green (the constituency of Brighton Pavilion) and red (Hove). Thus was born the People’s Republic of Brighton and Hove, a group calling for the city’s independence from Britain. They were joking (mostly), but the logo has become a common sight around the city. These stickers were on a post box in Brighton Station, welcoming visitors to the city (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 23/10/15).

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Some protest stickers in Brighton can be found in cities across Britain, like this anti-UKIP sticker that started appearing in the run up to the 2015 General Election. This photo was taken in Kensington Street on 24/05/15 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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One the other hand, some stickers are unique to Brighton. Reclaim the Night is an annual event that takes place in cities across the country that protests against violence against women (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Queen’s Road, 24/05/15).

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Brighton Hospitality Workers is a campaign unique to the city. It is run by the Brighton branch of the Solidarity Federation, the British Branch of the International Workers Association. They campaign for better working conditions for employees in the hospitality sector, and help individual workers in disputes with employers. This photo was taken on North Street on 24/05/15 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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A lot of British cities and large towns have an anti-fascist group. Brighton Antifascists has a strong presence amongst the protest stickers in the city. This photo was taken on York Place on 31/12/15 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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The March for England is an annual event organised by the English Defence League, often held in Brighton. I suspect the city is chosen deliberately because the EDL know that they will not be welcomed to the city; the resulting clashes have frequently garnered a lot of publicity. This sticker is old and faded, but I think it was playing on the advertising slogan ‘United Colours of Benetton’ (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 24/05/15, Jubilee Street).

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Brighton is well known for having a large LGBT community. This sticker is referring to the struggle of this community to win rights, which in many countries is still ongoing. This photo was taken in Queen’s Road on 23/10/15 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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Class War is a common theme in protest stickers, although normally the implication is that it is the working class that are at war. I’m not sure if this sticker is sarcastic, but there has been a lot of debate over the last few years about the ‘squeezing’ of the middle classes, so maybe it is heartfelt. This photo was taken in Kensington Street on 24/05/15 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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I have seen plenty of protest stickers concerned with the environment before, but only in Brighton could you find something like this! (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Kensington Street, 24/05/15).

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I have never seen a sticker about digital rights before. EDRi is an association of civil and human rights groups that campaign for human rights in the digital realm. They focus on privacy, surveillance, net neutrality and copyright reform. This photo was taken in Jubilee Street on 24/05/15 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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The Brighton Peace and Environment Centre works to create a more peaceful and sustainable world. The ‘Not in my name’ slogan was popularised during the campaign against the war in Iraq. Social movements frequently reuse and reinvent symbols and catchphrases from previous campaigns. This photo was taken in Bond Street on 31/12/15 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This is one of my favourite stickers I have ever found in Brighton. Falling somewhere between protest and art, it criticises modern society for being so wrapped up in the virtual world that we risk missing amazing things happening right in front of us. This sticker was found on the inside of a cubicle door in the ladies toilets at the Odeon cinema (Photo: Emily Awcock).

Boisterous Brighton

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Brighton is a well-known seaside resort (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

I spent the Christmas holidays with my family in Brighton, my childhood home. Officially called Brighton and Hove, it is a city on the south coast of Britain with a population of just over a quarter of a million residents. About an hour on the train from London, it has been a popular seaside retreat for several hundred years. George IV built the Royal Pavilion as a luxurious retreat for himself between 1787 and 1823. In recent decades, it has become home to a thriving LGBT community, with Brighton Pride being one of the biggest Pride festivals in the UK. With a reputation for being cosmopolitan and easy-going, the city was a fantastic place to grow up, and it is very special to me.

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The city’s radical tendencies are obvious (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

With its open and accepting nature, it is not surprising that Brighton is a focus for protest. As Pollyanna Ruiz (2014; 119) describes it, “Brighton and Hove is a city that enjoys pushing social boundaries, and I would suggest that these qualities also characterise its political life.” Brighton Pride, arguably perceived by many as primarily a reason to have a good time, contains a strong campaigning element, raising the profile of issues faced by the LGBT community. Despite the progress made in recent years, homophobia is still a very real concern, as events in Brighton in October 2014 show. The Student’s Union of the University of Sussex organised a mass ‘kiss-in’ in a Sainsbury’s store in the city in protest about the treatment of two gay women by a security guard. The women were asked to leave after another customer complained to the security guard about them kissing. About 200 people attended the protest, designed to celebrate equality.

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The 2014 March for England in Brighton (Photo: James, 2014).

However, LGBT issues are not the only contested ones in Brighton. Since 2008, the group March for England have been holding annual marches in the city during the April bank holiday weekend. Since 2010, there has been a concerted campaign to oppose them, with counterdemonstrations attempting to disrupt the marches. In 2014, 150 marchers were opposed by at least 1,000 anti-fascists (Argus, 2014). The general perception is that Brighton was chosen as the location of these marches because of its liberal reputation. Personally, I think that the March for England continues to return to Brighton because they know they will be opposed, which results in a lot more publicity than they would otherwise get.

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Smash EDO uses a local company to voice their opposition to war and violence (Photo: Smash EDO, n.d.).

Another long running local campaign has been organised by the group Smash EDO. EDO MBM Technology Ltd. is a Brighton-based company that manufactures parts for military aircraft, including bomb release mechanisms. Smash EDO has been organising events and campaigning against the company for the last decade. They have also begun campaigning against Barclays Bank, whom Smash EDO argues profits from the weapons that EDO help to produce. Their activities have been varied, but perhaps the most dramatic took place in January 2009, when 6 activists broke into the EDO building and sabotaged computers and machinery. All 6 ‘decommissioners’ were cleared of conspiracy to commit criminal damage in July 2009. This campaign is a fantastic example of how global issues can be connected to local areas in a very tangible way.

I grew up in Brighton and Hove, and I think that the city is at least partly responsible for my own liberal beliefs. I would like to be able to say that in Brighton you will be accepted, whoever you are. However I know that in reality that is not always the case, but it is heartening to know that there are people in Brighton willing to struggle to bring us closer to that ideal.

Sources

James, Ben. ‘Violent Clashes as March for England Returns to Brighton.’ The Argus http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/11175736.Violent_clashes_as_March_for_England_returns_to_Brighton/?ref=var_0 (Published 28/04/14, accessed 12/01/15).

Ruiz, Pollyanna. Articulating Dissent: Protest and the Public Sphere. London: Pluto Press, 2014.

Smash EDO http://smashedo.org.uk/ (Date of publishing not provided, accessed 12/01/15).