Near Holborn, London, November 2015
London has changed a lot in the last 5 years. This is nowhere more obvious than on the street, the intersection of city structures and city dwellers. Cycling into, across and around central London provides an overview of the city that cannot be glimpsed through the subway tunnels alone; nor in the newspapers or news broadcasts. On backstreets and main roads, more and more small businesses are boarded up, having been forced out by rising rents and competition from national chains.
But people won't be silenced, and I'm starting to see more and more signs of resistance emerging. Last week, protests took place in London on two consecutive days. On the afternoon of the student protests, police swarmed the streets and enforced road blocks. It was eerily quiet. But on a side street in Holborn, close to many university campuses, I spied this encouraging message:
"It is the power of the mind to be UNCONQUERABLE."
In September, this poster was attached to the window of an empty building, which had previously housed an independent catering business that sold Malaysian food:
"Think Locally - Fuck Globally"
High Holborn, London, September 2015
This notice has since been removed, whilst the homogenous national sandwich chains (Pret, Eat and the like) are thriving. They offer 'Malaysian-inspired' soups every now again, which are not very tasty.
These are graffiti messages from strangers to strangers. They'll be taken down, scrubbed clean, papered over. But people will continue to make their mark, and graffiti will always be subversive. This is neither a name tag declaring ownership of the street; nor pretty, colourful pictures subverting connotations of anarchy; but messages inspiring resistance. It's nice to know that I'm not alone; and you're not alone either.
It's especially needed when the establishment only offer us signals praising those who conform. Like this:
"The joy of NORMAL"
Shepherd's Bush underground station, London, September 2015
Metro newspaper tube advert campaign. Central line, London, September 2015.
This ad campaign openly mocked commuters' typical 'antisocial' behaviour, and encouraged them to instead read this free newspaper instead. (i.e. don't do what you want to do on your journey; don't have an independent mind; read this commercial paper funded by advertising instead! It's much better!)
We need to keep thinking, keep questioning; keep talking and writing out. They're trying their best in Brixton:
"CAUTION. Cleansing in process."
Brixton, London, September 2015.
We need to keep working, separately and together, to show that we're not alone.