Artist Rebecca Strickson has created a response to the civil society PACT through four beautiful banners that bring it, and people’s voices, to life.
They’re fantastic themes, aren’t they? Power and trust, accountability and connection. Threads that run through every strand of life, winding around everyone and everything, holding us up; keeping us down. We have always talked about society with metaphors of fabric, cloth, as if society needs everyone to participate, else it’s just thread. The multitude truly does make a larger sum of its parts when it works together.
In my work I have always taken many cues from the aesthetics of art and work created from or by community. I often look to trade union banners, the Pre-Raphaelites and Art Nouveau work for colour and pattern and design; all movements steeped in the history of socialism, and historically associated with groups of workers, artists and artisans defining a style to portray their politics and allegiances.
I definitely felt that I wanted to reference directly some of the sentiments that came from these groups, and the ideals they established, some from over 200 years ago. Researching these earliest banners from self assembled groups of workers fighting for what we now think of as basic rights and working conditions, was fascinating. The earliest slogan from a trade union banner is ‘Unite in Love’, which is something we should all still be working towards in society.
I really didn’t want to just look to the past for the banners. I attended a Civil Society Futures youth residential in Leeds which was such fun and so rewarding. As an illustrator who works mainly individually and by myself on work, I don’t get many chances to spend time with a group totally out of my age range – and if you think about it, unless you work with youth groups or schools – who does? So I really wanted to spend some time just listening to what they had to say. We could learn a lot from doing this in all walks of life I think! Through this, and also through the reflections of other groups visited during the inquiry, I was able to build up a set of complementary statements to adorn the banners that really complemented and worked with the more historical slogans.
I kind of knew I would hear that people think that many things haven’t changed. People always feel disenfranchised and affected by power that is unbalanced, and feel this keenly when they don’t or can’t trust their leaders. When they don’t feel the correct balances and checks to power are being made and leaders aren’t held accountable it’s both hard for the people to listen and connect, and equally for the people in charge to respond likewise.
But I also knew I would find that people, when they are given opportunity to work together can achieve great things. When they feel that they are listened to, and their input has value, that things can change. When they are given the chance to lead their communities, they can improve the lives of everyone.
I hope that these banners are seen in the manner to wish they traditionally would have been intended – as a way to voice allegiance, to proudly state “We are here” and declare values dear to our hearts. They can be adapted to be shown as a wall hanging, or take out into the world for protests and demonstrations, and I’d like to think at some point in the future maybe, someone will have the chance to do that with them.
Want to do something with Rebecca’s banners? Go ahead!
They’re freely available to use, change or share, as long as you credit her, you’re not making money from them and you share them on the same terms (Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)