Back in between 1968 and 1971 in the basement of a building a Camden Town, anyone who wanted to, or had something to say, could drop into a poster workshop. It was a workshop that voiced its belief of belonging to people, but also needing people too, in order to fight for them: “You’re the people. Use it,” shouts its promotional poster. The work created over these three years, half a century ago has now been pulled out of the archive by London-based publishers Four Corners Books, coinciding with a new exhibition at Tate Britain, marking 50 years since the protests of May 1968.
Based at 61 Camden Road, its visitors varied from “workers on strike, tenants associations, civil rights groups and liberation groups from all over the world,” Four Corners Books explains. The workshop was directly inspired by Atelier Populaire – a group of art school students producing free posters in support of Parisian striking workers in May 1968 – both in screen printed, politically led pop art prints, and in context of the work too. Made on the day, each piece varies in individual purposes, “the posters could be made quickly to respond to what was needed, on a great number of themes: Vietnam, Northern Ireland, South Africa, housing, workers rights and revolution,” continues the publishers.
“The poster workshop existed at an exceptional time,” says Four Corners. “It thrived on the energy generated by the belief that huge changes were possible, through movements for equality, civil rights, freedom and revolution. It was an expression of that time – of excitement, change and hope.”
In terms of graphic design, each of the posters that fill the book is quite raw. Four Corners Books have kept the hand-rendered quality of each, hinting at personality although anonymously created, with smudges of ink, cut out typography and block of colour that are always similar to each other. As a book, Poster Workshop 1968 — 1971 acts as both a snapshot of a time in its thoughtful effort to provide a “unique perspective on the key political issues in 1960s Britain as told through the protest posters of artists and activists,” but also at a time where the world is becoming more and more separated in views it portrays how powerful one voice can be in the format of print.
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