The Department of Illustration

poster workshop

Posted in Uncategorized by The Department of Illustration on March 25, 2011

guardian Steve Rose

From the current popular uprisings in north Africa to the recent student marches against tuition fees to this weekend’s national day of action, we seem to be in the throes of a new age of protest – one fuelled by the irrepressible power of social networking. But before the era of Twitter, Facebook, blogging and even photocopying, getting your message out was not such a straightforward business. In the golden but low-tech age of 1960s protest, with options for independent broadcasting or publishing limited, silkscreen printing was the street campaigner’s weapon of choice. It was cheap, easy, fast and capable of delivering a powerful, graphic message – albeit one that came with associated risks of arrest or injury in its distribution.

The best-known of these screen-printed posters came out of the Atelier Populaire, the renegade printshop set up by students at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts during the Paris protests of 1968, but less well-known is the Atelier’s London equivalent, the Poster Workshop. Its existence is barely recorded in history books and picture archives, and hardly any of the original posters survive, but for a brief spell it was at the centre of London’s protest scene, and its work provides a fascinating snapshot of an era when everyone seemed to have a cause and it felt as if the revolution were just around the corner.


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