‘Union Unite’ Banner Part 1.

10th February 2015  |  News

My next two blog posts will analyse the content of the ‘Union Unite’ banner , designed by Ed Hall, that was displayed at the V&A ‘Disobedient Objects’ exhibition and discuss the elements of social moments evoked by the images.

Vera Taylor and Nella van Dyke, two social theorists that comment on the tactics used in social movement repertoires, highlight how protest can be carried out in numerous ways one of which is through art. (Taylor and van Dyke, p.263) Thus the Unite banner is one example of a piece of art that not only depicts political protest but is a piece of contentious artwork itself. The Union Unite banner was exhibited at the Disobedient Object Exhibition at the V&A in January 2014 and had been previously used on a March in support of the NHS in Manchester 2013. The banner’s design is compromised of several images that represent a number of protests and organisations such as the Unite Union Community Branch, the National Union of Miners (NUM) and the Anti-poll tax campaign. Collectively the images on the banner display the three elements required by theorists such as Tilly to qualify for a social movement namely; a campaign, a social movement repertoire and WUNC display (Tilly,2004,p.4).

The banner can be seen as a representation of a greater campaign. The banner’s main overarching theme is unity and organized public effort to make collective claims against the governmental authority’ (Tilly,2004,p.4)  This is shown by the black ribbon with gold writing and the words ‘Unite the Union’ with the organisations logo and the words ‘Community Branch’ above a group of protestors. Unite the Union is a trade union that has been made up of many smaller unions that have been active since the emergence of trade unionism in Britain. The community branch is an extension of their aim to create a ‘society that places equality, dignity and respect above all else’. By placing Unite the Union as the header at the centre of the banner one can tell the main message of protest is about claims made concerning the welfare of the British public which relate to working class movements that historically are linked to industrialisation.

The writing at the bottom of the banner reads the ‘still the enemy within’. This is a direct link to Margret Thatcher who was an enemy of trade unionism but it is also can be seen to be in connection with other cultural art forms that share the same topic. For example a documentary entitled  ‘Still the enemy within’ which also broaches the subject of the 1984-5 mining strike. The use of the same phrase for the same political topic could be seen as evidence for ‘tactical innovations and repertoire transformations’; this is when another group employs aspects used by one group (Taylor and van Dyke, p. 266).

By referencing combinations of groups that all make claims for the public’s well-being the banner can be seen as a visual display of a ‘social movement repertoire’(Tilly,2004,p.4). The social movement repertoire can also be seen through individual images that represent historical political phenomena such as rallies (Tilly,2004,p.4).  For example in the top right hand corner is a badge representing the National NUM is the National Union of Miners which is a long standing miners union that supports working class miners and their families across Britain. This along with the reference to the ‘Great Strike 1984-5’ that is written on the bottom centre of the banner can be seen as reminiscent of the Great Miners Strike of 1984/85 in which two miners David Jones and Joe Green died on the picket lines.

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