Community Spirit

A new exhibition at londonprintstudio celebrates the legacy of its forbear, Paddington Printshop, an independent, artist-led community resource that created vibrant posters and prints for a range of social and political causes. Here, founder John Phillips shares the story behind five key posters from the show...

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Founded in 1974 by sculptor John Phillips and teacher Pippa Smith, Paddington Printshop was a community-focused independent printworks, where a group of young artists and activists came together to create aesthetically striking, socially-aware works of art and design for the benefit of local and international causes.

From their base on Marylands Road, the Printshop team were responsible for creating some of the most vibrant activist posters of the 1970s and 80s – targeting causes from housing and workers' rights to racism and the rise of the far right – and their work addressed issues that affected the diverse, bohemian and often extremely deprived neighbourhoods of their locale. This engagement with local communities, which often involved residents getting involved with the design and printing process, would go on to influence many other community-driven arts projects across the country.

This month, works from the Paddington Printshop archive are on display in the gallery of londonprintstudio, a not-for-profit organisation that grew out of the Printshop, in Posters from Paddington Printshop 1975-90, a celebration of its legacy and distinctive visual approach. To coincide with the opening of the show, we asked John Phillips to select five key posters that shed light on what Paddington Printshop was all about, and tell us more about the stories behind them...

Meanwhile Gardens Bonfire...

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In 1976, local sculptor Jamie McCullough approached the council with a plan to turn a small strip of wasteland into a temporary public park. Paddington Print Studio worked with Jamie to publicise the idea, establish a trust, raise funds, and employ a workforce to realise the project, and once complete organise and promote public events there. Forty two years on and Meanwhile Gardens remains an important West London feature of the community. This screen-printed poster, from 1978, was created for the gardens’ first major public event. The lettering was created by writing with a sparkler.

Paddington Campaign Against Racism

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Once poor and overcrowded, Paddington attracted successive waves of migrants. In the summer of 1977, the National Front, an extreme right wing party, began leafleting the neighbourhood. In response, a group of local residents commissioned a poster campaign with the brief to 'create an authoritative image announcing that any visiting fascist will face serious opposition'. This one colour screen-printed design was flyposted widely around the neighbourhood, and the NF left us alone.

ASS Benefit

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In the late 70's, industrial decline was accompanied by a marked increase in property speculation, and the growth of a widespread squatting movement across London. The Advisory Service for Squatters established an 'alternative estate agency’, listing attractive properties available for immediate occupation. This screen-printed poster, for a benefit to support the agency, was created from images that were themselves 'squatted' by taking a camera into a major bookstore and surreptitiously photographing images from the books.

We're a Little Worried About our Landlord

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In 1986, Westminster City Council's conservative leadership decided to sell social housing stock to private developers. The sell off was to begin with the 1000 housing unit estate where Paddington Printshop was also located. This poster comes from the successful campaign to oppose the sale, and is part of a poster series that underlined the ferocity of local opposition to the council's plans. After a six year struggle, the residents established their own housing association, took control of the estate and exposed the Council's Homes for Votes scandal - an illegal policy of gerrymandering - selling off council housing in order to manipulate the borough’s voting demographic for which council leader Shirley Porter was eventually fined £12.3m.

Bitter Fruit

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During the era of Apartheid in South Africa, Outspan was the principle export brand for oranges. The brand became a focus for a boycott of apartheid goods in Europe. Consumer boycott was at the heart of anti-apartheid campaigns, and the anti apartheid movement regularly updated its lists of South African brand names, asking shoppers to ‘Look at the Label’. This poster seeks to undermine the Outspan brand by appropriating the logo and associating it with a censure of the regime.

Posters from Paddington Printshop 1975-90 opens today and runs until 30 April at londonprintstudio – for more information, visit their website.