Reuniting the Kingdom: How creatives tackled xenophobia in the wake of Brexit vote
The wave of hate crime that followed the European Union referendum is being met head on by a number of campaigns and initiatives showing solidarity with immigrants. The Drum takes a look at how creativity is battling xenophobia and racism.
‘Go Home’, ‘No More Polish Vermin,’ ‘White Zone’. You would be forgiven for thinking that these were lifted from dusty posters belonging to a bygone era, but these were just some of the straplines printed on leaflets and posters and stuck to buildings in the aftermath of Britain’s exit from the EU.
Reports of hate crime soared by 57 per cent in the wake of the Brexit according to the National Police Chiefs council. Incidents included, but were not limited to, racially motivated assaults in Derry and London, as well as stickers proclaiming a ‘white zone’ around the La Pasionara memorial in Glasgow – a monument dedicated to volunteers killed in the Spanish Civil War.
Not content to stand back and watch a minority of people capitalise on the knife edge referendum that divided the nation at the polling booths, inventive individuals and organisations rolled up their sleeves and decided to target xenophobia and racism using the power of creativity.
From a humble safety pin to a cross-country dating site, the post-Brexit climate galvanised a variety of ideas that sought to combat bigotry.
The modest safety pin was adopted by anti-racism campaigners the day after the referendum as a symbol of solidarity against racism and xenophobia.
Kicked off by a Twitter user known as Allison (aka @cheeahs), a US native living in London, the initiative encouraged people to wear an empty safety pin on their coat to let fellow members of the public who found themselves subject to abuse or attacks know that the person wearing the pin was a ‘safe’ ally.
The campaign was inspired by the viral #IllRideWith you social movement against Islamophobia following the 2014 Sydney shootings and went viral with many people on Twitter and Facebook sharing images of their own pins.
“It’s simple because you don’t have to go out and buy it, there’s no language or political slogans involved. It’s just a little signal that shows people facing hate crimes that they’re not alone and their right to be in the UK is supported,” says Allison.
Nothing Without EU
Two students from the School of Communication Arts have been working on a project designed to “spread some love in a funny way in unfunny times.”
Katy Edelsten and Chloe Cordon have created idbenothingwithouteu.co.uk to match up British passport holders with EU citizens living in the UK, with the hope that some of the matches will lead to marriage and allow non-citizens to stay in the country.
The site allows people to sign up free of charge and search for ‘the one’ depending on their residential status within the UK. When connected, the hopefuls can private message and arrange a date. The creative duo say they hope that the project will help singletons develop lifelong partnerships.
“We study in a really diverse, multicultural school, which has benefitted us as people in so many ways,” says Cordon. “When we heard the result of the vote, there was a lot of uncertainty among our friends, and we really wanted to do something about it.”
Graphic designer Jon Richards wants to “replace hate with hope” by paying for billboards and ads (pictured right) to help spread positive, funny and kind messages throughout the UK and online.
With help from his brother Paul and friend Dan, the trio are using their skills to offer an antidote to the post-Brexit bubble.
The creatives have set up a non-profit organisation called CAREmongers to help spread positivity everywhere from train stations to Twitter, and have launched a crowdfunding push on JustGiving to pay for the ad space they intend to fill with feel-good messages.
Richards asserts that every time he saw the news in the days after the referendum he felt “powerless”.
“I felt like I wanted to do something. Then I suddenly realised that there is something you can do,” he adds, saying that the name was chosen as an antidote to the ‘scaremongers’ that dominated the debates around the EU referendum.
Another love-centric idea, dating app Remainder was created for the 48 per cent of voters – who voted Remain – left “heartbroken” by the EU referendum. The brainchild of two anonymous “ordinary voters” who said they wanted to “cheer everyone up after a dismal day,” the Tinder-style website encourages users search for a significant other to lament over the result with.
It’s still early days for the app, which claims to have attracted thousands of subscribers, but a push for investment on CrowdFunder has garnered several backers to help cover the cost of developing the platform.
In response to the spike in hate crime across the UK, JustGiving is setting out to profile acts of kindness and anti-racism taking place across the country via an interactive online portal.
To do this, the chartable fundraising platform is asking the general public to help create a map of the #KindUK online by sending examples of acts of goodwill that they have seen or been part of. Users can send their submissions via Facebook, Twitter or email and each time a new one is added a purple heart appears in the location of the occurrence.
Alice McCool, who is heading up the scheme, told the Independent that it “shows local communities mobilising against racism, people offering direct support to victims following hate crimes, and those reaching out to people they have never met,” via grand and simple gestures.
This article was first published in the 17 August issue of The Drum.