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THE Paddington Printshop in London has been in existence for well over four decades and its enduring survival is best testimony to its continuing relevance to the locality it serves.
Throughout that time, it’s been at at the centre of many communal initiatives, political battles and long-term struggles in the north Paddington neighbourhood, one the most culturally and ethnically varied in the capital.
Assisting with housing, racism and migration campaigns, agitating, educating and organising has been its staple and posters one of its weapons of choice — not surprising, given that its chief facilitator John Phillips is an art college graduate.
He wears many hats — community activist, educator, graphic designer, printshop co-ordinator, exhibitions curator and, since the early 1970s, a live wire in the neighbourhood.
His book is a pictorially evocative testament of the struggles of a community that wouldn’t allow its aspirations to be shunned or its cohesion and determination deflected or trampled upon.
The posters have a unifying graphic energy and a clear sense of purpose, despite the differences in style and ability of individual designers — its colourful mosaic is joyous and confident.
Phillips’s The Landlord is perhaps the most arresting and muscular — reminiscent of the Polish poster school of the time — and his Rotten Apple delivers a succinct public information message on sanctions against apartheid South Africa.
Pippa Smith’s Another Empty Home is an unerring exposé of Westminster Council’s failed housing policy, while the epigrammatic element enlivens the anonymous Women’s Festival 1978.
Simon Fell’s hilarious Workshops in Photography, Smith and Jay Talbot’s poignantly laconic Happy Xmas or Phillips’s advert for the local Steel ’n’ Skin reggae combo all catch the eye.
But no activism is worth its salt without letting its hair down. Hence a dragon gets into the festive mood in the anonymous Summer Festival 1982 and Joe Strummer announces The 101ers’ weekly gigs at The Elgin pub — a nostalgia rush to soften the heart of the hardest barricade minder.
And there’s a corresponding verve in the agitprop design of the book by John Morgan studio which, echoing the spirit of the times, is spot-on.
Posters from Paddington Printshop by John Phillips is published by Four Corners Books, £15.
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