Last week 6 billboards were felled in Bristol
We are Bristol residents, sick of advertising hoardings making a mess of our streets, cluttering our skylines and blocking our views. Bristol residents have complained for years about these billboards, erected against our wishes but the Council won’t listen. We are taking non-violent direct action to tear down and remove unwanted billboards from our communities. Last night we removed six of these eyesores from Bristol
Walk through the streets of Easton, St Paul’s, Bedminster and St Werburghs and you find hundreds of these monstrosities on every main road, selling us cars, beauty products, credit cards and soft drinks. But how many billboards do you see in Clifton where the ad execs live? They are happy to litter our communities with their vulgar images but they won’t have them in their own backyard.
Adverts play on our hopes, fears and insecurities to serve just one purpose - to sell us products regardless of how much we really need them. They use irrelevant imagery with no connection to the product they are selling. Look at the current Coca-Cola and Mars adverts, using England flags throughout the World Cup to create the illusion that to buy their product is in some way patriotic. What do a fizzy drink and a sugary chocolate bar have to do with England’s success? Absolutely nothing but the admen and the corporations are making a killing from it.
If it’s not our nationalism they capitalise on it is our insecurities about our image. They realise that if we feel inadequate we’ll buy products to make us feel and look better. They use images of airbrushed models to reinforce gender stereotypes; to the adman you‘re only a woman if you’re stick-thin, have a big chest (if not you’ll need to buy a wonderbra), a pink mobile phone and covered in designer makeup. Likewise you are only a man if you are toned, tanned, wear Calvin Klein aftershave and Dolce & Gabbana and drive a bigger, faster car than other men.
As the Council continues to allow companies to erect billboards it continues to clamp down on “anti-social vandals” who spray “graffiti”. However often graffiti is the only option, the only way alienated individuals can express themselves in our society. What is commonly called “art” is in reality elitist, confined to sterile galleries which only display work from “artists” privileged enough to go through art school, only to be viewed by those who can afford it. The real vandals are the advertisers who erected these billboards without our permission, often without even planning permission.
Wouldn’t it be better if instead of these ugly billboards our public space was used for art, for people to be able to express themselves with beautiful and challenging images, words and sculptures rather than for images aimed only at making more profits for fat cat shareholders? "