Show: Rotherham Is the New Berlin logo. Article.
Tell: “The slogan has so far featured on a t-shirt, in numerous articles and as many other places as we can put it. Visually, it resembles the Wasted German Youth brand from Berlin. Although starting out as being slightly tongue in cheek, it nonetheless represents a feeling we held towards Rotherham, and other northern towns in general, having worked across the north for a couple of years.
“Such places should be there for the taking, places in which you can be creative and fulfil your own, or a project’s potential. They don’t need to be marked out as creative towns and cities for creativity to happen there. We chose Berlin in this instance because it’s the kind of default post-traumatic, urban renaissance exemplar. But those attributes aren’t unique to Berlin; it’s just a really fucking good city.
“One of our collaborators on Article, Peter Martin, was running an The Old Market Gallery in Rotherham for a few months last year, which had funding to occupy a huge empty retail unit. On talking to him about this we became fascinated with Rotherham. It’s a big, big town that really has little identity left. Other than some real negatives such as reportedly the fattest people in Europe, most average town in Britain (courtesy of Everytown author, Julian Baggini) and the setting for Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food.
“Being so close to Sheffield, it’s also lost all its chain shops and has a radically diminished occupancy rate for retail. There are no cinemas. So you can get a shop for £5 a week, or take over a huge unit, or paint on whatever walls you want. In Peter’s own words ‘Rotherham is there for the taking.’ Sheffield artist Phlegm worked there and painted half the town.
“We thought about this situation, got the idea and wanted to put it on a t-shirt. We put it out online and it sold out in days, so at the moment we’re on the second print run in new colours. More importantly though, we wanted to try and animate this idea by getting it out there as far as possible. Its major reference is to one of our most frequent gripes – excessive and/or ill-conceived civic branding. We think that images and proposals for cities ought to be made by the people that live there.
“That could be seen as hypocritical, because we’re not from Rotherham, but it’s not actually meant to be a brand. What we want is for this to inspire stories, new works, or make even a few people consider that Rotherham has infinite possibility. We’ve heard some good stories from people who’ve bought the shirts. One man said he wasn’t allowed out of his local in Rotherham until he’d explained to everyone what it meant. In a friendly way, I think. He’s still alive to tell the tale.
“We’d like to follow it up with a publication based in Rotherham, or turn it into an event there. So, maybe if you say it enough, it will come true.”
Words by Alasdair Hiscock, Editor of Article.
Info: Article is a free art and culture magazine based in Sheffield and distributed across the north of England. It features essays, photography and new work on art, urbanism, architecture, film, music and ‘culture’ in general.
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