IS our collective well of imagination running desert dry? You might say you have seen so in the pages of the New Journal where the course of a ‘save the hospital’ campaign in 2013 will have appeared almost identical to a ‘save the hospital campaign’ from 2010. But you can really feel it elsewhere, as these pages have grown ill pointing out, in the endless merchandise and campaign tools employing ‘Keep Calm and Carry On… but with an unexpected twist’. The irony, as always, is that I’m usually calm when ordered to eat cupcakes or to follow the Arsenal, but not when the order begins with a demand to Keep Calm.
You can feel the slow emptying of the civil service ideas bank too in the chief pet hate of these pages: Politicians playing sodding table tennis with bewildered kids for two second photo-shoots to promote some sports funding. That’s a groundhog day nobody on newspapers, local or national, is ever going to escape.
And then, of course, there is the local authority press and marketing people who return endlessly to the idea of telling residents that they surely ‘love’ where they live. Hackney Council might just have been the first to launch such a campaign with their ‘I Love Hackney’ badges yonks ago. Fine, fair enough. Good idea – once.
It has, however, spread like nits in a nursery. We’ve been ordered to love virtually everywhere through a series of local authority campaigns. Love Croydon. Love Salford. Love Northumberland. I love Tottenham. LOVE EC1. Love it all. Love everywhere. Just look at the collage above.
Camden Council made a whole website out of the two words: Love Camden. It’s a debate for another day whether tax-payers want the council to run a listings service in a city where that information is already all around. You’d moan if we didn’t do anything to increase business in the borough is the usual response to that.
OK, so attempts to inspire community pride should not be met with waspish irritation, especially if it moves residents and businesses, and me and you, to make sure our corner of the world looks lovely.
But it’s not the motive or the good intentions of these campaigns which jar, it’s simply the repetition of the same slogans, a repetition which has the effect of pulverising all meaning to mince with each copycat logo. On and on and on, we see a heart emblem and the name of a place. Love. LOVE. AND LOVE AGAIN. If in doubt, it seems your local authority will start a ‘love’ campaign… and, boy, you better love your local area to feel part of it.
But why are these pages banging on with its own lack of imagination about this unsoothed groundhoggery of council ‘love’ campaigns yet again?
Left on a 143 bus this week, I found the Barnet Council magazine….