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Sew Solidarity Crew

Ed Hall is a 64-year-old retired architect. He's also a one-man factory of positive propaganda. If you're a facist, homophobe, warmonger or a heartless person with too much power, then it's likely Ed has socked it to you--with a banner.

Ed Hall is a 64-year-old retired architect. He’s also a one-man factory of positive propaganda. If you’re a facist, homophobe, warmonger or a heartless person with too much power, then it’s likely Ed has socked it to you—with a banner. Since working for Lambeth Council in the 1980s, Ed has made over 400 banners for causes he believes in. Every stitch he does himself at home and, even though sorting out the Gay and Lesbian Firefighters Union with polemic arts and crafts isn’t very profitable, he refuses to do commercial work. After a career in which he’s supported the unions against Thatcher and hoisted anti-George W. Bush banners up Nelson’s Column, Ed’s work is now being exhibited in proper art galleries. If you’re in China, you should visit the British Council’s art collection on display at the 2010 Shanghai Expo where Ed’s work is being shown alongside Bridget Riley and David Hockney. Anyone not in Shanghai who wants to see Ed’s work should probably go to any righteous protest happening anywhere in the UK. Vice: Is making banners the only thing you do all day?
Ed Hall: Well, I finished architectural work in about 1997. I was making banners before that, but I’ve been full-time since then. I probably make one a week these days. Who needs banners in 2010?
My bread and butter work comes from unions. Then you have people like Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Stop the War Coalition. I’ve virtually made all their banners. The problem is that they’ve got them now so, unless they lose them, they don’t need any more. Sometimes people want me to turn their old banners into tablecloths and things like that, which gives them a bit of a second life. How does someone get started on the road to banner-making?
I was a trade union rep when Thatcher came to power and Lambeth Council started a fully-fledged dispute with the government, so they needed banners and posters and things for the protests. I was an architect, so the drawing didn’t phase me. I also have had some background in painting, so I literally got it organised overnight. The art doesn’t really worry me, but I remember when Winnie Mandela opened up one of the Lambeth buildings, I had to do a portrait of her the size of a huge wall and I was very nervous about that. Sometimes the families of people who’ve been wrongfully killed ask me to do portraits of the victims, and that makes me a bit nervous. The banners look like they take a lot of time to make.
Well, a big one, that’s about 20 ft by 18 ft, would be about 150 hours’ labour. But it’s not intellectually demanding, it’s just sewing, so it’s not that hard. Ed Hall’s banners are on display at Shanghai’s Minsheng Art Gallery until March 21.