Anarchists & Underdogs | Images of Social & Political Graffiti in the UK.

By Paul Wright

Long before the days of social media and online petitions graffiti has been used as an expressive display against the corporate and political powers that be.

When I say graffiti, I don’t mean the multi-coloured three dimensional ‘tagging’ and artwork that you see aside canal towpaths and scrapyards, I’m talking about early graffiti, hand written messages and slogans written by anarchists and underdogs across the county.

I picked up a couple of books on this subject ‘The writing on the wall’ by Roger Perry and ‘Graffiti’ by Richard Freeman. These books show a number of early images of graffiti dating from the 1960s through to the 1970s, a long time before the Bronx and subway inspired art reached our shores. Amongst a number of nonsensical written messages and slogans, there are pictures of graffiti which addresses racism, capitalism, greed and inequality, all daubed across the walls and bridges of our inner cities and suburbs.

These images got me intrigued and made me want to dig deeper and seek out more images of this nature. A high number of the images I came across were taken during the turbulent Thatcher years, where tensions were high and the disenfranchised expressed their anger and feelings towards the Tory government and authorities of the era.

There is something about the images below, a bold statement that makes you think deeper about the message being put across and what became of the people who wrote them.


‘Black is Beautiful’ Moss Side, Manchester, 1969. Photo © Michael Ward
‘No Nazis in Bradford’, 1970s. Photo © Don McCullin
‘Eat The Rich’ Notting Hill, 1977. Photo © Roger Perry
Dalston, 1978. Photo © Alan Denney.
‘I Fought The Law’ Ladbroke Grove, London, 1977. Photo © Roger Perry
Notting Hill Gate, 1974. Photo © Roger Perry
‘Dada Is Everywhere’ Malden Road, Kentish Town, 1974. Photo © Roger Perry
‘Strike A Body Blow to Capitalism’ Kings Cross, London, late 1970s. Photo © Roger Perry
‘All Submission To Authority Humiliates All Exercise Of Authority Perverts’ Clapton, North East London. Photo © Roger Perry
‘Words Do Not Mean Anything Today’ Chalk Farm, Camden, 1975. Photo © Roger Perry.
Elgin Avenue, London, 1970s Photo © Roger Perry.
‘Anarchy Lives’ East London, 1976. Photo © Judy Greenway.
‘We Want Decent Housing’ Hackney, 1970s. Photo © Unknown.
‘4,000,000 Unemployed, Thatcher Is Guilty’ Brixton, 1984. Photo © Mark McNestry
‘Don’t Cry For Me Maggie Thatcher’ Isle Of Dogs, 1980s. Photo © Unknown.
‘Wake Up Maggie’ Merseyside, 1980s. Photo © Unknown.
Thatcher Is An Android, 1980s. Photo © Unknown.
‘Scargill Rules’ Taken during the 1984-1985 Miner Strike, Easington Colliery, 1984. Photo © Unknown.
‘Why Vote? Anarchy’ Toxteth, 1960s. Photo © Unknown.
‘Free Kuwait with Tiger Tokens’ Hulme, early 90s. Photo © Richard Davis.
‘Snort Cocaine For Kicks/Fight Racist Scum’ Hulme, 1985. Photo © Unknown
‘Pigs get the f*ck outta here’ Hulme 1980s Photo © Richard Davis.

‘Ouch!! I’ve Been Hit By The Poll Tax’ Hackney, 1990. Photo © David Corio

It’s Grim Up North, M1 Motorway, circa early 1990s. Photo via KLF online.

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10 thoughts

  1. Great photos. “I can’t breath” actually does read “I can’t breathe”; the “e” is on the adjoining wall!

  2. Scargill rules photo looks like a Keith Pattinson photo. He did some great stuff around the miners strikes in the north east. Just found this archive.Superb.

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