A couple of months ago, seemingly out of the blue, I was invited to help out and work on our friends SY Mayoral candidate campaign. Having only just muddled through a real election campaign months before, I couldn’t believe I was being asked to be a part of this. Having worked with Rachael over the past 8+ months, I couldn’t think of anyone better for South Yorkshire than Rach. So I jumped right in and I was honored for the invite.
Rach’s chosen team was a small but powerful group of people. Wicked smart, and experienced in different ways (I am not included in this description lol). And then there was me. It was incredible to see, from the inside, the beginnings of a super fast turnaround the campaign. Rachael wrote speeches and we listened to them and offered feedback back. I wasn’t much use at this either, because I am really a newbie at figuring out the slickness of politics. Every-single-word-counts. Like a wordsmith, every word is chosen for it’s particularity. And as y’all know from my blogs, editing down isn’t my forte (feel sorry for my PHD supervisors, ha!). We had late night zoom discussions, making plans and trying to figure out challenges. It reminded me a bit of the energy of my first art degree. Where the optimism of youth, and a slight naivety, means you can dream big, and things that are quite difficult, feel tangible in ways that don’t happen as much as you get older for reasons unknown.
One of the challenges we had was to create policy offerings, ideas, visions. But also figuring out how to contact people and get it out there without spending much money at all. Because Rachael always acts with such integrity, we know just how hard it is right now for so many, and so she wouldn’t take any donations to the campaign and instead directed them towards local charities and organizations. Because that’s the kind of person Rachael is.
Last year I got Obama’s newest book for xmas and we watched the Obama ‘in pursuit of a more perfect union‘ documentary. For me I’ve been so interested in his background of community organizer, to a 1 term senator to campaigning for president and the process he did it in ( a very arty/creative, relational, person-focused, internet-propelled campaign).
I have a book I read before I started applying for my councillor shortlisting interview , called “They Said This Day Would Never Come: Chasing the Dream on Obama’s Improbable Campaign” which tracks years & strategies of a campaign through the voices of the people who made it happen. But it’s about so much more than one election. It tells a story about the power of everyday people to shape the course of a country and change the world.
There’s some tricks in that book, which I think National Labour (generally) needs to learn from TBH. But it is this relational, community-based thinking which is so powerful and underutilized. And I see Rachael very much as a community organizer and activist. Of diginity, equity, justice, compassion and diversity.
So when it came around to getting stuff out there, I knew I could be some help (at last!). Knowing our challenges of little cash flow, and little time, and covid illness. I knew we needed something different, something bright, something that stood out and had some kind of contemporary but youthful appeal.
I’m not sure what will happen to the materials we created for Rachael’s campaign – so it’s nice to archive them here for a future look back.
I designed Rach’s materials taking inspiration from civil rights posters and artworks from the time. Across activism materials, to artworks of the time – there was a certain colour palette and style of text layout. See below (some of my favourite paintings)
I took this inspiration and leaned into very instagramable space colours. For me it was important we had energy and urgency, that these choices did in fact link to a history (but only if you’re familiar with it OFC!) to justice. Of all types. When you’re in a crowded space, aiming at an exhausted group of people who are worried about a new more contagious variant of covid – any notice or dazzle or recognition is important. No matter how small.
A big part of being in South Yorkshire is we all believe we don’t get enough money/recognition/voice when it comes to regional representation. Place is important. And meeting people in places that aren’t usually covered or visited in election campaigns or otherwise. We know that in locality lies the potential of relational power and change. (It is infact, Obama’s original bread & butter – community and place is where change begins.) I wanted to make sure that the 4 areas of SY were always represented in all of Rach’s visual materials. In each poster or header or letter there was 4 colours. Often blocks of colour. With also the names of the places: Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield. It was important that people saw their space represented always. The text was always, abstractly, laid out in the order these places are on the map of SY too. So a mirroring of locality within these graphics. We could have used stock images of locations, but they’d be cliche or main areas. We wanted no one left outside of that vision.
Rachael very rarely has photos of herself in these materials, and that’s because for Rach, it isn’t really about *her*, it’s about SY.
I made sure that at no point does one colour overwhelm the other, but naturally I had to make the red colour central of sorts to at least hint at the Labour Party link.
If it was more normal times, and if Rachael had been chosen as the main candidate to run in the election in May. I envisioned these posters physically printed and flypostered across SY. in cafes, in toilets, on billboards. Like a music gig. We talked about hosting house/pizza parties. I’d bring my vinyl collection and we’d connect, debate, find out what people love and need. And build outwards like this. Covid makes this stuff very risky, and I want to protect as many people as possible. But I am going to do this for my ward generally, in a summer in the future, in a community location.
When it came to the website, it was important to me that it was fresh and attention-grabbing and you didn’t even need to leave the page to find out everything you needed. something people of all ages like.
We did everything so quickly so there could have been a bit more finessing on my part. There’s some colours/heading/spacing choices that irk me if I spend to much time looking. But it does its job. It’s a responsive site, so it means it adapts itself depending upon how you look at it: On a laptop, on a phone/ipad. Responsive, just like Rach >>>> https://rachael4sy.com
I’m not sure how long we will pay for this site to stay up but here’s some screen shots. It has animations, videos, responsive/shareable content for SM.
Even though Rach didn’t get to the next round, she got backed by the most CLPs and Unions, across SY in the first round. This is incredible. She got so many cool and meaningful endorses too. We had some incredible conversations, and we have the start of some amazing blueprints that I think we need to start adapting for Doncaster.
We talked at length about starting a podcast, where Rach would chat to people across SY about what matters to them & why; their hopes, issues, dreams, and plans. I think we should still do that, with an emphasis on the Donx. I imagine us turning this website page into a new space for planning radical, compassionate, community changing things.
Like the candidate herself, this process and campaign was above all about trying to deliver a message of hope and justice. Getting to know the people who across SY, and who put their lives on hold for the slim chance to make people’s lives better. it inspires one to hope that, just maybe, that energy and devotion can happen again across the UK, and not just at a local level.
I will, ofc, be supporting Oliver in the next round of elections. But I’m looking forward to seeing what Rachael does next.
For ever #MakeNoMistakeImWithRachaelBlake
Make no mistake, I’m with Rachael Blake.