Local and national action in Bristol over the last month. The battle against corporate advertising continues whilst Bristolians have been showing their support for the RMT strikes.
Saturday, June 25, saw hundreds of people march from Temple Meads to Castle Park in support of staff from the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union on the picket line.
Even the annual May Day march struggles to draw quite as many unions as were present at the demo. Unite, Unison, the NEU and PCS were all present, as were supporters from the likes of Bristol Transformed, People’s Assembly, Stop the War and XR Bristol.
The magic of RMT boss Mick Lynch has taken effect in Bristol. Radicalism was coursing through the crowds at the demo as speaker after speaker railed against the failures of the current capitalist system and called for something new.
RMT regional organiser for south Wales and west, Brendan Kelly, drew a large cheer from the crowd when he said: “We want to be in solidarity with care workers, health workers, local authority workers, civil servants and private sector workers as well … We all demand a pay rise, and actually if we all synchronise our actions on the same day, hey ho, we’ve got a general strike, haven’t we?’”
Support for the RMT strikers has been impressive throughout the week. The strike action over the next few weeks by nursing staff at St Monica’s Trust in Westbury-on-Trym will be the real test of whether that backing can persist when the action is local and not making the national news every day.
Meanwhile, the perpetual threat of corporate advertising continues to raise its ugly head.
May ended with the disheartening news that Clear Channel UK, an outdoor advertising company, had submitted a jaw-dropping 86 planning applications for new digital billboards across the city.
Local campaigners Adblock Bristol were quick on the case and began a call out for people to object to the proposals, even making an interactive map of each application with links to object.
Dozens of objections have now been logged, but sadly two of the new billboards were this week granted planning permission. We wait to see how many more will follow.
Such a volume of applications is unprecedented in Bristol and demonstrates just how eager advertising companies are to plaster our public spaces with their propaganda.
A glance through the city council’s planning portal shows the alarming frequency with which applications for new billboards are made by the likes of Clear Channel, JCDecaux and Global.
Last month an application was made to erect a third digital billboard over the M32, even as Adblock are pushing to have the existing two taken down after the damage they cause to residents was made clear.
There is good news, however. Plans by Network Rail to install a digital billboard on Cheltenham Road were thwarted by residents who submitted a whopping 400 objections. It just goes to show the power people have if they choose to wield it.
These two struggles show the reality of the cost of living crisis. Billionaire bosses take home exorbitant pay packets whilst telling the rest of us to accept pay freezes, even as they fill our public spaces with a dystopian haze of adverts telling us to buy crap we don’t want or need and can’t afford.
But we also see avenues of resistance made possible through collective activism. Whether objecting to a digital billboard on your street or joining a picket, we can all make a difference if we keep fighting.
All images © James Ward.