The spirit of London

Joseph Maduma
August 15th 2011

Well what a last seven days it has been if you are a Londoner, or indeed live in England. It’s been a week that has shocked, angered, saddened and forced us all to ask some very difficult questions about where we are with our society today. I myself was in Camden on Monday night when the riots broke out and witnessed first hand the mindless devastation and sense of fear that the rioters created on the streets of London. The news has done a more than adequate job of reporting the riots and you can’t pick up a paper or switch on the TV without hearing stories that further deepen the sense of crisis. So I am not going to dwell on the negative here on Good Design, instead I am going to focus on what I can only describe as the true ‘spirit of London’ that emerged and managed to shine through as a beacon of hope amongst the chaos.

Social networking has been put under a negative spotlight in the media, in relation to the riots, as it was reported the rioters used networks such as Facebook, Twitter and BlackBerry Messenger to organize themselves and stay ahead of the police. This has lead to investigations into powers to enable police to inflitrate and deactivate the accounts of suspects in the future. However, there has been a flip side to this. Whatever your opinion about how and why these riots happened there is no debate that the scenes of the past week have painted a less than favourable image of London to the world and thousands of Londoners have been outraged by the actions of a few tainting the names of many. Using sites such as Facebook and Twitter inspired individuals have used a mixture of social media and iconic design to create grass root campaigns and movements that channel this anger and passion for their city in a positive way and are helping to rebuild and rebrand London into the city we all love and our proud of. I found the speed at which these campaigns were created and the way they have managed to capture the public zietgeist both staggering and inspiring. They have managed to bring a sense of unity and hope out of all the uncertainty and despair and have made me proud to call myself a ‘Londoner’. I think one of my favourite quotes by designer Brian Collins sums it up best in this case “Design is hope made visable”.

Against London Riots


This campaign was set up using Twibbon, a website that allows anyone to create a campaign using social media on an issue they are passionate about. An individual or existing charity simply upload’s an identity/logo to represent their cause and then anyone can add that image to their Facebook or Twitter profile picture as a ‘Twibbon” to show their support.

Keep Aaron Cutting

The Spirit of London Cover

Set up by interns at ad agecny BBH, this is a genuinely heartwarming demonstration of the power of social media as a force for good. Aaron is 89 years old, has lived in Tottenham for 41 years and spent decades building his business in the community. On the Sunday morning he arrived to find the shop completely trashed. He couldn’t afford the repair bills and it looked like his only option was closure. Amazingly in the space of just a few days this campaign has managed to raise £35,000 for Aaron to rebuild his shop! Phenomenal.

Operation Cup Of Tea


This started as a Facebook page created by . As a young person himself Sam wanted to show that he was not taking part in the riots and give others an opportunity to show they weren’t either. He posted that at 8:30pm he would have a cup of tea, take a picture of him drinking it and upload it to the. He invited other people to do the same and see who would join him. By the time it hit 8:30pm he had over 100,000 members. He now has over 350,000 members and turned the Facebook page into a charitable website where people can still upload photo’s, donate and even buy Stay In And Drink Tea branded tea (with all proceeds going to help the rebuilding of the riots)! How about that for social entrepreneurship!


Riot Cleanup

Riot broom 1
Riot Broom 2

Opperation   was started by artist Dan Thompson. By 10am Monday, the tag was the top trending topic in the UK, and the second worldwide. Celebrities such as Steven Fry and Simon Pegg helped to retweet it and get the word out. His twitter account now has over 85,000 followers and people showed up in their thousands to clean up their communities. He said he took to Twitter to encourage “proud Londoners” to get out and help “reclaim their streets”.

These are the campaigns I have come across online over the past week. Truly heart warming stuff i think you’ll agree! However if you have come across or do come across anymore yourself, please feel free to add them in the comments section.