Graphic commons: analogue community

Lostwithiel, Cornwall, (affectionately known as Losty by the locals), was the nearest town on our recent summer holiday.


As I have mentioned in a previous post I have an interest in noticeboards, and Lostwithiel has not one, but two that I could find. What struck me more than this though was that 2 noticeboards did not seem to be enough for its towns-folk. For on our first proper wander around Losty, every single telegraph-pole seemed to be adorned in posters of varying quality and displaying a cornucopia of events and information. These flyposters didn’t seem to be an alternative to what was on the ‘official’ noticeboards—in fact, it looked like there was a lot of repetition.


This saturation of the entire town is an act of dedication on the part of those doing the posting. And this analogue visual badgering demonstrates an endearing commitment to community spirit.


The need to post information in this way is understandable in an age of people wondering the streets staring into smart-phones. Such a bombardment may just wrestle attention away from screens, or at least catch someone’s eye on one of the few times when they lift their head to see where they are going.

Equally, it could help to serve an aging population who can’t always manage to walk to where ‘official’ noticeboards are, even in such a small town. Either way, like political posters of days gone by, it provides a vernacular insight into what is happening locally.


On a recent trip to Oxford I noted how colleges would advertise their cultural wares via posters pasted on portable chipboard panels. These temporal forms of middle class street art allowed mass communication without the fear of what may be deemed unsightly (and damaging) flyposters on the side of its historic buildings. There is an aspect of this in Lostwithiel as well, with locals respectful of the surrounding heritage resulting in colourful totem poles sitting comfortably alongside, rather than in obstruction to, its past.


It didn’t escape my attention though that the choice of location, the telegraph-pole, meant each set of posters sat below a yellow ‘Danger of Death’ warning notice. Depending on your point of view and level of existential angst, you can interpret this in different ways. For some, community events could be a fate worse than death for all their forced jollity and fun. For other’s though, living in a small town with limited transport may mean the risk of dying of boredom, and these offerings could be a social life-line. Regardless, that such mass-communication is happening on such a local and non-digital level visually depicts the town being in touch with itself, and in my view that can only help its social cohesion and provide a talking point while in the queue in the Coop.


Published by Nigel Ball

Senior Lecturer in Graphic Design

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