Imagine! is now in its fifth year of bringing people from all walks of life together to talk about (mostly) small ‘p’ politics. It’s clearly not our business to tell people what to think or how to think it, but we do like to believe that we’ve been reasonably successful in facilitating discussion and debate, and encouraging new thinking about the issues that affect everyone in a huge way. So, with that in mind, what was this poster malarkey all about…?
Essentially, the whole point of our election poster campaign was to stimulate even more discussion – this time in public. We’d envisaged that they’d encourage debate on subjects like:
- How do we all feel about local politicians and the job they do? Especially when there’s been no functioning government here for over two years.
- Is it reasonable to tar all politicians with the same brush?
- What kinds of people become politicians and what are their motivations?
- At election time, do people actually pay attention to political advertising?
- If you always vote for ‘your side’, are you asking enough about candidates before you give them your vote? What do you actually know about them and their ability to represent your interests?
This last point was perhaps the most important: in a post-conflict society like Northern Ireland, we thought it would be interesting to ask people to examine what kind of political culture develops over time when many voters have been simply voting for ‘their side’ for decades. What consequences does this have for our ability as a nation to govern ourselves effectively and fairly?
It’s been interesting to see where people have gone with this across the various social platforms and how they interpreted the messages on the set of posters. Generally, reactions ranged from comments suggesting that the campaign was simply encouraging people to examine their chosen candidate a little harder before casting their vote, right through to guesses at which dark forces were behind these obviously machiavellian voter suppression tactics. For your further reading enjoyment, we’ve included some social content highlights below by way of illustration.
The spoof political posters around Belfast are the election equivalent of “it’s really more of a comment than a question”— Sarah Laverty (@SarahLaverty1) March 26, 2019
What are you actually contributing?
Have seen these all over Belfast today...I get the point they make but I also kinda think whoever’s able to afford to print and place so many across the city should try putting their own name on a poster and stand for election. Taking a swipe at politicians is easy. https://t.co/ypB75NGSal— Fergal McFerran (@FergalMcFerran) March 25, 2019
I think it sparks interest as to what a good politician looks like and to really think about your vote. Good for canvassers to get asked proper questions— Laura Michael (@LauraJMic) March 29, 2019
I applaud any initiative which tries to make us think again about our voting decisions— Fergus Cooper (@fergusfcooper) March 29, 2019
These are great! Anything to get both voters and politicians encouraged to open up rather than rely on simplistic, historic narratives that anchor communities in the past.— Save Maghera Park (@SaveMagheraPark) March 29, 2019