Lisa Markwell: Never fear, a wartime slogan's here

From 'Keep Calm and Carry On' to 'Dig for Victory', we cling to old advice

Share
Related Topics

It's the revival of the moment: the wartime slogan "Keep Calm and Carry On", which is adorning everything from mugs to babygros. We know life is tough, it says, but we're not going to let it get us down.

Indeed, because the poster has succeeded in doing exactly what its original Home Office creators wanted – reach the masses – the revived version is in danger of losing its cachet. Yesterday it came free with one newspaper, and one could almost hear the early adopters ripping theirs down off the kitchen wall.

But hold on: let's not chuck out the whole wartime slogan shtick just yet. Cool-headed directives might be just what we need, rather than clever-clever viral adverts and YouTube manifestos. Our conflicts may be within our own borders but the messages could not be more prescient. In fact, if you look closely at the Metropolitan Police's latest press campaign it craftily uses the font and layout of that 1940s poster to encourage us to give them information about suspicious activity around us. "We'd like to give you a good talking to," it says. Only the red background has been changed to blue.

The whole thing is supposed to instill a wartime sense of community – and they might actually be on to something. Wouldn't we all feel safer if we read, "Your courage, your cheerfulness, your resolution will bring us victory" emblazoned on the back of a bus – and then lived by those words?

"Dig for Victory", of course, chimes beautifully with the mood of the times, to say nothing of our sister paper's campaign to get children growing their own vegetables. With waiting lists for allotments at an all-time high and seed packets more collectable than It bags, it seems that we've all woken up to the idea of providing for ourselves, even if it is only a few tomatoes and some knobbly carrots. Victory from the supermarkets' stranglehold on us is as appealing as victory over rising food bills. We're all digging in.

And I'd be happy to be reminded of the Royal Navy's 1940s slogan, "The Signal is Save" when reaching for my purse. I suppose it's too much to ask for Visa or Mastercard to redesign their plastic with that graphic on the front...

Then there's "Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases". Perhaps it's not quite snappy enough to be framed and displayed, but who could argue with that message right now? Anyone with the temerity to sneeze on a train or aeroplane today without catching it in a tissue can expect a Bateman-esque shrinking back of horrified onlookers – and the enforced application of anti-bacterial hand gel and a sachet of travel hankies.

If we've learned one useful, non-sensationalist piece of information from the swine-flu feeding frenzy, it's that germs live on hard surfaces for ages, and that it's deeply grubby to sneeze into your hands and then open doors or grab handrails or push lift buttons is grubby.

The economic downturn is already resulting in less glossily ostentatious advertising on the television and on posters across the country. Wouldn't it be marvellous if it was replaced with gung-ho rallying cries for community spirit and sensible spending? I, for one, would be happy to "Lend a Hand on the Land" if I thought it was neighbourly, rather than a cheap way for the local council to clear scrubby fields.

But if there's one wartime slogan that the most embattled of us all, Gordon Brown, must hope will catch on, it's this: careless talk costs lives. Are you paying attention, Hazel?

l.markwell@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

LSA (afterschool club) vacancy in Newport

£40 per day + Travel Scheme : Randstad Education Cardiff: The Job: Our client ...

Trust Accountant - Kent

NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: randstad education are curre...

Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: You must:- Speak English as a first lang...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: low pay, E and non-E online, and the pointlessness of chess

John Rentoul
 

i Editor's Letter: There's a crackle in the Brum air

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style