Exploring ‘Austerity Nostalgia’

Seven years or so since it first appeared it seems ‘that bloody sign’ is still with us.┬áSome time around 2009, soon after the banking crisis, a stark poster featuring the words ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ set in a Gill Sans-ish typeface, topped by the Royal crest, began to appear here and there.

The poster’s revival, which was first published in 1939 by the Ministry of Information to stiffen resolve in the event of a Nazi invasion, was intended as a gentle visual gag, a semi-ironic invocation of the wartime ‘Blitz Spirit’ in response to troubled economic times. But as the severity of the recession became clear, the joke spread, everywhere. A year or so later the ‘Keep Calm’ design and related wartime iconography was a gift shop staple, adorning mugs, stationery, tea towels – the list is exhaustive – and had helped kick-start a full blown revival of the early modernist aesthetic of the 1930s and 40s.

Owen Hatherley’s The Ministry of Nostalgia is a witty, exasperated and ferociously well-read exploration of the ‘Austerity Nostalgia’ phenomenon and its politicisation, with parties of both the left and right drawing upon competing mythologies of wartime Britain to support their respective positions towards today’s austerity.

Read More


Star Wars: The Force Awakens – a review

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is arguably the most keenly anticipated film in movie history.

Though Return of the Jedi, the final episode of the first Star Wars trilogy, was released more than 30 years ago the colossal cultural impact of George Lucas’s space opera continues to resonate.

Lucas saw his 1977 original as a 20th century fairy tale set ‘A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away’. The imaginary world sketched by that first movie has gone on to become something much more, acquiring the status of a modern myth. It is scarce exaggeration to say that just as past generations drew on the imagery of Homer, the Bible and the Arthurian legends, Star Wars offers a mythology for millions today. Those three movies have seeded a vast self-contained universe that continues to grow exponentially through thousands of spin-off books, websites, fan movies, computer games and conventions.

Read More