Monday, 16 July 2018

When Trump came to London

Trump blimp, Parliament Square, London, 13 July 2018

When US president Trump came to London last week I found time to join the demonstrating crowds at Parliament Square. Like other demonstrations I have attended, it was impossible not to be drawn into its good-natured humour, and its combination of frank and understated responses delivered through banners and placards. There were a lot of people from the US attending too, from either side of the Trump divide, some hoping for his 2020 re-election, and some professing shame and embarrassment at what they see their leader as standing for.

I drew the scene, quite quickly, and posted it on Instagram, along with a simple description of where I was, and what I had drawn. I readily admit it isn't a great drawing – I found myself caught between two columns of marchers as they passed from Whitehall into the square, and so conditions were a little cramped – but in the spirit of the moment I shared it online within minutes of doing it. The symbol of the day, the inflated Baby Trump blimp, and the focus of my drawing, was more orange than I show it, but it had passed quickly, and was then lost in the melee. I had time for one drawing to capture the event, and this was it.

My Instagram images had never before been reposted by the official Urban Sketchers feed, and I had no expectation of this one being shared with its 155,000 followers, so it came as a surprise when it was. The response from my own much more modest number of followers was supportive and even enthusiastic. On the USk shared post it was less so. There seemed to be a feeling that while images of a political nature were fine for Facebook, Instagram was for drawings of a more refined nature. "Leave this shit to FB PLZ," and "If @urbansketchers starts getting political, I’m gone," were among the much-liked responses.  

I know perfectly well that my Trump blimp drawing fits exactly into the Urban Sketchers manifesto, so I make no apologies for that. And my drawing was free of any information about my own feelings about Trump, which I'll leave you to successfully guess at. I was most interested to find out that Instagram is considered a contention-free channel, and that Facebook is instead the place for the political stuff. (I'm on Facebook, mainly because I have overseas friends, and books to publicise, but I generally don't engage with it, particularly since its well-publicised record of carelessness with its users' data and involvement with Cambridge Analytica.) More than that, it was suggested by some that Urban Sketchers was not a place for reportage to be shared or reposted.

Most of my drawings are not overtly political, but the occasional one is. It would have been odd for me to have been in central London on Friday 13 July 2018 and not drawn the Trump blimp and the demonstration, just as it would have been weird not to have drawn the collapse of the wall in Berlin on 9 November 1989 or the Civil Rights march in Washington on 28 August 1963. Anyhow, here are a couple more politically related drawings of mine.

Downing Street, London
Anti-Muslim travel ban march, Whitehall, London, 4 February 2017

Jeremy Corbyn arrives at Union Chapel, Islington on the eve of the 2017 General Election

I'm off to pack for Porto now.