Before there were memes, there was Leeds Postcards

Co-opted imagery, controversial taglines, and a penchant for provoking politicians – Leeds Postcards could be the original meme-maker. A new book celebrates the publisher’s legacy of visual activism

The name might conjure images of holiday greetings, but Leeds Postcards is anything but. Founded in 1979 by Richard Scott, the company co-opted the mainstream appeal of these pieces of print and used them to do something far more subversive. These “graphic agitators”, as Craig Oldham calls them, have spent nearly forty years pushing the political agenda, using their postcards to support everything from women’s rights to nuclear disarmament and the miners’ strike.

Leeds Postcards, published by Four Corners Books and edited by Oldham and Christine Hankinson, documents the publisher’s history of activism, and its blend of blunt imagery and dark humour – something that resonated with buyers, and allowed Scott to turn it from a hobby run from his front room into a fully fledged business. The publisher partnered with organisations including the CND, the Campaign Against Arms Trade and the Minority Rights Group, among others, to create graphic statements that raised awareness and campaigned for change.

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