You may have been strolling unwittingly through the streets of London, Dublin, Cambridge or even the fields of Glasto and come across something rather peculiar: council-branded “crack and heroin” zones. Well, In case you hadn’t guessed, they’re not actually council-approved. These intriguing phoney council-branded posters have been put up by a group of youth-led guerrilla artists called Pattern Up. But what’s their mission?
Pattern Up is an urban activism group; the collective regularly takes aim at recognisable British brands as a means to get more eyes on social issues we should be paying much more attention to.
The group’s latest evocative work involves plastering fake posters around Camden, North London, which promote so-called “crack and heroin” zones. These were created to advertise Pattern Up’s latest exhibition, Ad-iction at Camden Open Air Gallery, which show reimagined versions of The Sun and ads for William Hill and Burger King, all with the aim to open up frank conversations around media disinformation, corporate exploitation and the impact of drug laws in the UK.
The posters featured local council branding and a clear message: “The sale and use of crack and heroin is permitted in this area.” Before hitting London, the posters popped up around Cambridge’s city centre in January, at Glasto in June and last week, alongside fellow activist-artist called SpiceBag, in Dublin.
Camden Council rushed to say they were “definitely fake”, while Cambridge City Council said that the signs were “clearly fake” and they were “disappointed” the collective had put them up. In Dublin, a Sinn Féin councillor was pretty furious over the debacle kicked off big time on The Tortoise Shack.
As a result, the stunt got people talking about the war on drugs and how it does more harm than good, which was exactly the aim of the project. So, touché to Pattern Up. While the government keeps cutting public services that help people suffering from addiction, continually criminalising and socially excluding them instead, they’ve brought these glaring issues to the fore.