Brexit Suicide Float in Norwich
Theresa May Brexit Suicide float provokes mixed feelings in Norwich

Theresa May Brexit Suicide float provokes mixed feelings in Norwich

Brexit Suicide float arrives in Norwich

Brexit Suicide Float outside City Hall in Norwich, photo by Katy Jon Went
Brexit Suicide Float outside City Hall in Norwich, photo by Katy Jon Went

On the eve of BBC Question Time in Norwich, not just one political demo but two protests against the Government took place. One was anti-austerity/Tory and gathered outside The Open where filming was taking place.

The other was anti-Brexit whose centrepiece was a German carnival float with the sensitivity of a French Charlie Hebdo cover in the spirit of Spitting Image satire – how about that for European unity!

French artist but UK resident for 30 years, Laure Olivier Minns, drew attention to the sad state of the satirical statue, in an interview with the Norwich Evening News:

“Look at the state of her head already, it’s a sign that she isn’t strong and stable.” – Laure Ollivier Minns, EDP

Questionable Taste

Brexit Suicide Float in Norwich photo by Katy Jon Went
Brexit Suicide Float outside the Norwich Forum, photo by Katy Jon Went

The humour was not to everyone’s taste, and as someone who has experienced suicide attempts, I found the subject matter challenging. The image of Theresa May shooting herself in the mouth was meant to be about Britain committing political suicide by Brexit. Instead, the image was profoundly personal evoking strong reactions.

Perhaps, it should have been Britain shooting itself in the foot, rather than the mouth, it may even be seen as an own-goal. Some erstwhile Remainers refused to attend the rally as a result, others like myself had mixed feelings.

Brexit Suicide Float in Norwich photo by Katy Jon Went
Brexit Suicide Float going past Open and Anglia Television in Norwich, photo by Katy Jon Went

During the evening I had several conversations with passers-by about suicide but few about Brexit. One car driver stopped and said he agreed with what we were doing and supported Remain but having lost a family member to suicide found the imagery distasteful.

Another person found that it conjured up allusions of male-on-female violence. I critiqued that view and pointed out that male suicide by gun is a much higher figure than female suicide fatalities. Well, it created a debate, but perhaps not the one intended. Much as Antony Gormley’s recent rooftop-edge human sculptures up at UEA.

Laure defended the choice to bring the float to Norwich and use it as one expression among many of people’s feelings about Brexit. She said:

Brexit Suicide Float in Norwich photo by Katy Jon Went
Brexit Suicide Float: Laure Ollivier Minns, Katy Jon Went, Joan Pons Laplana L-R

“The message is clear: BREXIT IS TOXIC. And that I guess is at least something we all agree on. So this May’s float might not be everyone’s cup of tea in terms of ‘bad taste’ for some, however, I truly believe that it is so important for FREEDOM OF SPEECH to be respected and protected.

Visuals such as the float or other creative means like some ingenious cartoons show humour through carrying angry voices and it is a way to soften anger too strong for words and at the same time be totally spot on in delivering a strong message. Humour is so important to cherish and use through tragedies and political dilemmas to also lighten up the atmosphere. Likewise many creative placards that are conveying strong messages through cartoons of sorts, make an important impact in seconds and make people smile relating to that message or/and provoke a reaction. So what? I think it should. It is a way to be heard.

Brexit Suicide Float outside Jarrolds in Norwich photo by Katy Jon Went
Brexit Suicide Float outside Jarrolds in Norwich photo by Katy Jon Went

We can’t expect everyone to agree on each of those creative means to carry our voice forward and it does not mean that the placard of Billy-next-door is a reflection on what we all stand for. We all have our own individual way of expression, shared by other groups or not, and we should remind ourselves that we are marching for the same goal: Pro-EU / stop Brexit > which are both about MAKING OUR VOICE HEARD whatever slogan one chose or art form used.”

Nonetheless, the satire also made the point that most provocative art and humour do, that life is sometimes messy and uncomfortable, opinions differ and divide; it was certainly a talking point – whether it was Remainers shooting themselves in the foot with a tactless float, or Brexiters committing political suicide, we’ll have to wait and see…

Düsseldorf Carnival Brexit Suicide Float

The satirical Karneval float created by Jacques Tilly depicts the British Prime Minister with a ‘Brexit’ gun in her mouth first debuted Düsseldorf Carnival in February and was subsequently used by the Unite for Europe campaign and March 2017 events in the UK.

The float is currently on a British tour and arrived in Norwich on the same day as the BBC’s Question Time took place at The Open.

Satire or Serious Message?

Düsseldorf’s Karneval regularly features political satire but this year with Donald Trump, Netherlands’ Wilders, France’s Le Pen, Turkey’s Erdogan, along with Britain’s Brexit, there was plenty of material.

The stodgy stereotypical image of German humour is clearly way off the mark as these floats were right up Charlie Hebdo‘s street and could have walked off the Spitting Image TV set. Humour, like art, both protests and provokes. I hope the conversation shifts away from the rather visible satirical attack on Theresa May and instead remains about the political and personal damage that Brexit may do to European relations and EU nationals living here, as well as threats to Britain’s prosperity and cultural tapestry.

Norwich Anti-Austerity Protest

Vince Laws: Oscar Wilde, "Cripple the System" Quote
Vince Laws: Oscar Wilde, “Cripple the System” Quote

The serious message about austerity and cuts and their impact on the disabled, the poor, and the most vulnerable was also protested outside the BBC filming by Vince Laws, Jan McLachlan, Tim Hughes and many others.

“If the system cripples you, you must cripple the system” – Oscar Wilde

OK, so Vince made that one up, but the #fakenews quote got you thinking and googling its source! What Oscar Wilde did say was – “Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit”.

 

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