Ed Hall makes protest banners about sex workers’ rights, trade unions and austerity cuts.

Sewing Symbols, United Kingdom

“British history, like all nations’ histories, is full of stories of very simple people who have stood up in a brave way with very little support. They’ve said ‘enough is enough,’” says 67-year-old Ed Hall from Blackheath, UK. “Those are the images I like doing best.” One of Britain’s last traditional banner-makers, Hall takes up to 150 hours to hand-stitch each two-meter standard with satin lettering and elaborately painted scenes or portraits. But the very details that slow him down make his banners quick to spread – Hall’s distinctive aesthetic draws in the cameras at demonstrations: “I can watch the six-o’clock news and completely unexpectedly, one of my banners comes up.”

Over the past 25 years, Hall has been commissioned to sew more than 400 banners with slogans from “Save the Hospital” to “Sex Workers of the World Unite.” In September 2013 alone, his banners were waved in London at a demonstration against British military intervention in Syria, in Manchester against government cuts in social services, at trade-union festivals all over the UK, and at the British Pavilion of the Venice Art Biennale in Italy. But celebrity hasn’t corrupted Hall: “I turned down [a commission from] a Maoist organization that advertised wars in Tibet. And I wouldn’t make a banner about a right-wing organization – they’ve got enough friends.”



From the pages of COLORS #88 - Protest.