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See Red Women's Workshop was a screen printing workshop run as a women's collective between c1974 and the early 1990s. It was a radical campaigning and publicising organisation fully committed to the ideals of the second wave feminist movement.
See Red's activities included the designing and printing of their own posters and calendars, as well as taking on design and print commissions for other organisations. See Red developed a range of feminist posters that attempted to address different issues ranging from the domestic isolation of mothers and unethical marketing by pharmaceutical giants to racism in Britain and solidarity with anti-imperialist struggles abroad. The posters were distributed internationally both from the workshop and through alternative bookshops. They also gave talks and demonstrations on screen-printing. The group varied in number; overall 25 women worked at See Red during its lifetime. After working from home in the early days, the collective progressed to renting shared space with Women in Print, at 16a Iliffe Yard, off Crampton St, London, SE17. The workshop was initially run without grant-aid, and the women contributed up to three working days a week to the workshop while earning a living elsewhere. In the early 1980s the collective was supported by funding from the Greater London Council. This facilitated a move to new premises at 90 Camberwell Road, SE5. Women in Print (an offset litho collective) moved with them but folded in 1986.
The women were committed to the principles of working as a collective in spite of time and money constraints. They also saw themselves as accountable to the Women's Liberation Movement, and wanted to design posters that were cheap and therefore accessible. Initially they were keen to prioritise the strength of the message over slick techniques or beautiful art, making posters that served an urgent purpose that they acknowledged might ultimately be short-lived.
However By the mid 1980s more professional equipment and a change in ideas about aesthetics prompted this comment by the collective (Kenna et al 1986: 32):
'The posters have got slick and are getting slicker, we can use the fancy techniques of advertising and straight political campaigning groups to our own advantage so that the finished poster is comparable in quality and can compare with the media's printed matter (…). Standards have been raised in all printing works, and although there was a time when political posters were displayed regardless of whether they were well printed or designed imaginatively. as long as the politics were right, this doesn't work anymore. political posters have to look good as well, and with our hi-tech equipment we'll be raising our standards still more to match this current trend. the political poster has become less popular in recent years. we've seen a move away from the hard-line political (…) to more subtle images that are nicer to live with, yet are still saying something political. Every day we are confronted with images created by media folk with their clever designs that perpetuate views and stereotypes that society has about whole classes of people - Women, Black people, Homosexuals. Our posters help counteract those images and challenge the stereotypes in television, advertisments and magazines.
Ideally it would be more valuable and effective if our posters could be fly-posted, given freely, but loss of funding and the cost of running the workshop makes this impossible. Financially we are dependent on the sale of posters. We don't make a profit (…) we have to make compromises without losing our politics(…)'See Red
The Workshop finally closed in the early 1990s.
See Red Statement c1974:
'We are a recently formed group of women interested in visual aspects of the Womens Struggle. We want to combat images of the “model woman” which are used by capitalist ideology to keep women from disputing their secondary status or questioning their role in a male dominated society.
We hope to do this by putting forward a positive image of women by:
a) producing posters, illustrations, cartoons and photographs ourselves;
b) providing visual material for womens publications and groups;
c) collecting images past, present and future which indicate the position of women in our society today e.g. the everyday assaults of advertising, etc. We want to build up a collection of examples of the positive and negative aspects of the image of women for the use of any group, periodical or individual presenting a constructive statement on matters concerning Women's Liberation. We would like to receive any relevant images in order to operate an expanding and ongoing collection concerned with Womens Struggle.
Any women interested are welcome to come round and meet us and to use our facilities and learn printing methods.'See Red
See Red was one of the examples raised by Tory MP Richard Tracey in a commons debate on February 24 1984 as an attack on the grant-giving choices of the GLC:“It has been distributing £30 million in the past nine or 10 months to an extraordinary collection of groups (…) There was an interesting £9,060 to the Marx memorial library. I wonder of what interest that is to the people of London. I note that £6,902 was given to a very interesting organisation, Chile Democratico GB; £9,170 to the Liberation Movement for Colonial Freedom; £10,823 to See Red Women's Workshop; over £6,000 to South East London Women for Life on Earth; and £38,077 to the Campaign Against the Police Bill.” To see this quote in context go to: http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1984/feb/24/london-government-policy#S6CV0054P0_19840224_HOC_178
This section is for accounts and reflections, individual or shared, specific or general of see red women's workshop. As with adding content to any area of the site you will need a login to do this. This is very fast, just click on the login link at the bottom right of any page and it will take you to a dialogue box with a link to register - then you get a login.
Photo: Pru and Sarah at Iliffe Yard, SE17. Photo: Sarah in 'Fumes mask'.
Photo: See Red (Suzie, Sue, Anne and Sarah) at Iliffe Yard. c1982.
Photo: See Red (Yael, Sarah and Jess) at Iliffe Yard. c1983. Photo: See Red c1985
- Kenna, Carol; Medcalf,Lyn; Walker, Rick. (1986) Printing is Easy…? Community Printshops 1970 - 1986 Greenwich Mural Workshop pp32-33
- McQuiston, Liz. (1997) Suffragettes to She Devils: Womens’ Liberation and Beyond. Phaidon
- See Red interview (1980) Spare Rib. September 1980. Issue 98. pp52-55
- http://www.londonmet.ac.uk/thewomenslibrary/ Has a collection of See Red posters and small archive of papers
- http://www.grassrootsfeminism.net/cms/ 'Grassroots Feminism: Establishing a transnational community platform and living history archive'