Dec 31 2011: Forty-Four Advertising Images from Nottingham Student Rag Week Magazine (1988)

Rummaging at the Colwick Market the other week, a chap with a house clearance stall called me over as I was fishing about in some boxes of old magazines and pressed a 1988 student rag week magazine into my hand, free of charge: he’d remembered a conversation a month or two earlier when I’d mentioned my interest in old advertising images from Nottingham, as documented in a previous entry here, featuring material culled from a 1960s Nottingham Playhouse programme, and in the original Lost City feature here, gathered during a residency at Nottingham Contemporary earlier in the year – that is, 2011, the year whose ending this post accidentally marks.

What’s interesting in these advertisements is the drop in design standards from equivalent local productions of earlier decades: bespoke design has been largely abandoned in favour of a riot of standardized layouts and bad off the peg clip-art. Perhaps even more interesting, as noted in the spreads of Australian advertising from 1971 featured yesterday, is the archaeology of the culture of their particular moment that these images contain. Looking at them now, among their pages of poor (and often more than somewhat sexist and racist) jokes, their cheap paper and couldn’t give a toss design, the whole ethos of the 1980s itself – that dire interregnum between the final defeat of opposition with the ending of the Miner’s strike in 1985 and before the downfall of Margaret Thatcher herself in 1989 –  is contained in aspic.

Why else is a student rag publication offering space to arms dealers, as in the advert placed by Auto Alloys (with its dreadful Mexican cannon cartoon), alongside the last gasp of the milk round (with the Co-Operative and Northern Dairies – soon after this, the inbuilt recycling system of the morning delivery floats would be ousted by the supermarkets’ expansion and plastic cartons), both embedded in a mix of still-surviving enterprises (Nash Interiors and Rock City, to name two) and long-gone obscurities (Nutz Hair and Stump Clothing, anyone?). Oddest of all is the Lincolnshire-based RLP Marketing, with their ‘make your business stand out from the crowd’ tagline, rather sadly expressed in an advert that fails abysmally to stand out in any way whatsoever from those around it: if RLP are still going today, there’s either no justice or no accounting for taste.

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