Five vintage slogans that have new meaning today

01st September 2022
Catherine Lofthouse

Heading through the Revival gates, one feels an instant sense of being transported back in time. From the hum of the classic cars to fellow revelers in their finest vintage attire, right down to the signage around the site, there’s a sense of simple times (albeit just a weekend) ahead.

While, in ‘real’ life, it's easy to get muddled by the multitude of messages bombarding us from all sides nowadays, the clear and concise slogans of wartime propaganda – some of which can be spotted at the Revival – could be just the ticket for inspiring a new generation to keep calm and carry on. And it's not just the message of resilience behind the much-quoted saying from 1939 that seems apt today – some of the well-known phrases from the era are ripe for revival, too. Here we take a look at just a handful of some of the most memorable messages of the past through a new lens…


Dig for Victory

In October 1939, the Ministry of Agriculture launched the Dig for Victory campaign. By 1943, 3.5million allotments had been created. As supply lines into the country were cut by German bombing, parks, gardens and open spaces – even the lawns at the Tower of London – were turned into vegetable patches to provide the population with fresh produce. People on the home front were urged to grow their own by mascots Potato Pete and Dr Carrot.

In recent years, there's been another bumper crop of gardeners and allotment holders keen to pay homage to all that is home-grown as interest in organic and seasonal produce has put down roots. Cutting food miles and plastic packaging, each new dig is a win for the world. It's no wonder the Victory Garden on Hurricane Lawn proved a popular addition at last year's Revival, so do pay it a visit this year. 


Make-do and mend

In the face of rationing for clothes as well as food, the government’s Board of Trade gave official support to a Make-Do and Mend campaign from the autumn of 1942 onwards. Housewives were encouraged to reuse and repair clothing they already owned using household skills such as darning and sewing.

With growing concern over the environmental impact of fast fashion and the working conditions of those producing clothes, thrifty threads from charity shops, online auctions and vintage sales have enjoyed a comeback in recent years, while groups like knit and natter aim to encourage people to take up their needles once more.

This year’s Revival Make do and Mend area will be bigger and better than ever with plenty of workshops and guest speakers, so channel your inner thrifter and come along.


Keep Calm and Carry On

As war loomed in 1939, almost 2.5million copies of the Keep Calm and Carry On poster were printed that summer. But after being kept in storage, they were pulped in April 1940 as part of a paper salvage campaign. The slogan was criticised at the time as patronising and divisive.

In the early 2000s, a poster that had survived the scrapheap was discovered in a bookshop and the phrase captured the imagination of a new generation, with its message of positivity and resilience.

Dr Agnes Arnold-Forster, historian of modern Britain, says: "A lot of these posters were never used during the Second World War. They give us a fuzzy feeling, but that's a projection of things we feel about today onto the past. There's a sense of survival, that other people have lived through these terrible experiences."


Coughs and sneezes spread diseases

This slogan was first used by the USA during the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918-1920, but was adapted by the British Ministry of Health in 1942 to encourage good hygiene in workplaces and on public transport to prevent the spread of germs.

Ripe for reinterpretation in recent times, Dr Arnold-Forster says: "We had a very similar message to control disease during the pandemic, for all the medical progress and innovation that's happened over the years: ‘Hands. Face. Space’ – a very simple solution which remains relevant decades later. There's also the need to think collectively about the impact of our actions on others, regardless of when in history we're talking about."

The test of time

Not all the propaganda of the past translates into the present, but the slogans that have stood the test of time tend to have a spirit of sustainability, whether it's recycling materials, repurposing land or reminding us of the actions we can all take for the greater good. It’s poignant to think that these messages are as relevant today as they were then.

Discover how to bring the make do and mend spirit into your lifestyle more here.

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