Election special

Remember when things could only get better? Neil Smith and Sharon Clampin can. They look back at their time working with a relaxed, raven-haired Gordon Brown and a precocious David Milliband at Millbank Tower on Labour’s 1997 election campaign. Below is some of the work we produced (as part of the GIANT team) during the campaign.

downing_st

Mandelson (doesn’t) take the biscuit
We’re in a design studio in Wapping – it’s the early hours of a Tuesday (or was it Wednesday) in 1996. The artwork has to go to print now if we’re to meet the launch deadline. We’ve got Peter Mandelson and Pat McFadden and half a dozen Labour policy wonks in our meeting room, putting the finishing touches to the ‘Road to the Manifesto’ document – Labour’s dry run for the real thing the following year. One of Mandelson’s flunkies appears at the door “Do you have any biscuits? Peter wants biscuits”. “Ok, we’ll see what we can do” I say. Sharon offers to go into the Wapping night to find Custard Creams. Nowhere is open, not even our local garage. She comes back empty handed. “We have a slice of bread left from this morning – we can toast it, although we’ve run out of butter” she says. It’s 1996 and we’re doing our bit to help Labour end 18 years of Tory government.

Pushing Prescott around
It’s now early 1997. We’re in a rented photography studio in Kennington. The Labour Party have hired war photographer Tom Stoddart to shoot portraits of Blair and Prescott. I’m there to direct the shoot, and to make sure we get plenty of usable pictures for the various publications we’re working on. We’ve got 30 minutes. Tom and I are up on a mezzanine shooting down at Blair, who is reaching up to shake my hand. This is the picture I want for the front cover of ‘YOU (deserve better)’ magazine that we are designing for the Party. I get the picture, although most of the pictures on the roll look like Blair is doing a slightly camp Nazi salute. We lock these pictures in a drawer in case the press get hold of them. The second shot involves Blair and Prescott together. They stand facing away from each other. I ask Prescott to turn towards Blair. He turns the other way. I say “No, rotate clockwise, and move closer to Tony”, he says “Bloody ‘ell, just come and put me where you bloody well want me”. I grasp his shoulders and yank him towards Blair. He doesn’t punch me, and we get our picture. I shake Blair’s hand and say “Good luck Tony”. He smiles, and says “Thanks”.

Labour You magazine

Moving to Millbank
In the final couple of months before the May ’97 election we move a small team of designers and artworkers into a corner of Labour’s Millbank HQ. We design the newLabour newBritain logo. We churn out manifestos, leaflets, magazines, flags, badges, stickers, caps and anything else that can be branded New Labour. We get bored of red and start using purple. Everybody loves it. We start work on the main manifesto and they need a family to appear on the (Tory-sounding) ‘We will strengthen family life’ page. I volunteer mine – hoping the press don’t decide to come sniffing around my bins. Our lycra-clad artworker, Alan, points out to David Miliband that there’s no mention of cycling in the transport section of the Manifesto. Miliband says “Well, put it in then”. We did.

Festival Hall
The night’s going well. I’m standing in front of a huge screen at the Festival Hall surrounded by party workers and celebrities (although the only one I recognise all evening is John Peel). David Mellor has just lost his seat – look at his face! Portillo loses his seat now! How we laugh and cheer. D:Ream, the second rate dance band with the astrophysicist keyboard player, arrive on stage and remind us again that things can only get better – they certainly do improve when they finish playing. We stagger bleary eyed onto the terrace to greet the dawn and to greet Tony, who’s just flown in from Sedgefield to shake our hands. I cross Waterloo bridge in the sunshine and head for the District line. London has never looked better.

The Honeymoon years
I’m standing in the Lobby of number 10 next to a mountain of photographic equipment. It’s a few months into Blair’s premiership and he’s still popular (he hadn’t declared war on anyone yet). We’ve been retained as Labour’s designers, (originally as GIANT, then as Howdy) and have been asked to produce the centenary brochure for the NEC (Labour’s governing body) which involved getting a portrait of Blair at his desk in Downing Street. While number 10 is surprisingly grand and cavernous, the prime minister’s office is a slightly tatty and disappointing room set just off the main cabinet office. The Oval Office it isn’t, although there is a red telephone on the PM’s desk with ‘Washington Hotline’ dymo labelled onto it (I kid you not). Do you think Clinton had a London Hotline phone on his desk? I think probably not. While Blair is in the next room sorting out the Troubles with David Trimble, I’m doodling a very childish and quite obscene picture half way through his note pad. I often wonder if maybe he was on that Washington Hotline, a few weeks later, when he turned the page to reveal my ‘art’. Maybe it brightened up his day – maybe one of his office cleaners or ‘interns’ got fired. Guess we’ll never know.

The Prime Minister's office in Downing Street

The Prime Minister’s office. Neil and Jocelyn Hillman, Labour’s communications manager

Howdy Christmas Charity Emporium

Howdy’s 2014 has been notable for two major events, one good, one not so good. We celebrated our fifteenth birthday this year, which was good – and Howdy partner, Sharon, was diagnosed with Epilepsy, which is not so good, although she sometimes refers to it as Leprosy*, which would’ve been worse.

So, we’ve decided to clear out 15 years worth of junk, flog it on Ebay and donate the cash to the Epilepsy Society. This also gives you the opportunity to bag some unique gifts, like a 15 year old packet of quick drying cement, a nearly-complete roll of Police incident tape or a copy of Labour’s 1997 Manifesto (which we helped design).

boiler_suit_SOLD

Boiler suit, Large, used
The last time this was worn was 15 years ago by Neil, when we painted our studio and it’s never been washed! Ideal gift for someone who may wish to give the impression (to a new partner, for instance) of being a somewhat messy decorator or an abstract impressionist painter.
Sold for £14.50

creative_review SOLD

Set of 11 Creative Reviews from 2000, used
Design/Advertising journals including features on: Peter Saville, Designers’ Republic, Pentagram, Martin Parr and many more.
Sold for £2.99

Police_tape_SOLD

Roll of Police Incident tape, partially used
We acquired this for a Design Council, Design Against Crime project. Could be used for guaranteeing a parking space outside your house, or for reserving a spot on a crowded beach, for instance.
Sold for £1.45

Eurotape

Eurotape 500 metres
This is ‘The world’s best barrier tape bar none’. Handy if you have a large crowd to marshall, or a sink hole to cordon off.
Sadly this didn’t sell!

Quick set cement

Quick setting cement 2kg (nearly), opened
No idea why this is in the cupboard, but it’s an ideal gift for anyone who needs to repair any masonry surface – even underwater, according to the packet. Small amount used.
Amazingly this didn’t sell so contact us privately to negotiate a good price.

Don_McCullin_SOLD
‘Cold Heaven’ exhibition catalogue signed by Don McCullin
A catalogue for the exhibition of Don McCullin’s photographs of the AIDs crisis in Africa. Designed by Howdy and commissioned by Christian Aid.
Sold for £25.00

Labour_manifesto1997 Labour Party Manifesto
Bag this historic political document. Howdy partners, Neil and Sharon, were part of the team that produced this document at Millbank Tower in 1997.
Sold for £1.99 

cables

Cambridge Audio Atlantic interconnect cable
Whether you’re listening to Slade or Handel this Christmas, this interconnect will make your stereo sound fab.
Sold for £6.00

Door_closer_ribbon

Spring door closers, unused
As it says on the pack, this is ‘The best way to close any door’. Despite the deceptive name, it’ll close doors all year round too.
Sold for £5.51

Speaker_mounts

AVF Speaker Wall Mounts, boxed, unused
We can’t think of a more perfect gift for someone who needs to mount their speakers on the wall.
Sold for £7.55

printer_3

Epson Stylus Pro 4000 inkjet A2 printer
We bought this for producing high quality printed presentations. These days we tend to project from PDF files and as a consequence this printer has sat idle for the past 2-3 years resulting in clogged nozzles. These will need cleaning or replacing. It comes with a selection of paper rolls too.
Sold for £155.00

grip_seal1

100 Grip Seal bags, new
It’s gripped, it’s sorted, let’s off-road!
These remain unsold – anyone wanting any grip seal bags please get in touch – we have a lot!!!!

Bulbs

4 x 60w daylight simulation light bulbs
Ideal for confusing moths. (Not recommended for vampires or badgers.}
Relisted so you can still snap these up – bid here.

Singleweight_matt_paper

Unopened box Singleweight Matte printer paper
From back in the days when we ordered in bulk, yet more excess stock, no longer required given we’re selling the printer – see above.
Sold for £5.60

heat_lamp

Philips InfraPhil infrared heat lamp
Sore leg? Ingrowing toenail? Egg-bound? Buy this heat lamp – it’ll cure the lot.
Sold for £1.20

playing_cards

‘Greek lovers’ playing cards
Whist drive a little listless? Take inspiration from these pornographic playing cards and turn it into a full-blown Tuesday morning greek-style orgy.
Sold for £9.45

Maracas

Maracas
We’ve no idea where these came from, but we found them in a magazine holder. Great balance and rich tone. Ideal for beginner to intermediate level maracas players.
Sold for 99p

laptop

G4 Powerbook
Our trusty ten year old Powerbook. It’s a bit dented and the Apple key is wobbly, but it still works and comes with the original system installer disks and charger cable.
Sold for £39.89

Sales currently total: £449.31 (updated 4.30pm 5 January 2015)

Some people have very generously expressed an interest in making a donation to the Epilepsy Society without having to buy any of our old tat – hard to believe I know. Consequently we have set up a Just Giving page so please click here if you would like to make a donation.
Donations currently total: £200.00 (updated4.30pm 5 January 2015)

*An unexpected side effect of Sharon’s epilepsy is that she frequently mixes her words up, often to humorous effect.