David Byrne's snapshots of UK police posters.

David Byrne's snapshot of a police poster in Newcastle, #2

David Byrne, Boing Boing hero, music legend, international art treasure, and patron saint of all that is wonderful in the universe, sends us these snapshots from the road. He says:

I've been enjoying the postings of terrorist alert, security and CCTV posters on Boing Boing. All Eyes On You was a lovely one!

here's one I saw on the road near Newcastle, where I performed the other night. love the "be taken down" in smaller type...I want one of these for my house!

en route to Liverpool

I've uploaded them to flickr: one, two.


  1. This isn’t an anti-terror campaign. It’s a public relations exercise by the Police called The Policing Pledge.

    From the Website:

    “The Policing Pledge is a set of promises to local residents that not only gives more information about who their local neighbourhood policing team is, but also ensures that communities will have a stronger voice in telling the police what they think is most important and what they are most worried about.”

    Obviously it’s failed to get its message across. (I noticed a poster in my ‘hood & crossed the road to see the small print as I thought it was some Police state style thing & wanted to check it out.)

  2. These ill-advised posters aren’t part of the antiterror campaign. They’re actually supposed to be advertising the police’s new “Pledge” to listen to the public and act on their concerns.

    Though rather than being reassuring and friendly, they just look intimidating.

    Apropos, I have my own poster at home in the Keep Calm And Carry On style, only remixed to honour Father Ted: “Down with this sort of thing – Careful Now”

  3. I was initially confused by the poster too, until I saw another one which said ‘you have the right NOT to remain silent’ and I read the small print.

  4. Who thinks these things up? “Policing Pledge” or “anti-terror”–the posters are always tone-deaf to the point of hilarity. Is this some sort of nefarious plot to get thinking people to ignore this garbage while getting the sleepwalkers to do governmental bidding?

    Tinfoil hat off.

  5. I saw a rather good poster placing yesterday.

    I was driving into Dewsbury West Yokshire, along the Wakefield Road when I spied one of those posters that say “No bomb has gone off here because the nation is busy grassing each other up” or words to that effect.

    The poster suddenly semed amazingly badly placed as Dewsbury is where nearly all of the July 7th London bombers are from

  6. a photo of DCI Gene Hunt with the tagline “you’re nicked” might have been less awful.

  7. If this is part of a campaign to help people it is a big FAIL because it totally comes off as ‘we’re watchin’ your ass!’


  8. I believe that the full phrase is “Anything you say may be taken down in evidence and used against you.

    Or don’t Britons have the right to not incriminate themselves?

  9. Heh, am I the only one who think it’s kind of neat that you can see David Byrne’s reflection in these?

  10. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this is a shot in the foot for the UK establishment.

    What we want is *more* vaguely sinister posters making people feel uncomfortable. Then perhaps people would begin to take these issues seriously.

    I wonder if we could raise enough money to do some of our own? The recent campaign of atheist bus adverts worked well enough…

  11. “Or don’t Britons have the right to not incriminate themselves?”

    Only when it comes to mob violence to the Google van in your nabe. Then you’re home free.

  12. The ‘be taken down’ part is presumably small because they’re trying to copy the original Keep Calm and Carry On design as best they can, and have put ‘be taken down’ in the ‘and’ position. Sadly, or brilliantly, this makes the poster as a whole quite confusing and gives the impression that the voice dictating it is constantly FLUCTUATING IN VOLUME for no apparent REASON. I’m going with brilliantly. What people who’ve never seen Keep Calm and Carry On think about it is anyone’s guess.

  13. So glad it’s not just me! I’ve been ranting about these for a couple weeks after I kept spotting them from the bus and getting freaked out by the apparently intimidating messages. Finally saw the fine print, but the messages still don’t make a great deal of sense even in content. Total fail from the Police, really stupid.

  14. Someone needs to start putting up posters directed AT the police:

    “Police officers,



    or photographed


    Get used to it”.

    I’m all for setting up an atheist-bus-like campaign to raise funds for these :)

  15. This just shows how far ahead of his time David Byrne is…after all, he wrote ‘Life During Wartime’ way back in 1979:

    We dress like students, we dress like housewives,
    Or in a suit and a tie
    I changed my hairstyle, so many times now,
    I don’t know what I look like
    You make me shiver, I feel so tender,
    We make a pretty good team
    Don’t get exhausted, I’ll do some driving,
    You ought to get you some sleep.

    Get your instructions, follow directions,
    Then you should change your address
    Maybe tomorrow, maybe the next day,
    Whatever you think is best.

    Burned all my notebooks, what good are
    Notebooks? they won’t help me survive
    My chest is aching, burns like a furnace,
    The burning keeps me alive
    Try to stay healthy, physical fitness,
    Don’t want to catch no disease
    Try to be careful, don’t take no chances,
    You better watch what you say!

  16. it’s actually a self portrait. look closely at the original image and you can see mr. byrne’s image reflected in the glass. also if you go to campaigns.direct.gov.uk/policingpledge/ there is a nifty gif image with this and 2 other calming slogans.

  17. @#5 Elvis Pelt: “the posters are always tone-deaf to the point of hilarity.”*

    Yes, but that always makes me wonder if there isn’t someone in their own design department (or in the company they hired to design the posters) with a really sneaky sense of humor. Something along the lines of “I bet that we can make this look like a prop from a film version of 1984, and I bet the police commissioner is so thick that he won’t notice and will approve it anyway.” Guerrilla Comedy from the police department’s own design team? I’m definitely down with that!

    Also, thanks to Freshyll for pointing out David Byrne’s reflection. That makes this image truly delightful!

    *On a completely unrelated note: Can anyone explain how to make those red quote things I see occasionally in boing boing comments for quotes?

  18. Usual suspect @ #10:

    No, we have no equivalent to the 5th – it was revoked about 10 years ago.

  19. As mentioned, it’s about the new pledge – kinda struck me as sad but funny that I started hearing new radio adverts saying that the police had pledged to listen to the public and take comments seriously. Funny in that they have to make an explicit pledge to do what I expected any company, never mind a public authority, to implicitly do.

    That they’re clearly based on the Keep Calm poster only heightens the irony.

    I’ve seen three variants in this set so far, dotted around Manchester (where we also have a rash of the new “FEAR EVERYTHING!” posters recently posted here):

    “Anything you say may be taken down and used as evidence,” shown above.

    “You have the right NOT to remain silent,” which was the first one I saw and which I first took as a campaign for some kind of public-awareness group. (!)

    And perhaps my favourite, for all the wrong reasons: “We’d like to give you a good talking to.”

  20. That looks very much like the Armstrong Vickers factory in that pic. Bah. Why didn’t I see David Byrne taking photos of our bus-stops?

  21. this for some reason reminds me of one of my fave movies ‘in the name of the father’
    David Byrne, you are bomb <3

  22. They need to happy-up people.
    Picture a clown with a big, toothy smile in a policeman’s uniform saying: “Talk to me. I’m here for you.” It would calm people down and give them a smile almost as big as his.

  23. I totally understand people who are sick of government intrusion and resent the police. But frankly… I think this campaign is actually really clever. Instead of putting up dull posters that say “talk to us, we’ll listen” – posters that would inevitably be ridiculed anyway as a pathetic outreach attempt – they grab attention by having a sense of humor and poking fun at themselves.

    If you really think these posters will be misunderstood by the general public, you may be insulting the public’s intelligence.

    It reminds me of the “outrage” over the New Yorker cartoon of the “terrorist fist-jab”… People who can’t understand irony shouldn’t ruin it for the rest of us. :)

  24. @ Beca #30

    I’d like to point out that Mr.Byrne is in fact NOT an explosive device, and therefore he should be free to travel (preferably in a red Chrysler convertible, wearing a stetson hat)

  25. IMO the poster ought to be taken down and used of evidence of odd taste in design.

    (The paper poster, not Mr. Byrne.)

  26. #10 The Unusual Suspect

    “I believe that the full phrase is “Anything you say may be taken down in evidence and used against you.

    Or don’t Britons have the right to not incriminate themselves?|”

    The right to remain silent, and the presumption that no conclusion may be drawn by the jury at a subsequent trial, no longer exists in British Law, after changes made by the party currently in power. You may remain silent, if you’re prepared to accept the consequences at your trial.

    The quotations in the annoying posters (and newspaper ads) are from a British police caution that is now obsolete.

    The principle of Habeus Corpus has gone as well, obviously. I can’t remember what the current period of arbitrary detention is.

    So has double jeopardy, and the principle that the police may not use provocateurs or entrapment techniques is also pretty much dead.

  27. This is a hilarious failed attempt at remixing the Keep Calm and Carry On posters, unless they were aiming for that trendy “police state” look we all love.

  28. Just uploaded a similar one I took on my trip to Australia recently. They were all over NSW and VIC.

    all too often those stylized maps of Australia end up looking like subliminal devil horns.

  29. Are people still denying they live in some Orwellian Police State? Why do people put up with this stuff? Why isn’t every single one of these (at least) spray painted over?
    Oh wait, the cameras, right.

  30. They put up one of the Terrorist Hotline billboards recently in my town. Three doors down from the local Muslim Education Centre & Mosque. I sigh. I shake my head. I wonder if it’s time to leave.

  31. #36 – The right to remain silent was not removed by the current gang of villains, but was part of the Criminal Justice Act introduced by the Conservatives. I knew I wasn’t going to get along very well with Labour when they left the CJA intact. Our two parties are unanimous in their contempt for the rights of the people.

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