Banners, bunting and bags – an Olympic lesson from Barcelona

Barcelona: Greetings from Catalonia, where the sun is shining and all the neighbours want (above) is a quiet neighbourhood. I’m here putting my feet up, watching bands, reflecting on a busy few months and escaping the jubilee. Apologies if you’ve sent me an email in the past week or so; I’ll be back in touch once it’s safe to return.

Actually, London’s got a little bit more in common with Barcelona this summer. We’ve got an Olympic Stadium too, as well as a cable car. And we’ve a hell of a lot of bunting. Greenwich, Woolwich and Eltham town centres have been decked out with “royal Greenwich” banners since the winter, while if you’re sharp-eyed, you might have spotted lamp posts across London have been set up to carry Olympic banners. Take a look at Charlton Village, or Blackheath Village to see what I mean.

All this vinyl costs a fair whack. We know the “royal Greenwich” banners cost £41,400. Each of the 32 London boroughs is getting £50,000 each for those Olympic banners.

But is there a way to make some of the money back? They love these banners in Barcelona too, and they also get some of their outlay back from visitors like me. A couple of firms get old banners from the adjuntament and others, and make them into wallets, bags, cases and key-rings. Take a look at Vaho and Demano, the two biggest sellers of these bags. The photos above were taken in Vaho on Friday.

They’re not cheap, either – but they’re hugely popular. After all, there’ll only ever be a limited supply of these bags, depending on how many banners were made. Other shops commission artists to paint or spray on the bags, guaranteeing a true one-off. You can even buy chairs made out of the banners. If they’d make a proper travel bag to replace my falling-to-bits one, I’d cough up for one tomorrow.

So, with a thriving cultural community in SE London, how about we take a leaf out of Barcelona’s books? It’d be great to see Greenwich steal a march on City Hall and show the way – it’s something that promotes both good design, and helps cut the costs of making the streets look better.

And for tourists, it provides a classy souvenir to take home – much better than the t-shirts depicting a stick man farting that pack all the tat shops.

Although, for jubilee weekend, this caught my eye… see you when it’s over.


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