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Why Rothco and Daintree Turned Homophobic Lies into Wedding Confetti


Shane O’Brien on a project that’s all about positivity ahead of Ireland’s same-sex marriage referendum

Why Rothco and Daintree Turned Homophobic Lies into Wedding Confetti

On 22 May, Ireland takes to the voting booth. Not to elect a new president or even a raft of local councillors, though. The May referendum will allow the people to decide whether to legalise same-sex marriages. Dublin-based agency Rothco and stationers Daintree have teamed up to raise money and awareness for the ‘Yes’ campaign. Their project ‘A Shred of Decency’ came about when extreme elements of the ‘No’ campaign started spreading lie-filled, homophobic propaganda filled with shocking statements like, ‘Jimmy Saville, Glitter and Harris all propagated homosexual “marriage”’ and ‘homosexuals will contract cancer earlier in life’. In order to remove the hate from the debate, they gathered up as many pamphlets and PDFs as they could and turned them into confetti – which is now on sale in the Daintree store and online at LBB’s Laura Swinton caught up with copywriter Shane O’Brien, who initiated the project with art director Stephen Rogers.

LBB> How did the project come about?

SO> The whole thing started very simply with Stephen, the art director, and myself. He’s done some work for LGBT organisations before and he went to our MD, Patrick Hickey, and said ‘I’d love to do something on this on behalf of the agency’. Patrick really got behind it. There are a lot of gay people working in Rothco and there are a lot of people with gay family and friends so it’s something that really matters to us. 

LBB> And the confetti idea in particular?

SO> Quite a few times in the past few months, some absolutely atrocious pieces of literature have cropped up written by these odd bodies in the No campaign. And they’re not representative of the whole No campaign in Ireland, they’re an extreme version of it. It’s terrible, they’re upsetting and they’re making the whole debate around marriage equality more hostile than it needs to be. It was out of that idea that the thought of shredding the pamphlets and selling it as confetti and to put the profits back into the Yes campaign came about.

LBB> Why was Daintree, a stationery shop in Dublin, the perfect partner?

SO> Daintree have an unusual history in that their previous owners were quite religious I think, and they took a stance against stocking anything that related to gay marriage 9 There was a big media furore about it and the shop eventually had to shut down and was sold. The new owners had a completely different opinion and reinstated all the old products but didn’t get the same press when they restarted the business as they did when it was shut down. 

We thought it was an amazing opportunity for them because it was a chance for them to say ‘this is who we are and this is what we believe in now’. And so we knew this would be more interesting coming from them than coming from an ad agency and we wanted this to get the maximum exposure that it can because we really would like it to have an impact on the debate. We want to remove all negativity and lies and offensive material from it and make it a reasonable and responsible debate. There doesn’t have to be hurt feelings or anything like that. Let’s just remove all the lies and the hate and let these people express themselves and what they believe in.

We’re not aiming this at everyone in the no campaign or anything like that. We’re very clearly in support of the yes campaign but this is about removing hate and lies from the debate and our partnership with Daintree came from that. 

LBB> It’s quite a bold stance coming from an agency, isn’t it?

SO> I’m not sure I can speak for the whole agency but from my experience it’s an open place and it’s an accepting place. We went to talk to Patrick about it and he was absolutely fearless, he felt that it was the right thing to do. It’s a wonderful thing for us. Myself and Steve probably wold have done stuff outside of the agency anyway but it’s great that our place of work supports something like this. It’s very bold and brave to do this in Ireland and if you met the guys around the agency you’d know they’re bold and brave guys.

LBB> The main thrust of the project is about positivity and turning hatred and lies into something worthwhile. How did that inform the approach you took in terms of design?

SO> This is about marriage equality but it’s ultimately about weddings. I got married 18 months ago so I’m up to my eyes in that stuff – I’m very familiar with that world. There’s a very obvious visual style that came to us. This is about putting it in terms of imagery that people can really relate to and also taking inspiration from the style of the sort of things that Daintree produces. 

The film is all about paper and tactile material and that kind of thing. For us there was an obvious place to go. There’s a wonderful designer in Ireland called Heather Judge who helped us with the design of the actual products. For us it was about making the lies into something beautiful.

Steve will probably kick me for talking about visuals but in my eyes that’s how it came about!

LBB> What was the production process like?

SO> It was all done in Daintree because ultimately this is what they do; they have all the facilities. We had a big after-hours gathering and began shredding and bagging it. It was great. 

Usually, as an agency, the production gets farmed out but this is a pro-bono project and it’s also a cause that people really want to help with and give their time to. We’ve had no shortage of volunteers. 

Initially we gathered as much material as we could. Some of it came from the Internet as some of the groups operate online, so we took some of their PDFs and turned those into confetti. Basically we did a big print run and a load of people from the agency – and family and friends – and people from Daintree with their family and friends got together in the shop and we blitzed it all in one night. 

We made the first run of 500 bags of confetti and then as we find more material and as the campaign hopefully grows we’ll do another run early next week and produce as much as we can to make as much money as we can. If people keep producing this material we’re going to have to keep responding to it. The idea is that we’ll come to a point where we don’t have any more materials because we’ve removed them from the debate.

LBB> It’s a project that strikes a chord both in Ireland and internationally – in the US the ‘Religious Freedom Restoration Act’ in states like Indiana show the battles against homophobia and for marriage equality are far from over.

SO> I think it’s one of the divisive issues in the world today but we’ve got a unique opportunity in Ireland in that we actually get to vote on it. We’re one of the very few countries in the world that’s been able to vote in referendum on the subject. At the moment all the polls are saying the motion will pass but I think there’s a slight feeling of terror that the polls might not be accurate or that it might not happen. I think for all of us it would be a terrible blow if it didn’t pass so there’s a real movement to make sure that it does. The image of Ireland aside, it’s something that means a lot for me personally; I’d love to attend my brother’s wedding.

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Categories: Retail and Restaurants , Retail Stores

LBB Editorial, Wed, 08 Apr 2015 15:21:42 GMT