Designer for ‘Fighting Sus: Riot, Rebellion & Repeal of the Sus Laws

Front cover of Talking Blues (1978)

Front cover of Talking Blues (1978)





Design brief for Fighting Sus


Why was a Victorian vagrancy act, intended to prevent ‘begging, showing wounds’ and ‘telling fortunes’, used to criminalise minority groups in the 1970s and 1980s? Who brought a stop to it? Who is under suspicion today?

On the Record are seeking a design partner to help them to create a publication, website and learning resources for Fighting Sus: a youth-led performance and oral history project recording the history of the sus laws and related campaigns up to the repeal of sus in 1981.


Aims for Publication:

 The key purpose of the resources is to share the history of the sus laws and their relevance to policing today in a variety of formats, accessible to a wide audience including young people, community groups, teachers, school students and researchers.

We are looking for a designer who can provide overall project branding and layout of the items listed below.

Leaflet & programme

A promotional leaflet for the project’s final performance (scheduled 1 September 2018) for print and digital distribution. A simple programme for the performance event (1 two-sided page/poster) (incorporating one of the artworks produced) to be readied for print.

Print Publication

Participants would like this to have a “strong visual message with use of photography, graphics art work, drawings, eye-catching colour inspired by 1970s zine style”. The publication will showcase participants work as well as provoking and exploring discussion about issues of policing and racism in the UK today.

The publication (an A5 booklet of around 20-30 pages) will include illustrations (provided by a graphic novelist) of the oral history interviewees, biographies and key quotations to make the knowledge and perspectives of older generations available to younger people often facing similar struggles today. The publication will also include young people’s responses to the history in the form of poetry, short stories, collages, reflections and archival research generated by participants in an intensive creative training programme in summer 2018.

Project Website

The project website will be a platform to showcase the project and research. It will need to follow the same visual style as the publication and have space for information about the project, downloadable PDF learning resources, a short film of the project performance (provided by a professional artist) and be accessible and functional.

Digital Learning Resources

The project learning resources will include PDF lesson plans and related resources (PPTs, Short video clips) that can be downloaded from the website for use in educational settings ideally in zip files. The Learning Resources will follow the same visual style as the publication and the content for each will be provided by the project team.

 Budget: Up to £2400. Please give us a quote with a breakdown of how much time you would be able to spend on each output. Hosting and printed costs are budgeted for separately.

Timescale: To be confirmed, but final delivery will be in October 2018. Designer must have some availability in August 2018 to meet the group of young people, be briefed and work up some sample designs for feedback, as well as producing the leaflet and programme for the performance.

Client: On the Record: an oral history Community Interest Company. http://on-

Contact: Rosa Kurowska, Heritage Co-ordinator:

To apply: Please write to tell us why you would be suitable, what your approach would be and send up to three samples of your prior work by the end of 23 July 2018.


Key milestones:

End of July: design partner appointed

Early August: leaflet designed for distribution

Mid August: design plan signed off and content for print publication provided for type-setting. Last week of August: Programme ready for print

End of September / beginning of October: Learning Resources, Publication and Website complete

Vision for the publication:


Participants have outlined the following key aims for the publication:

  • To tell the history of SUS and how the Fighting SUS team collected the stories ofthe interviewees.
  • A booklet that can be put on display and used as a learningresource.
  • To have strong visual message with use of photography, graphics art work, drawings, eye- catching colour inspired by 1970s zinestyle
  • To be accessible to all people with texts kept short andclear.
  • To include a fold-out timeline which gives the key historicaldates.
  • To give reader advice and information about what they can donow
  • To have a personal handwriting style / 1970s zine style / comicstrips.


The following images were selected by the group from existing publications to give an idea of the visual style they would like to achieve with the sus project’s publications:

Background to Project:

 Why was a Victorian vagrancy act, intended to prevent ‘begging, showing wounds’ and ‘telling fortunes’, used to criminalise minority groups in the 1970s and 1980s? Who brought a stop to it? Who is under suspicion today?

Fighting ‘sus’: Riots, resistance and the repeal of the ‘sus’ laws, (funded by a National Lottery grant of

£45,400 from the Heritage Lottery Fund), will recruit and train young researchers to create a timely record of an era when the police felt like ‘an army of occupation’ in areas like east London (Graham Smith, Hackney Community Defence Organisation). Frequent stop-and-searching contributed to growing unrest amongst minority communities and was a touch-paper for the riots of 1980/81 in Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, London and other UK cities. Lord Scarman’s 1981 report exposed the ‘racially prejudiced actions of some officers’ and ultimately led to the repeal of the ‘sus’ law on 27 August 1981.

The project was developed in conversation with today’s young east Londoners, who are galvanised by their own experiences of exclusion from public spaces and awareness of racism. Fighting ‘sus’ grows out of On the Record’s existing research and contacts with 1970s & 1980s counter-cultural venues (e.g. where poets such as Hugh Boatswain & Linton Kwesi Johnson expressed their indignation.

The project offers twenty 16-25 year-olds a chance to learn interviewing, audio recording, research, drama production and writing/publishing skills from professionals. Young researchers will scour the archives to find their first clues about the ‘sus’ era. Looking beyond the flashpoints and headlines, the project will explore testimony about daily life from inner-city dwellers who were ‘stereotyped as criminal by nature’ in the words of late sociologist Stuart Hall. (For example, ‘The black boys only have to be laughing too hard and they get picked up’ – Talking Blues, ‘sus’ era pamphlet, Bishopsgate Institute). They will discover documents from the Scrap Sus Campaign (spearheaded by parents), support groups for victims of police crime such as Newham Monitoring Project, and supplementary schools which promoted cultural pride. Rebellious music from Burning Spear and the Rock Against Racism concerts will provide an entry point into contemporary youth culture.

Armed with intensive research and oral history training, the young people will record interviews with campaigners, cultural commentators, police, and victims of police harassment. They will focus on the voices of east Londoners, but this micro-history of ‘sus’ will resonate with people from many other urban centres.

On the Record said, ‘While secondary sources such as documents and films are valuable, they cannot replicate the dialogue between generations that you get through oral history. Young interviewers will produce their own new sources to create historical interpretation that addresses their own questions about the past.’

 Fighting ‘sus’ culminates in a touring performance and teaching resources that will travel around schools and cultural centres in late 2018. The repeal of ‘sus’, a landmark shift in UK legislation, framed by the unique vantage point of young Londoners today, stands to reach an audience of thousands. The tour will be aided by the nationwide reach of Journey to Justice,which includes Martin Spafford, the author of the first GCSE module on migration. A permanent archive of the oral history recordings will be accessible to members of the public without appointment at Bishopsgate Institute, near Liverpool Street station. It is all made possible by money raised by National Lottery players and the generous support of the Heritage LotteryFund.

Today, the use of stop-and-search powers has evolved: police have to record all stops and undertake training on implementing the law. Yet this remains an area of controversy in the Metropolitan Police. The ‘sus’ era (1970-1981), when systemic racism in the police force came under public scrutiny for the first time, is under- researched (most historians have focused on national legislation since the 1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act). On the Record and Journey to Justice hope an understanding of ‘sus’ and the campaign against it will inspire young people to take action for social justice today.