Walk in to any tourist gift-shop in London and you’re faced with a deluge of merchandise all with one slogan (or at least variations of it) – Keep Calm and Carry On! Parodied time and again by individuals, groups, comics and entire industries, where did this slogan come from and how did it become so entwined with all things British? And are we (and our tourists) fed up with it yet? Well, to find out, simply keep calm and carry on reading…
Keep Calm and Carry On. This simple slogan actually first appeared on a poster that was created by the British government in 1939. Facing imminent war with Germany, it was one of three such images which, printed against a red background below the King’s crown, were designed to stir nationalist pride, strengthen the public’s resolve and maintain morale in the event of invasion. More than 2.5 million of them were published ready for distribution across Britain but (thankfully) all remained in storage throughout the war.
It wasn’t until the year 2000 that the poster was rediscovered by a bookseller from Northumberland in the North of England who framed an original copy of the poster and hung it in his bookshop. It was not long before he was inundated with requests to purchase it and decided to print copies for sale. Soon after, it seems, the craze swept England and it wasn’t long before the slogan was appearing on all manner of merchandise including mugs, t-shirts, aprons, mouse mats to name just a few. And it was then that the parodying began and variations of the slogan first started to appear. Many agree that the simple and most original remain the best including: Now Panic and Freak Out, Keep Calm and Have a Beer, and one of our favourites, the Yoda-inspired – Calm You Shall Keep and Carry On You Must. At one stage Amazon listed more than 440 thousand items with “Keep Calm and” in the title…!
There’s no doubt that there is something very British about the slogan and indeed the humour of its parodies; namely the classic juxtaposition of a charming understated tone, set against the seriousness and drama of war. But have we had enough of it yet? Well, I guess only the demand for the items will decide! In the meantime, sorry but we couldn’t resist our own contribution – Keep Calm and Book your Britain Vacation!