Jonathan Hadlow


Protesting pay at the RCA

Jonathan Hadlow
RCA Visual Communication
Design Without


Future Protest. 6060 ‘Fifty Paul’ notes hung in the iconic Ginco tree outside Kensington campus. The sum total of Dr Paul Thompson yearly salary and a call to action for students to support staff in their protest against regressing work conditions. The tremendous rustling coming from the tree as the bills caught the wind. A cry that was hard to ignore, drawing passers by in to explore and examine the installation.


How do we change the way people interact with protests and create a call to action that lasts long after the picket lines are gone?


While teachers were seeing paychecks cut and contracts changed to make them self-employed, the vice-chancellor’s salary had increased dramatically in the same period. One of the largest staff protests held by faculty members across the UK gave an opportunity to explore how we might design protest interactions in future.


  1. Students avoided direct confrontation with picket lines but did want to show their support
  2. Students did not know how they could show there support beyond standing on the picket line
  3. Protests often only last for a few days or a week. They are soon forgotten once the posters are taken down


Joined by a team of volunteers, I designed a special £50 note that highlighted the issues faced by the staff at the RCA with a call to action on the back of the note. The imagery made reference to legacy projects at Battersea Campus, Dr Paul Thompson, seen here as Biggie Paul(a reference to Biggie Smalls the rapper) and embellished with the crest of the Royal College of Austerity. The team and I designed and tested methods of deploying the notes in trees just outside campus entrances that could be plucked off by students entering the building.



Both students and staff responded positively to the action, saying it was a showing of great support by students and delivered a strong message in a subtle and profound way.



I found a bill found on the street outside the campus 8 months after the projects completion. I have since spoken to countless students and staff who have kept the notes. I have seen them pinned in staff offices and on student’s desks. Protests are often here one day and forgotten about the next. Making something small, tangible and engaging gave the protest the opportunity to live on into the future.

The following year the bills appeared again outside the campus. Only this time, it wasn’t me. 

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