Firstly, welcome to the new blog of the Radical Tea Towel Company. Our old blog was quite rubbish, so now we’ve re-launched properly with a promise to write some decent content rather than procrastinating with constant tea-making. We have loads of great articles planned that we can’t wait to share with you, so make sure you subscribe to updates via email or RSS on the sidebar!
Now enter Beatrice for our first post, and a bit about the background to this strange phenomenon of radical tea towels, which have been stoking revolution in kitchens from California to Basingstoke…
In May 2011, I was wracking my brains for a present to buy an elderly family member who was celebrating his 91st birthday.
David was severely disabled after a hip operation that had gone wrong several years earlier, so I needed to find something that would go through the letter box and not involve him trailing out to the Post Office on his crutches. He had been involved with the trade unions and left wing politics throughout his life so the obvious answer might have been a political gift such as a book but now he was having difficulty with his eyesight.
So I then thought I’d get him something for the house. Since he wasn’t much of a materialist or a collector of ‘things’ it had to be something that he could make use of on a daily basis. At the same time, I was determined that it should be something that reflected his passion for radical politics.
And that’s when I thought – a tea towel! But not just any old tea towel. One with a radical or political theme. It shouldn’t have been difficult to find such a thing on Google… First I typed in ‘political tea towel’, then ‘socialist tea towel’, then ‘radical tea towel’, ‘left wing tea towel’, ‘trade union tea towel’. I tried everything but could I find a suitable tea towel anywhere? Not a bit of it!
T-shirts were there in their thousands: every theme, image and slogan you could imagine was available from companies both here and the US, and well as mugs and badges. But I didn’t think David would look good in a t-shirt somehow and a mug would not go through his letter box easily.
So then I started thinking. Well if I want a political tea towel and after an hour of googling can’t find a single one, I wonder how many other people want the same and can’t find one either? Clearly a gap in the market! And so one afternoon in May, after a discussion around the kitchen table, the Radical Tea Towel Company was born.
David got his radical tea towel in the end and was very pleased with it, but, I have to admit, he didn’t get it in time for his birthday. It was a few months later, in fact: the lead times for tea towel printing are much longer than with t-shirts which can be screen printed instantly.
Sadly, David died in February 2012, just over a year after my mother who had been his partner for 24 years. If you are interested you can read his obituary in the Guardian and all about his fascinating life as a revolutionary socialist. I hope he’d be pleased to see we’d kept going with the tea towels he inspired!