For over 20 years, Smirnoff has stood by the LGBT+ community in its fight for equality, inclusivity and respect. 2017 marks 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of sex between men, and although great strides have been made with legal equality, prejudiced attitudes towards the LGBT+ community sadly still exist.
A report by Galop[i], a LGBT+ anti-violence charity, revealed that 1 in 3 members of the LGBT+ community (31%) have experienced online abuse targeting their sexual orientation or gender identity. In the last year, Galop has seen the level of online abuse being posted on social media increase. During this historic summer, Smirnoff is raising awareness of the need to stand up to online prejudice with the launch of its thought provoking #chooselove campaign, which will run during PRIDE season in the UK.
Throughout 2017 PRIDE, Smirnoff will monitor online social media to identify members of the LGBT+ community that have received abuse based upon their sexual orientation or gender identity. A taskforce of dynamic and socially engaged illustrators will then respond to these messages of hate with artwork of love. By taking the offensive tweets out of the hidden, personal, digital environment and reacting in a thought provoking and positive way, the Smirnoff #chooselove campaign will spread love and bring the issue to the public’s attention.
Chris Laidlaw, Head of Smirnoff Europe commented: “We are proud to have stood shoulder to shoulder with the LGBT+ community for over 20 years. We feel that it is our responsibility to help encourage diversity, equality and inclusivity in society. Smirnoff wants to put a spotlight upon the worrying trend that Galop has identified, and through our #chooselove campaign we hope to have a positive impact that encourages a dialogue of understanding, respect and compassion in both social media and wider society. By collectively taking action we can all spread a message of inclusivity, diversity and love.”
A selection of the artwork created in the Smirnoff #chooselove campaign will be shown at an exhibition on 6th – 7th July ahead of the Pride in London Parade. The exhibition will be part of the Pride in London Festival, a series of events that raise awareness of LGBT+ issues to campaign for the freedom for the community to live their lives on an equal footing.
Pride in London’s theme for the 2017 campaign is ‘Love Happens Here’. It celebrates love in all its forms as a reminder that the battle for true equality for the LGBT+ community is far from over, and that rights hard won can be threatened and taken away.
Alison Camps, Co-chair and Marketing Director for Pride in London, commented: “We are pleased that Smirnoff is taking the issue of LGBT+ hate directed towards the community via social media so seriously, it is something that Pride in London is also extremely concerned about. Our ‘Love Happens Here’ campaign is all about taking a stand against hate in all its forms, and sadly social media is an environment where it is all too easy for prejudiced views to be openly expressed. This summer, we will be conquering the hate with messages of love from London, and it's great to have brands like Smirnoff join us.”
The illustrators involved in Smirnoff #chooselove are:
Matt Lyon - @c8six
Matt Lyon is a digital and mixed-media artist, non-stop doodler and creator of visual treats. Known for his previous work with PRIDE and personal projects connected to the LGBT+ community, Matt’s work has been widely published in books and magazines, has been exhibited in Europe, the USA and the Far East.
Marylou Faure - @maryloufaure
Working as a Freelance Illustrator and Art Director, Marylou’s work is filled with quirky characters, curvy shapes and vibrant colours. She represents everyday life, people and situations in a fun and sometimes provocative manner, to make people smile and think.
Ricardo Bessa - @RFBessa
Known widely for his LGBT+ campaign art, Ricardo creates beautiful, otherworldly illustrations that blur the lines between realism and fantasy. Drawing inspiration from nature, comics and mythology, as well his upbringing in Portugal and queer art, Ricardo transports the viewer into a colourful world of magnificent beasts, ominous woods and keenly observed human forms.
Charles Hutton - @instachaaz
Better known as @instachaaz, Charles is an unconventional artist who has an uncanny ability to tap into life’s comedic idiosyncrasies through an everyday medium – the Post-It note. Charles’ quirky drawings perfectly capture the struggles of the modern person. Exploring a diverse range of themes, from dating and laziness to rent payments and the perils of a quick-draining mobile phone battery.
Lucas Levitan - @lucaslevitan
Lucas is a Brazilian multimedia artist living in between London and Madrid. He searches for inspiration in everyday life and turns ordinary objects and scenes into intriguing images. He sees the world with a little twist on reality. And by de-contextualising them, he changes the way they are perceived and engage the audience in a unexpected and playful way.
Smirnoff encourages anyone effected by anti-LGBT+ posts on social media to report the abuse to www.gov.uk/report-hate-crime and speak to Galop (www.galop.org.uk) for further support.
[i] The survey found that 1 in 3 LGBT people had experienced online abuse targeting their sexual orientation or gender identity (31%). It identified trans people as the group most likely to experience online hate motivated abuse (44%). This was followed by lesbian women (31%), gay men (31%) and bisexual people (24%).