Stanley Green, hero of slow

Stanley Green Leaflet

For something like a quarter of a century, Stanley Green was a familiar feature of the tawdry landscape of London’s Oxford Street. Anyone shopping there between the late 1960s and the end of the 80s is likely to have seen him, his placard and self-produced booklets. I worked with Sedley Place Design for much of the latter decade in the alley off Oxford Street that gave the company its name and Stanley was as much a part of that time and place as the three-card trick, IRA bombs and cheap Italian restaurants. If my colleagues and I admired his eccentricity and outsider typography we ignored the dietary advice in his distinctive monotone and hand-painted caps: ‘LESS PASSION FROM LESS PROTEIN…’


It can’t have been exactly easy for him, patrolling the street daily (albeit at a stately pace). By my bottom-of-the-maths-class / back-of-an-envelope reckoning he must have easily exceeded Malcom Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule. At one stage he took to wearing overalls because of the spitting – hard now to understand how this gentle man could invoke such anger but not everyone embodied our supposed national tolerance of outsiders. He was a one-off communicator with a secular message that seemed to be: Sitting Around Eating Meat Makes People Unhappy. Decades on this seems – at least from a distance – rather more in tune with current dietary thinking and not so far from common sense (in a part-time Buddhist sort of a way).

Stanley Green died in 1993 and another quarter of a century on, it is hard to imagine his like having any impact. Media works at far greater speeds and few communications or products arrive without need of immediate update / upgrade. Yet: a considered message delivered with consistency and commitment is much more of a novelty than it use to be. Slow communications (signs, monuments, artworks…) are distinctive and substantial against our backdrop of flickering media white noise. Even print looks anything but ephemeral now. Maybe patience is still a virtue – not everything has to happen now. Mr Green deserves to be remembered and a little Spirit of Stanley wouldn’t go amiss here and there. Maybe he was right all along in medium and message.

This 1991 BBC Clive James documentary includes a a section on Oxford Street and a conversation with Stanley Green (at 31′ 40″).





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