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I was sitting in the Student Union with some friends at lunch time one day, drinking Guinness, when I happened to notice in the student newspaper that they were taking nominations for various positions running the Student Union. I thought about it for a minute and then thought "why not?", it would be fun to try at least. So I explained to the two friends sitting with me that they would be my campaign team, I would be running for Student Union President. I think that Nigel Grant and Rob Innis were with me. We used one of Nigel's SLR cameras to take the pictures and a Mac in one of the "arts" buildings to generate the text. We printed the black and white photographs ourselves at the old London Road campus and pasted up the posters with glue ready for mass photocopying.

Reading University (pronounced "Redding" for any Americans who might think that I went to a school where they teach reading) had about 14,000 students at the time. When all was said and done, I think that only about 600 people voted and I may have got around 90 votes. I'll tell the story of some of the pictures.

This was one of the first pictures we took. You can see how interested we were in depth of field. This was of course a play on the cartoon picture of Uncle Sam (I don't know if he ever made president though) except taken with a better camera. The caption was not really truthful, but we were playing politics for real and we wanted to plunge right in. I'm not sure why "Determination" deserves a capital. However, if you're going to pick on me, you can pick on Benjamin Franklin also, he used them randomly but seemed to command a lot of respect.

Duncan Needs You

Now this poster has a story to tell. I don't know where I got the idea from, it just popped into my head. I'm not even sure where the phrase "Jesus the Man" comes from but it feels like it's been said before. I think that I suspected that this would shock someone, and it did. Apparently, because I was never party to any of these proceedings, a certain Christian zealot (perhaps zealot is too strong) was going around campus removing these posters and throwing them away (or perhaps burning them). I was told by a friend that he'd bumped into her and that she was mighty angry. At the time (and even more now, in hindsight) I didn't see what the issue was with this poster. It advocates peace and it juxtaposes myself against Jesus in a rather appropriate way. It also says that Jesus was a man, which I believe to be true. Now, whether I was truly a lad (it not only means "boy", it can imply "coolness") is another matter.

Jesus the Man, Duncan the Lad

It seems that I had a lot of interest in subliminal messages at the time. I seem to remember that I was reading a lot about hypnosis. I hope you can read the message on this one. By writing it really small, I guess I was hoping that it would slip in where a larger message might not have made it.

Subliminal Message

It's amazing that to make this poster I actually had to break into a car. By doing so, I was able to understand the car criminal from his own perspective and thus be better positioned to tackle the problem. I had to pick the most worn out car in the parking lot in the hope that if I was "caught", they would believe that I was only doing this for a publicity stunt.

Car Crime

As an engineer, this makes total sense. If it exists, patent it. I'm almost at the point now where I'm tempted to patent every email that I send and every thought that I have. By the way, the patent application was denied. In case you're wondering, "Ents." was the common term for "Entertainments", meaning bands, sword eaters and the like.

Patent Applied For

This is an example of a poster which was created around a photo. We managed to get this photo with me walking away from the Student Union head down (I was really just looking down for an instant) but instead of just throwing the shot away, we cropped it to make you feel that I was leaving all that I knew behind and we gave it this caption. I don't know what the caption means. It might be along the lines of "If you elect me, you're going to regret it". I spent most of the campaign begging people not to vote for me. This poster may have been generated at a time when my popularity was swelling but before I'd really taken on a need to address the deeper needs of the student community.

Once Elected, Forever Rejected

This is actually another of those random shot which needed a story made for them. I don't know what happened to my eye but it looks like you might not want to meet me in a dark alley. Look at my hair, it would be great to have hair like that again ...

Don't make me do that, Mother.

This was taken after an engineering materials class. I was in fact completely sober. This was another attempt by my campaign team (led by myself) to discredit me and create scandal. I'd written the caption on the blackboard but it didn't come out with enough contrast, so we had to retouche it with tipex (whiteout) on the print. I was tempted to not disclose this secret but I'm told that people do this in the advertising world all the time, that's how come people in magazines are perfect.


OK, here's the other subliminal thing. I really like this one. It has meaning and nuances on so many different levels. Missing apostrophe after my name, sorry.

Learn To Fly

This picture was taken with me lying on the floor of the kitchen in Nigel's hall of residence. Gravity pulling from the back of my head is the reason that I look a bit strange. It may also have been the many beers that I'd had drunken before the picture was taken. Please understand that I in no way condone drinking or lying on the floor. The number is just random, it has no meaning. No really. Oh, OK then, it's the product of two prime numbers.

Free Duncan

This one really caused a stir. People who didn't even understand it, what there is to understand, thought it was funny. All you need to do is picture the cat. It's very visual. Then you have to ask about the cat's motives. Finally you begin to wonder about the cat's sanity. And when all is said and done, you realise that such a cat probably doesn't exist, it's just something written on a stupid poster. OK, that's one way that you can think about it. This may have been the one poster which brought in the lion's share of the votes.

It is the agile cat that farts in the fish tank.

A regular pile of bricks was lying around, and we took full advantage of them. The potatoe reference was because the vice president of the US at the time had just visited a school and corrected the teacher's spelling of potato on the board by adding and 'e' at the end.

Rebuilding the union

This was the "hustings" schedule. For each hall, I had to stand up in front of everyone after they'd eaten dinner and tell them why they shouldn't vote for me. I think that Well's was the biggest challenge. There was over 400 people in the room. I remember pacing back and forth, trying to be funny and also persuasive. Yes, I have some good posters, yes I may be good looking, but please, please don't put me in the position of running the Student Union.

On Tour

I seem to recall that there was a time near the end of the campaign that it looked like I might win and I started to like the idea. I'd been immersed in the rhetoric. I'd heard the other candidate's views as to why they wanted to be elected and I'd started to form some mature views of my own. OK this poster is a bit lame, but it does show a williness to really solve the real issues. Forget about car crime, forget about financial debts, let's get some good music in the place. On a side note, the Student Union at reading had a long history of having all the great bands play before they were famous. At the time of this campaign however, they were having a lot of financial problems and the bands that they could afford and attract were not in general very good.


Here's where, at the last minute, I got really serious. Just in time to loose. I'm pleased I didn't get elected. Very soon after this, I stopped smoking, reduced my drinking immensely and started studying more effectively.


That's all I have on this topic. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you got a sense of what it was like back in those days (the early 90's) at Reading.


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