'Keep Calm and Speak Catalan', a poster of passive resistance

The poster ‘Keep Calm and Speak Catalan’ was created by Josep Maria Ganyet, expert in digital communication, in order to protest against the draft law proposed by the Spanish Minister of Education which puts at risk the school model of linguistic immersion in use in Catalonia since the end of Franco’s dictatorship. The poster, in its origin a tweet, came from the fields of social media and reached Congress as a symbol of passive resistance directed at those aiming to alter the Catalan school model. It refers to the historical poster ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’, which also became one of the most wide spread pop icons.

Clara Roig Medina / Laia Ros

April 26, 2013 07:57 PM

Barcelona (CNA).- The poster ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’, created during war times by the British Government, has become one of the most wide spread pop icons. It has many derivate works and its symbology is known worldwide. This is why Josep Maria Ganyet, an expert in digital communication, chose this poster in order to protest against the Educational Law project proposed by the Spanish Minister of Education, José Ignacio Wert last December. The law project has proved to be very controversial in Catalonia. The issue causing more concern is the initiative to end the linguistic immersion model in Catalonia’s school system, which guarantees the knowledge of both Catalan and Spanish to the pupils. Wert’s proposal would allow people who do not want their children to study in Catalan to attend a Spanish speaking school subsidised by the Catalan Government. Aware of this situation, Ganyet used the popular icon and created ‘Keep Calm and Speak Catalan’ as a symbol of resistance against the Spanish law, in the same way the original poster aimed to oppose the possible German invasion during the Second World War. The poster has become so popular through social media that some days later the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) displayed it at the Spanish Parliament to make its position clear.

‘Keep Calm and Speak Catalan’ was created as a resistance but peaceful message against the new Educational Law project proposed by the Spanish Minister of Education José Ignacio Wert last December. Inspired by the British poster ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’, thought to be distributed in case of a possible German invasion in the Second World War, Josep Maria Ganyet tweeted the message in order to encourage Catalans to take it easy. To his surprise, the message spread through the social media in just a few hours. Soon afterwards, its creator developed the idea and designed a poster very similar to the original one. The only noticeable changes were the last two words: ‘Speak Catalan’. “We didn’t change much because the original message was very clear and convincing, and moreover, everyone could understand it”, explained Josep Maria Ganyet in an interview to CNA. “Both are posters of resistance”, added.

Three days later, the Catalan poster appeared in the Spanish Parliament shown by three representatives of the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC). According to Ganyet, this closed a circle in which the original poster had come from the British Parliament to be distributed to the wide population, whereas the Catalan poster arose from the people and reached Parliament.

The poster became so popular that in just a few days Ganyet, along with his business partner Mortensen, registered the images rights and opened an online shop where one can download the PDF poster for free and buy other souvenirs with the message, such as t-shirts, towels, cups, or badges. However, he assures he does not pretend to become “rich”. 15% of the benefit goes to the association ‘Som Escola’ (We are School), which supports the current Catalan school model. His creator wishes the poster would be long lasting and would become an icon of the Catalan culture. “It is a good concept of what we are”, he says.

A propaganda poster created in 1939 by the British Government

The story started in London during the Second World War. In 1939, the British Government came up with the poster ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ in order to ask the population not to lose control in case of a possible Nazi invasion. However, the poster was never used, and almost all of its copies were destroyed. It would be in 2000, when thanks to Stuart and Mary Manley, owners of the second-hand bookshop Barter Boots in Northumberland, which it would see the light again. The couple discovered one of the two original remaining posters in a box of old books bought at an auction and decided to make some copies of it. The poster would later become popular and develop into an Internet meme. Thousands of pictures can be found on the net, many of them playing with the design with worlds of meanings like “Keep Calm and Go Shopping” or “Keep Calm and Rock On”. Josep Maria Ganyet’s design was just another interpretation of the original poster.

The controversial Education Law

The controversial draft project of the new Educational Law presented by the Spanish Minister of Education José Ignacio Wert puts at risk the language immersion policy in those autonomous communities which have two co-official languages, such as Catalonia. The draft law implies that parents could choose to educate their children completely in Spanish and moreover this had to be paid for by the Catalan Government, even if this means at private schools. Furthermore, the Catalan language would not be a compulsory subject. Up to today, just twelve families among the 50,000 new families registered for the 2012-2013 school year demanded education in Spanish. This is guaranteed through an individual attention to the children of those 12 families.

In Catalonia the language immersion has been a pillar of the educational system. After Franco’s dictatorship the Catalan language was quite damaged because its use had been forbidden in public institutions and school for almost 40 years. The Catalan government wanted to protect the minority language and made it official. Therefore, Catalan was used as the main language at school in order to help children learn Catalan, guarantee equal opportunities and maintain social cohesion. However, this did not mean that Spanish was abandoned from a legislative point of view.