The World is my Country

Preliminary drawing for the Archibald Bodkin poster

A visual celebration of the people and movements that opposed the First World War, featuring the graphic art of Emily Johns

“[We] will break before we bend … The world is my country” – Derby anti-war activist Alice Wheeldon, who was framed for plotting to murder the Prime Minister, Lloyd George, in a letter from prison, February 1917.

The First World War centenary (2014-2018) will be accompanied by a tidal wave of events, exhibitions, TV series, books and commemorations. However, one key aspect of the War’s history is almost certain to receive little or no attention: the history and stories of the people and organisations that opposed the conflict.

Moreover, this history – of police raids and buried documents, feminist peace initiatives and clandestine printing presses, striking German munitions workers and communities of resistance in Huddersfield, Hackney, and Bradford (among other places) – appears to be largely unknown even to contemporary activists.

To help counter this omission Peace News (PN) will research and produce a series of ten highly-visual colour posters, celebrating key figures and events from the First World War anti-war movement – including figures and events from Germany & the Global South – bringing their stories and chutzpah alive for a new generation.

These posters will be distributed widely at WW1-related events throughout 2014 as well as serialised inPN itself.

If you would like to help fund this project and receive copies of the posters please go to Kickstarter

Emily's work desk & some preliminary sketches

Emily’s work desk & some preliminary sketches

Stories include:

  • a secret soldiers’ pact to shoot to injure rather than to kill;
  • the gleeful, even mischievous, appropriation of a pompous prosecutor’s words for use as anti-war propaganda;
  • the network of refuges for war resisters on the run in Sheffield, Liverpool, and Leicester;
  • the jailing of one of the century’s greatest philosophers (who had already been dismissed from his college and banned from “prohibited areas” amounting to one-third of Britain for his anti-war activities, and who subsequently managed to smuggle a letter out of jail, hidden in the uncut pages of the Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society);
  • the conscientious objectors shipped to France and sentenced to death, saved by the sexual charisma of a famous aristocrat;
  • the Jamaican man who refused to be conscripted on the grounds that the European Powers “have oppressed and tyrranised over my fellow-men” while “I am not given ordinary privileges as a citizen”.

Victor Hugo


Victor Hugo’s wonderful long poem The Big Story of the Lion was written for his grandchildren. It has been newly translated by Timothy Adès and illustrated by Emily Johns. This thick concertina book published by Hearing Eye is available from Inpress for £6.

Drawing Paradise exhibition in Sussex

Emily Johns travelled to Iran in 2006 and again this February on an international peacemaking delegation. She has created an exhibition of lino prints about the history of British/Iranian relations over the last century – tobacco, tutus, coups and chemical weapons.

Drawing Paradise on the ‘Axis of Evil’  4 – 17 July

Hastings Arts Forum 36 Marina, St Leonards on Sea, TN38 0BU Preview: Friday, July 05 at 6:30 – 8:30pm

Accompanying events:

Thursday 4 July 7.30pm: The Cow, Iranian film hosted by St Leonards Film Society

Thursday 11 July 11:00am: Artist’s talk
7.30pm: A Separation, Iranian film hosted by St Leonards Film Society

Saturday 13 July 12:00am – 2:00pm: Printmaking and stories for children age 8-12yrs

Sunday 14 July 2:30pm: Iranian film and discussion hosted by St Leonards Film Society

Tuesday 16 July 7:00pm – 9:00pm: “The Rose and the Nightingale” a Persian Divan with divine refreshments. Bring Persian poetry to share. Donations welcome. Stephen Watts will be reading his translations of Ziba Karbassi, also two very fine  poets Reza Baraheni & Esmail Kh’oi. Krysia Mansfield and Las Pasionaras will be singing her new composition composed for the exhibition. Sufi stories told by Ariane Hadjilias. Rumi performed by Fari Bradley.


Geographies of War

The North Lodge at UCL, Gower Street. 18-27 March 2013

An exhibition at University College London. Website link here

This exhibition explores how artists with diverse practices and perspectives experienced the invasion and occupation of Iraq and how they responded to it by engaging with questions of space, place, landscape and territory.

Bringing together artists from Iraq and Britain, it shows six works that give material form to the violence, anxiety and ruin of war but which also raise questions about resistance, resilience and dreams of peace. Opening in the week of the tenth anniversary of the invasion, the exhibition presents alternative perspectives on the conflict and challenges our ways of seeing war.


In Trebuchet Magazine


Beyond the Geographies of War: Exploring Art and Peace

UCL Department of Geography, Pearson Building, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT 11am-4pm,
27th March 2013

Questions of geography – of space, place, home, environment, landscape and territory – are a recurring theme in the responses of artists to war. But how do they figure in the relationship between art and peace? How can we understand the role that spatial practices and spatial themes play in creating peace as well as in articulating resistance to war and violence? This workshop will explore these questions with reference to the Iraq war but also branch out to consider the relationship between geography, art and peace more broadly. With talks by artists Rashad Selim and Emily Johns and academic Bernadette Buckley (Goldsmiths, University of London), and touching on issues of oil, water and ecology as well as politics and war, the workshop provides an opportunity to reflect on how art, activism and critical spatial practices can inform one another.

Timetable and speakers
10.30am Registration; tea and coffee; viewing of Art and War: Iraq Revisited exhibition in North Lodge, adjacent to Pearson Building

11.00 Introduction: Alan Ingram Dr Alan Ingram is Senior Lecturer at UCL Department of Geography, where he teaches critical approaches to political geography and geopolitics. His current research focuses on the responses of artists and art institutions to the most recent Iraq war and forms the basis for the exhibition Geographies of War: Iraq Revisited.

11.30 Emily Johns Emily Johns is a printmaker, illustrator, poetry publisher, newspaper editor and activist who has been involved in art and peace work concerning Iraq and related issues since the early 1990s. Having studied geography at Durham she immediately afterwards studied fine art at Goldsmiths, ‘because pictures seemed to be the right medium in which to think about geography’. Her work has been shown in many solo and group exhibitions and used in a wide variety of ways beyond gallery settings. Much of her work has been commissioned by anti-war campaigning groups and used in demonstrations and related publications. She is the recipient of several awards and her work is held in a number of public collections. For a recent collaborative project Conscious Oil: Myth and Mind in the Age of Petroleum, she created large scale lino-etchings, ‘What the Oil is Thinking’, which have their political roots in almost 20 years of work on the war in Iraq, the Iran crisis and how geopolitics and oil have coagulated.

12.00 Q&A and discussion

12.30 Lunch

2.00 Rashad Selim Rashad Selim is an artist and printmaker, painter, sculptor, curator, illustrator, essayist, cultural researcher, grassroots development worker and project animator. Over the course of the last decade his work has often been concerned with the causes and effects of the war and with developing new resources and approaches to overcome limitations set in the present landscape. In 2007-2008 he was artist-in-residence for the Green Zone/Red Zone exhibition at the Gemak gallery in the Hague, which examined the redivision of cities under the pretext of security. More recently he has created Re-Piano, an ongoing art project that centres on the reclamation, reinvention and renewal of defunct pianos. The process of opening and remaking embodies a wider process – an opening of the imagination that is called for in any situation where established systems have become dysfunctional. Re-Piano proposes that this process is not a matter of starting something new but of re-engaging with the huge wealth of what we already have. 2.30 Q&A and discussion

3.00 Discussant: Bernadette Buckley Bernadette Buckley is Lecturer in International Politics at Goldsmiths, University of London. While her research interests traverse a number of different fields, she has long been interested in the complex relationships between art and war and/or art and terrorism. Simultaneously however, an interest in ‘Gallery Studies’ has led her to explore the relationship between ‘curating’ and ‘creating’ and to investigate the ontology of curating from the perspective of the ‘event’. In this vein also, she is interested in the (de) differentiation between ‘contemporary art’, ‘heritage’, ‘education’ and other areas of practice. Additionally here she has explored notions of (un)‘education’ both in ‘artistic’ and in ‘gallery’ practices. Her key essays include ‘Mohammed is Absent, I am Performing’ (in Iraq and the Destruction of Heritage, P. Stone, & J. Farchakh, eds., HMP: London, 2008) and ‘Terrible Beauties’, (in Art in the Age of Terrorism, eds. G. Coulter Smith & M. Owen, Paul Holberton, New York, 2005). She has contributed catalogue essays to a number of exhibitions and published interviews with a wide range of contemporary artists.

3.15 Discussion

4.00 End

Drawings from Iran

Drawings done during my participation on the Fellowship of Reconciliation peace delegation to Iran             8-19th February 2013.

Our blog from the delegation and more information can be found here


Eternal Fires – the play

The Eternal Fires

A play by Ron Meldon– entitled Eternal Fire – inspired by my picture The Eternal Fires from the Conscious OIl series is to be performed at the Grand Theatre, Swansea, as part of the Lunchtime Theatre series. These are premieres of one-act plays by local writers – no more than one hour long. The performance date is Saturday 30th March. Here’s the Grand Theatre link
And the Fluellen Company have also put a teaser for that production on their web-site. Here’s the link….