Art, News, Racism

What’s it Like to Have Your Art Stolen by Racists?

"Green Man" by Alan RogersonAlan Rogerson and Chris Collingwood are two artists with very different visual styles. Alan makes vibrant, blocky linocut prints, while Chris paints historical scenes depicting the warriors of bygone conflicts.

Both artists have something in common, however: their work was stolen by a racist group called English Advocates.

A little background on this group will be necessary before I continue. The English Advocates are not well known, but their parent group, the Steadfast Trust, made the news earlier this year thanks to an ITV documentary entitled Exposure: Charities Behaving Badly. The documentary includes undercover footage in which a supporter of the organisation takes candid photographs of an interracial family, spouting racial slurs before announcing that he will post the pictures on a hate site. Elsewhere in the documentary, a Steadfast trustee admits to defacing a museum display—because it depicted an Asian British woman.

At the time the footage was shot, the Steadfast Trust was a registered charity, ostensibly devoted to fostering interest in English history. It was swiftly deregistered by the Charity Commission and has remained quiet ever since.

This brings us to English Advocates, a small organisation that appears to be the Steadfast Trust’s last surviving remnant. Splinter groups such as this are common within fringe politics, often coming about because of disagreements in the ranks—although this particular case looks more like rats leaving a sinking ship.

The core members of the English Advocates are Lee Ingram, Paul Brant, and Gary Thompson, three Leicester-based nationalists who have used multiple group names for their activities. They obtained funding from the Steadfast Trust under the banner of the English Community Group Leicester, an organisation that briefly made the local news when Mayor Peter Soulsby declined to meet with it. The three men also run PaulLee Made, a YouTube channel that specialises in cringeworthy comedy videos of Lee Ingram acting like a poor man’s Sacha Baron Cohen around local politicians.

“English Advocates,” meanwhile, is the name they have been using on Facebook since March 2014. The group identifies itself as non-racist and claims to be fighting for equality—but if this is the case, they have a very strange way of showing it.

In one jaw-dropping post, the English Advocates argue that people from “Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups of any colour, including the Scottish, Irish, and Welsh” should not be allowed positions of authority in England. The group cites an obsolete anti-Catholic oath from the seventeenth century as justification for this stance:

Posting from the English Advocates Facebook page

To pre-empt any tedious semantic quibble from the group’s supporters, let me state firmly that keeping people out of political office because of their ethnicity will fit any reasonable definition of racism.

The English Advocates have repeatedly expressed similar points of view on their Facebook page. In one post the group condemns the Race Relations Act 1965, which forbids racial discrimination on the part of service providers, as a “legal erosion of our liberty.” Another post defends the “no Irish, no blacks, no dogs” signs that were found in English bed-and-breakfast houses of the 1960s (“C’mon, what did people expect as a reaction to something forced upon them?” ask the Advocates. “A Red Carpet?”). Elsewhere, the page warns us of an apparent danger posed by Sikh people: “Sikhs are egalitarians/socialists and we all know how fake socialists are and a turban in England colours is still a turban.”

Things get even more bizarre when we look at the campaigns launched by individual members of the English Advocates, before the official forming of the group. Back in 2011, Lee Ingram pushed to have a television documentary deleted from existence, because it argued that Robin Hood was not a real person. “[T]his insult of re-writing and airbrushing history to commit cultural cleansing as part of genocide is only aimed at the English,” wrote Ingram. “You know exactly what you are doing and so do the English public and we will not put up with this sick brainwashing cleansing of our children.”

His campaign was, I would presume, unsuccessful.

The English Advocates’ original mascot was a teenage girl holding a flag. Recently, however, they replaced her with a modern depiction of the Green Man, a motif of uncertain origin found in churches across the country:

Screenshot of the English Advocates Facebook page.

Who created this image? Alan Rogerson, although the text at the top was the group’s own addition. The original can be seen here.

Did the English Advocates obtain permission to use Alan’s art as their logo? No.

As you can imagine, Alan was not happy when I informed him of the English Advocates’ plagiarism. “Being associated with a group like this could seriously do harm to my reputation and business,” he told me. Alan responded to the situation by leaving an uncompromising cease and desist notice on the English Advocates’ page:

Posting made by Alan Rogerson to the English Advocates Facebook page

The English Advocates then replaced the Green Man logo with a Battle of Hastings painting. They clearly had not learned their lesson, however, as the picture in question was stolen from artist Chris Collingwood.

I alerted Chris who, like Alan, was displeased by this unauthorised usage of his artwork:

Screenshot of a discussion from the English Advocates Faebook page

Note the patently dishonest, victim-blaming response from the English Advocates. The group describes itself as “an anti racism page … that campaigns for equality” (even though, as I have demonstrated, the Advocates are campaigning to prevent black people from entering parliament) and tries to paint Chris as being somehow unreasonable for objecting to the theft of his work. The mention of an “over zealous tip tailing tip off” is, I suspect, a reference to myself; I have made my case against the English Advocates in this article, and I leave it for the reader to decide whether or not my zeal is justified.

As shameful as the group’s response to Chris may be, the English Advocates’ treatment of Alan was even worse. Here is their statement on the matter:

Screenshot of a posting from the English Advocates Facebook page

Once again, the English Advocates portray the victim of their plagiarism as being the wrongdoer. They accuse Alan of being “very abusive” and of making “libel comments;” they also claim to have screenshots as evidence, but do not bother to post these images.

I contacted the group asking for the screenshots of Alan’s supposed “libel comments,” which I offered to post in this article, but I did not hear back from them. This, I believe, speaks for itself.

I previously had a debate with Lee Ingram in which he denied that this post was an attempt to encourage bad reviews. His defense does not hold a drop of water: the post begins by painting Alan as the aggressor and the English Advocates merely as “fair minded lawful folk,” before calling on the group’s supporters to visit Alan’s page and review his gallery. Quite obviously, Ingram and company wanted their followers to give Alan bad reviews—simply because he objected to having his art stolen by racists.

This is an attempt to start a bullying campaign, plain and simple.

Ingram, Thompson, and Brant then proceeded to leave negative reviews on the official Facebook page of Alan’s art stall in Cambridge:

Screenshot of a review posted on the Facebook page "Alan's Art Kiosk"

Screenshot of a review posted on the Facebook page "Alan's Art Kiosk"

Screenshot of a review posted on the Facebook page "Alan's Art Kiosk"

How remarkable that the English Advocates, who once admired Alan’s artwork enough to steal it, now consider it to be deserving of one-star reviews. And inevitably, we are only a few clicks away from outright racism: I looked at Paul Brant’s timeline and was quickly confronted by this blatantly anti-Semitic caricature, along with a caption stating that Nazi Germany was targeted in World War II simply because of its “honest banking system.”

The English Advocates think of themselves as national heroes, latter-day incarnations of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. But Robin Hood stole from the rich to give to the poor; the Advocates steal from independent artists (not, as a rule, a particularly affluent class) to give to themselves … all the while campaigning for racial inequality.

“I think they decided to steal my intellectual property because they obviously have none of their own,” said Alan in an email to me. Having seen PaulLee Made’s godawful attempts at comedy, I would have to agree.

Still, any artist worth their salt will have developed a knack for turning adversity into creativity. In the case of Alan Rogerson, his run-in with racists inspired him to create a short comic on the theme of hatred. Read the entire thing here; we hope you enjoy.

Excerpt from Alan Rogerson's comic strip "The Thing About Fear"