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Blackstock Road plaque honours origins of worldwide peace symbol

Gerald Holtom presented his design to fellow peace activists at the offices of Peace News magazine, above Fish & Cook stationers, in 1958

12 October, 2018 — By Emily Finch

Gerald Holtom’s daughter Anna Scott, centre, with, from left, Selby Scott, Leo Scott, Hackney councillor Clare Potter and CND’s Amy Keegan Photo Credit: Rosie Holtom

A LONG-running campaign to recognise the origins of the internationally-celebrated symbol for peace achieved success on Saturday with a plaque unveiling.

Friends and family of Gerald Holtom, the man who designed the logo in 1958, gathered in the rain as the plaque was unveiled above a stationery shop in Blackstock Road, Finsbury Park.

Designer Mr Holtom created the symbol for the first Aldermaston March against nuclear weapons, organised by the Direct Action Committee against Nuclear War.

He presented it to fellow peace activists at the offices of Peace News magazine above Fish & Cook stationers, where the plaque now sits.

The Blackstock Road shop with plaque above Photo Credit: Rosie Holtom

Rosie Holtom, the artist’s great-niece, who lives in Holloway, said the unveiling was “really good”. “We had a good turnout, around 20 to 30 people,” she added.

“It’s so nice to have the plaque. I cycle past it every day and I think the whole family is really proud of the symbol.”

The logo was quickly adopted by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and became popular throughout the world because Mr Holtom did not copyright it.

The campaign to recognise the origins of Mr Holtom’s symbol was launched by Guardian journalist and Highbury resident Ian Jack. Mr Holtom was a peace activist until his death, aged 71, in 1985. A conscientious objector, he worked on a farm in Norfolk during World War II.

He came up with the design at his home in Twickenham, where his family hope that another plaque will be installed.

There are varying origin stories for the symbol, which seems to use the semaphore signs for the letters N and D standing for Nuclear Disarmament.

Gerald Holtom

Mr Holtom, who trained at the Royal College of Arts, wrote to Hugh Brock, editor of Peace News, detailing how he came up with the design: “I was in despair. Deep despair. I drew myself: the representative of an individual in despair, with hands palm-outstretched outwards and downwards in the manner of Goya’s peasant before the firing squad.

“I formalised the drawing into a line and put a circle round it.”

The building with the plaque is on the Hackney side of Blackstock Road. Hackney Council funded the plaque.

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