Producing the Goods 3

Souvenirs with Meaning

Souvenirs are not inconsequential, they should carry meaning, be about local identity. But how often is one frustrated at not being able to find anything that is locally distinctive, let alone well designed, made in and as part of the culture of the place? Our souvenirs are selling us short. Go to the Museum of London gift shop and you will find small red metal or plastic models of telephone boxes, double-decker buses, letter-boxes – all made in China. This experience is replicated, with different icons (or even the same ones), in other cities and villages. But environmental imperatives ('souvenir miles', resource use, impact on nature), and the creeping homogenisation or ‘cultural robbery’ that is bleaching the meaning from places, have led us to re-evaluate the role and function of the souvenir. We need a surge of new ideas and a new wave of locally distinctive souvenirs, made locally from materials of the place which speak of identity and subtly of sustainability. Souvenirs, like small Trojan horses, take their arguments to someone else’s home ground, and can achieve much by example to popularise great aspirations.

Silly or beautiful, vulgar or delicate, expensive or cheap, if the souvenir can not only be a reminder but a meaningful ambassador for a place, its effects can be profound. We need to bring imagination to bear on a new generation of souvenirs to reclaim their link to place, and demonstrate a sympathetic exploitation of locality to positively feedback into nature and culture. If we travel (by train, bus, bike, foot or car), then the souvenir should not. If we support local craftsmen and manufacturers, working with materials grown or won nearby then we not only have an authentic ‘piece of the place’, but we also strip away all the long journeys save that back to our home.

Northumberland Tartan
Serpentine Lighthouses
Somerset Willow & Charcoal
Whitby Jet
Powdermills Pottery
Shaftesbury Bag
A Present from East Anglia


Edible Souvenirs
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Producing the Goods 4 : Festivals, Food, Culture and Place