Us Free Staters are generally clueless about schtuff up North. But even the Jackeens on the ironic moustache circuit couldn’t miss the flag protests in late 2012. LAD hit the headlines with its creative trolling. rabble asked them for the low down.
LAD was founded on December 10th 2012 as a response to the Fleg protests which had been instigated by the Ulster Unionist and Democratic Unionist Parties (UUP & DUP). Social media platforms such as facebook were being used to organise protests and to stir sectarian tensions in the city. The decision by Belfast City Council to switch the fleg flying policy to one of designated days was a democratic one. Any attempt to protest against this decision was clearly an attempt to protest against democracy.
Our founder Billy Smith, angry at this apparent attack on a democratic process by the DUP & UUP, set up the page in protest at the protesters, thinking that it would be seen by only a handful of people. His mission was to expose those people holding our wonderful city to ransom for what they really were.
LAD has been incredibly successful, it seems to have tapped into a general feeling of alienation from sectarianism – do you feel this is part of the long process towards some sort of eventual normalcy? Is your popularity part of the younger generation turning its back on traditional tensions?
We don’t understand why LAD has been so successful. Like I said it was never expected that it would be seen by many people. At first many people thought it was a genuine protest page and began interacting with it in that way. Loyalists liked it because it had the word loyalist in the name and a union jack as a profile picture. Nationalists liked it so that they could vent in the comments section.
You see sectarianism is a big problem here in Belfast in both communities. It doesn’t take much for people’s true feelings to emerge. It took a little while for people to realise that it was a piece of satire, a comment on what was happening. At this stage it could be could be said that we have tapped into something but what that actually is, we are not sure. The fact that it is so widely received is purely accidental it wasn’t planned. As for the process of normalcy, we feel that is a long way off from beginning.
You take the piss out of a very traditional type of Loyalism. Some people say its a working class loyalism. What’s the class background of the people involved in the project and how do you handle critiques that this is a load of middle class knobs laughing at a disenfranchised poor?
We take the piss out of everyone, which includes traditional loyalism, but that whole class argument thing is just lazy. Class is a label used by the elite to keep people in their place. LAD reject all such labels. Class, sexuality, gender, religion have been used in our wee country to keep people in their place over the years. An educated and informed electorate would not serve our politicians as people would soon see through them and they would be out of a job. As for our critics, we don’t care what they think, we really don’t care what anybody thinks. We do this for our own enjoyment, everything else is just gravy.
One of us rabblers lives in The Village, and was struck at the abject poverty, top down imposed regeneration and what looks like a real lack of community development. How do you feel issues such as inequality and alienation are fueling hate in these communities and is LAD interested in addressing this?
That abject poverty that you speak off is also visible in other parts of this city. Belfast has some of the poorest areas in the UK. It could be said that those issues you mention may fuel the hate that exists towards outsiders, i.e. foreign nationals, but we suspect that the real causes of that particular problem are more deep-seated. Areas such as that mentioned tend to be controlled by “community workers”, i.e. the gate keepers, you will find that these people are sometimes the reasons those areas suffer. They dictate who can and can’t live there and apply pressure on people who don’t conform to their way of thinking. It is LAD policy where possible to show these “community workers” for what they really are. The only people who can really address these issues of inequality and alienation are the people who live there but they need support from the people in power, and its not always in the political parties interest to help.
You create content collectively, how does that work for you?
It works very well, we all live in a bunker on the Woodstock Road in the east of the city and constantly work on bringing ideas to life. the conversation is constant 24/7. LAD has very much become a way of life for the LADmin and relationships with people outside the group have suffered.
Its not unlike an other collective in that way.
You appeared genuinely shocked when SOS Bus NI could not accept your charitable donation from the sales of your Xmas single. Were ye really that naive about the ferocity and vindictiveness of some fractions of loyalism?
We were extremely shocked by the ferocity and vindictiveness that was displayed around this issue. It would not be appropriate to comment further other than a great opportunity to do do good in our city was missed.
With rabble we try keep ourselves out of the spotlight, ye use anonymity and pen names too with good reason. There have been plenty of threats made against you and the likes of Jamie Bryson has threatened your jobs. Are you ever worried about your safety?
Concerned about are safety, no not at all, sure we are only slagging and who in our wee country can’t take a slagging?
As for Jamie Bryson, he should crawl back where he came from, he had his fifteen minutes and now has become irrelevant. The truth is if we were to stop highlighting the rubbish he comes out with, nobody would bother with him.
We are still waiting for him to expose us and cause us to lose our jobs. He hasn’t a clue. We hid in plain sight. Billy Smith has actually met Jamie Bryson at a fleg protest, shook his hand and everything. You see we LADs are everywhere, we are just normal people and we blend into the crowd.
Like rabble, LAD is clearly something you lot do in your free time or when the boss isn’t looking. Do you ever find that it gets in the way of what people might call “your real work”?
Ha Ha Ha, our jobs are something we do when we have free time from LAD. It has become are job, those other things we do are just to keep a roof above our heads and the lights on. We stumbled upon a niche that works for us, the trick now is to carry that momentum forward and see where it brings us.
Okay, so there’s been the Xmas single, a show at the Edinburgh Fringe and tonnes of media coverage. Where next for LAD?
Well we are writing our first book which will be in the shops in July. Its a guide book and we are hoping to cash in on the influx of tourists arriving into the city for Orange Fest. The Edinburgh Festival plan has been slightly modified in that we are working on a live show but have been approached to stage it in Belfast later in the year. We were finding it difficult to convince members of the DUP to travel across the water to stage a protest outside so we are hoping a Premier Inn in Belfast might suit them better.