Following an expedition to Zimbabwe in 1996, artist Rebekah
Gilbertson felt compelled to publicise the needless misery caused by
She created a book, Handlines, which features black-and-white
photographs of Angolan and Cambodian landmine victims interspersed with
the hand or footprints and comments of celebrities who rely on their
limbs to make a living. These celebrity contributors ranged from fashion
designer, Alexander McQueen to football star, David Ginola.
In March 1998, Gilbertson approached Aurelia PR to initiate a press and
PR campaign around the book’s launch on 5 May. As all profits from the
sale of Handlines go to the British Red Cross Anti-personnel landmines
campaign, Aurelia offered its services for free.
To generate awareness of Handlines and the issue of anti-personnel
landmines and their victims. Gilbertson also wanted to start the ball
rolling towards raising a projected pounds 100,000 for the British Red
To raise media awareness, Aurelia organised an exclusive four-page
feature with the Sunday Times magazine for 26 April and set up press and
radio interviews with Gilbertson.
Handlines was launched at the National Portrait Gallery on 5 May with
contributors such as Joan Armatrading and retired athlete Sally Gunnell
in attendance. Landmine victim and campaigner, Chris Moon and
journalist-turned-MP Martin Bell were key speakers.
Following this initial party, Aurelia PR also co-ordinated the launch of
an exhibition of images from the book and anti-personnel mines at Blains
Fine Art in London’s Mayfair on 20 May.
This free-to-view exhibition ran for two weeks and featured original
work from artists such as cartoonist Ralph Steadman and David
The book launch generated interest ranging from a full page entitled
’Helping Hands’ in the Evening Standard to celebrity spotting by OK!
The Sunday Mirror ran pictures of Sally Gunnell’s and footballer Ryan
Giggs’ feet, while the Independent used images of Elton John’s hand, a
peace sign by designer Stella McCartney and David Hockney’s image of
Gilbertson outlined the importance of the cause on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s
Hour, BBC GLR and Carlton Television’s regional news programme London
Today. The launch of the exhibition and the private viewing, resulted in
press coverage including the Express, the Telegraph and Londoner’s Diary
in the Evening Standard.
Undoubtedly, much of the success of this campaign was the result of
Gilbertson’s ability to twist arms and generate donations, such as
Diageo’s offer of free champagne and Guinness for the book launch.
However, Aurelia PR’s positioning of the initiative to both literary and
art critics and the general media helped to widen interest.
It is too early to judge the financial success of the campaign, but the
British Red Cross is looking to take the exhibition on tour and has been
approached by sister organisations in other countries such as Australia,
to replicate the idea overseas.
Client: Rebekah Gilbertson
PR Team: Aurelia Public Relations
Campaign: Launch of Handlines in aid of the British Red Cross
Timescale: March-May 1998
Budget: Agency time donated to charity, other costs covered by corporate