A company just tried to use David Bowie’s image to sell bullets at a UK arms fair. It didn’t end well.

Support us and go ad-free

A firearms and ammunition company attempted to use David Bowie’s image to sell its wares at one of the world’s largest arms fairs. But it didn’t go well. Because the company seemed to forget that it needed permission to use the image.


The Defence Security and Equipment International (DSEI) arms fair is currently taking place in East London. As The Canary previously reported, over 100 people have been arrested trying to stop the arms fair from taking place.

In 2015, arms dealers from 61 countries queued up to view the merchandise of 1,500 exhibitors. 14 of the countries invited, including Algeria and Bahrain, had authoritarian regimes. Four, including Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, have been listed by the UK as having human rights issues. And a further 11 countries on the list, such as Ukraine and Iraq, are currently at war.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan wanted this arms fair banned from the capital. But he said he was powerless to stop it. Meanwhile, there is an eerie silence from the government over DSEI. Although this is perhaps unsurprising. Because the event is sponsored by the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Trade. And figures show that the UK has made ten times more out of arms sales to Saudi Arabia than it has given in aid to Yemen.

Meanwhile, the Saudi Arabian-led bombing of Yemen continues. And so do the arms sales. Since 2015, the UK has licensed £3.8bn of arms to the regime.

Edgar Brothers

Edgar Brothers is a company manufacturing ammunition and firearms. It describes itself as:

one of the oldest, most well established importers and wholesalers of firearms, ammunition and associated products in the UK and Northern Ireland.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

And it decided to use Bowie’s image to sell bullets. This was noticed by Darren Cullen, an artist who currently has work at the Art the Arms Fair exhibition.

Not down with this

Speaking to The Canary, Cullen described what happened:

I was checking Instagram to see if any of the DSEI contractors were posting about being behind schedule due to the Stop the Arms Fair blockades and I saw this photo of the UK arms trade pavilion with a giant picture of David Bowie. It really stuck out to have someone like Bowie featured among this festival of violence, and just in really bad taste considering his own recent death.

So Cullen took action:

I got in touch with the rights-holder of the photograph, the estate of the photographer Duffy, and just hoped to hell they hadn’t given permission for these bastards to use his image. They got back to me the next morning thanking me for bringing it to their attention and saying they had definitely not given permission and they’d been frantically trying to have the photo removed. The Duffy Archive were really on top of it, full credit to them. They finally got hold of a director at Edgar Brothers and the display was taken down straight away due to their complaint. As far as I know, they’re still in discussions as to what the next steps are. I hope the Duffy Archive hammer them for it.

Richard Farrimond, marketing manager for Edgar Brothers, claimed:

We are not in a position to comment just yet. We’re actually still in conversations with the Duffy Archive in relation to the incident in question.

A tale of two events

DSEI ends on 16 September. Speaking to The Canary, Andrew Smith from Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) described the arms fair as “two events”:

The last two weeks have been a story of two events. One has been the arms fair itself, which has seen weapons being promoted to some of the most brutal and oppressive regimes in the world.

The other has been the solidarity and the optimism offered by thousands of activists and campaigners, who have been rightly appalled by these arms exports and the atrocities they could be used in for years to come. DSEI is a moral abomination. It’s time to shut it down for good.

And Smith has a clear message for Bowie fans:

DSEI and the UK government may be experts at pushing arms exports, but when it comes to David Bowie they are absolute beginners. The real heroes were protesting outside DSEI, while the scary monsters and super creeps were inside. We need to do all we can to keep the arms fair under pressure.

Shut them down

DSEI may be nearly over, but the arms trade continues throughout the year. And the arms dealers have offices and factories around the country. It’s down to all of us to let them know that this trade will not continue in our name; that we can and will keep up the pressure. Together, we can shut them down.

Get Involved!

– Support CAAT.

– Find the arms dealers on your doorstep and take action against them.

Featured image via Flickr and Wikimedia

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed