Meet the illustrator behind the new Royal Mail stamps celebrating 50 years of Pride in the UK.

A photo of artist Sofie Birkin.

Sofie Birkin

In July 2022, Royal Mail released eight new stamps to mark the 50th anniversary of the UK Pride movement, with illustrations by artist Sofie Birkin. We sat down with Sofie to learn more about her story, artistic practice and favourite aspects of this special project.

Can you provide a short bio, about yourself and about your art?

I’m originally from Southend-on-Sea, but I moved to Denver, Colorado about 8 years ago, and have been working full time as an illustrator and muralist for 6 years. My work explores trans-historical narratives of femininity and queerness, focusing heavily on themes of fantasy, community, intimacy and empowerment, in contemporary, dynamic and vivid scenes. My clients have included Apple, Google, Facebook, Planned Parenthood, Nike and The New York Times.

How did you find yourself working on this particular stamp design project?

The Royal Mail and NB Studio approached me with the general concept of showing the pride parade from 1972-now. I then started hunting down as many images as I could from British pride parades over the years, so we could develop characters, visuals and placards that were period appropriate.

How long did it take you to design the stamps and were there any ideas you didn’t use?

I think in total we were working on the project for about 4 months, although of course I wasn’t directly working on it that whole time- each round had to go through a lot of channels of approval- even from the late Queen Elizabeth II herself. So of course there was lots of feedback back and forth. There was the odd character here and there that didn’t make the cut, but overall the design was fairly consistent. We were all on the same page about the concept and vision from the beginning.

Pride 1st class stamp
Pride 1st class stamp
Pride 1st class stamp
Pride 1st class stamp
Pride 1st class stamp
Pride 1st class stamp
Pride 1st class stamp
Pride 1st class stamp
Pride £1.85 stamp
Pride £1.85 stamp
Pride £1.85 stamp
Pride £1.85 stamp
Pride £1.85 stamp
Pride £1.85 stamp
Pride £1.85 stamp
Pride £1.85 stamp

 

Many people will be collecting your stamps, do you have any collections yourself?

Well, no stamp collections, although the Royal Mail did very kindly send me all the Pride stamps my heart could desire. I collect vintage lamps and lighting- particularly 1960s-70s swag lamps and candlesticks. I also love old glassware and “kitchenalia”such as jello moulds and things like that. Also, I adore vintage sleepwear. Anything that makes people walk in my apartment and say, “is this place haunted?”

How important do you feel it is to have a British Pride stamp?

I think LGBTQ+ representation is always important- and it was wonderful that the Royal Mail wanted to prioritise it this year. We all wanted to get it right as far as representing British Pride over the last 50 years specifically- it’s a lot harder to find UK specific Pride images from those early days, so I put a lot of time into research.

The LGBT+ community is extremely diverse, were you conscious to represent this in the stamp compositions?

I’m a queer artist and the majority of my work features and celebrates LGBTQ folks. That’s who I’m surrounded by every day! We’re a diverse crowd who value chosen family. Intersectionality & inclusive representation are an important part of any fight for liberation and equity, and that’s the beating heart of Pride, even when we experience it as a celebration. Being able to represent my own community with genuine love and integrity where we haven’t had much visibility historically is a really joyful experience for me, and I hope that comes across in this project.

Your stamps will be seen by people around the UK. What do you want them to take from these designs?

I hope they can recognize the historical importance of Pride, take a small moment of joy from them, and for queer Brits, feel seen and cherished.

What would you like someone in the future who discovers these stamps to know about them? About the moment that inspired their creation and about their significance.

That they represent the journey of Pride across half a century. My absolute favourite detail in the whole set is that the young couple on the motorbike circa the early 80s are also the older couple dancing in the 2000s!


You can find out more about Sofie Birkin’s work on her website: sofiebirkin.com