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2011 was the red ribbon’s 20th birthday and the BBC looked at the origins of a world-recognised icon.
“In the sparse surroundings of a former classroom on a spring day in 1991 – a decade after the rise of Aids – a group of 12 artists gathered to discuss a new project. They were photographers, painters, film makers and costume designers, and they sat around in the shared gallery space known as PS122 in New York’s East Village. “We wanted to make something that was self-replicating,” says Patrick O’Connell, who chaired the meeting. “It’s extremely simple, like Bauhaus but half a century later. You cut the ribbon 6-7 inches, loop it around your finger and pin it on. You can do it yourself.” The ribbon was the latest project by Visual Aids, a New York arts organisation founded by O’Connell, that raises awareness of HIV/Aids….A few weeks after that first meeting, the group sent a box of 3,000 ribbons to the Minskoff Theatre on Broadway, ahead of the Tony Awards for the theatre industry. Some of them were making ribbons and watching the televised event as actor Jeremy Irons, one of the presenters, came on to the stage wearing one. “Within three days, the media finally figured it out and it snowballed. I started being contacted by people in Hollywood,” says O’Connell.”