Independent - 8th May 1994
ATHENA, whose glossy posters of Che Guevara and a tennis-playing girl scratching her bottom adorned student walls for two-and-a-half decades, is in trouble. 'The company hasn't really moved with the times,' said a spokesperson cheerfully, explaining why a new marketing supremo has arrived to take the 171-store chain upmarket and dust off its Seventies image. 'There's been a real lack of awareness about what young people like. I really don't think that 15 to 25-year-olds want the Wombles on their wall any more.'
If not Wombles, what does the discerning student want?
'You're far more likely to find posters of Bambi than Fidel Castro,' said Rosalyn, Hall Manager at Ingram Court, a student hostel in London's King's Road. 'I don't think students have very radical tastes any more - a lot of them just put up wrapping paper.'
'Posters are expensive, boring and unoriginal,' declared third year pharmacology student, Aran Stephens. 'I get all my pictures out of Esquire and Select magazine.' I glanced at the walls of his small bedsit. Every square inch was covered with photos of James Dean, Jack Nicholson, Sharon Stone, Sherilyn Fenn, Axl Rose and Dr Who. There were also posters for the rock band My Bloody Valentine, and several Wonderbra ads. 'I just had to have those,' said Aran, 'that girl's so lovely.'
Across the corridor, Christopher Hall, a first-year environmental scientist, had no posters on his walls. Instead, he had stuck up 40 LP covers, all of them on the Bluenote jazz label. 'Posters these days are so pathetic,' he explained.
'Don't you want political posters - posters that make a statement?' I asked.
'No,' he said emphatically. 'The only reason I'm here is to get a good job at the end of it all.'
Dasmeet Charna, a second year physics student, admitted she had 'quite babyish tastes'. Her room was covered in pictures of puppies and teddy bears and Planet Hollywood menus. There were also - rather incongruously - a couple of posters of Bob Marley and Malcolm X. 'I'm not in any way political,' she said. 'I just happen to think they look good.'
Richard Mattison, a first year lawyer, had covered his room with posters of pouting supermodels in various stages of undress. 'They're rather sexist I suppose,' he said happily. 'But it guarantees me lots of visitors. The girls come in to have a go at me for my politically incorrect tastes, and the blokes come in so they can have a good look. I used to have an Athena poster of Lenin on the wall,' he added. 'But I'm not interested in all that any more.'
'I do quite like Athena's art posters,' said Rachel Blackmore, a history student, dubiously. 'But the trouble is they do such obvious things - the archetypal Degas dancer or Salvador Dali. It's very boring.'
'Athena say that they're going to make their products appeal more to 25 to 35-year- olds,' I said. 'What do you think about that?' Her face assumed a sceptical expression. 'Well, by the time you're that age you've probably got your own flat,' she said, 'and I don't think a poster of Malcolm X is really going to go with the Colefax and Fowler.'