How to Get 800 People to Come to a Protest Picnic

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(and get it in the papers and on the radio and telly)

Published in the Pick Me Up zine, 24 June 2005

1. START WITH A GOOD IDEA.

Try it out on a few people. It’s got to catch their imagination or it won’t work, whatever you do.

2. CLEAR YOUR DIARY.

A lot of work in a short time generates more energy than a little over a long time. 

With a good idea, lots of people are going to help you out – but mostly in between their other commitments. Someone needs to be committed to it 24/7. That’s you.

3. FIND YOUR ALLIES.

Your idea should be big enough to catch the imaginations of people who don’t think they have much in common. In our case, middle-aged Methodists, militant anti-capitalists and a Dutch entrepreneur.

You don’t have to get them to trust each other – you just have to get them to trust you. And they need to find the story you’re inviting them to take part in more interesting than the things they disagree over.

4. RAISE THE STAKES.

Make sure you can’t afford for it not to happen. Talk to everyone about it – telling people what you’re going to do ties you in.

So does spending your own money on printing 10,000 fliers. When I lugged those back from the printers, I knew there was no escape.

5. HAVE A LAUNCH.

Ten days beforehand, six of us turned up outside the town hall with a giant invitation and some bowls of rice. This got us our first hit of media coverage – all the local and regional papers, radio and TV.

6. WRITE GOOD PRESS RELEASES.

Read the last article your target newspaper ran on the subject and use similar phrases. Write it so a lazy journalist can cut and paste it – they probably will.

Try and find a headline that makes them do a double-take. Keep the rest short and include lots of soundbites.

7. MAKE IT UP AS YOU GO ALONG.

Keep checking what you’ve forgotten to do and listing where you need to be when, but don’t map it out like you’re invading Normandy.

When someone comes to you with a problem, get them to solve it themselves. If the idea’s good and you’re throwing all your energy at it, everything else will be OK.

8. STOP AND LOOK AROUND.

When it’s all going crazy and you’ve got two bands arguing over who should go on stage, three hundred people queuing for a bowl of rice and a group of anarchist clowns having a party in the ‘VIP area’, stop for ten seconds and remind yourself where all this started.

Then rush off to locate the silver candlesticks you borrowed from the landlord of the Rutland Arms.

9. REMEMBER TO HAVE FUN.

Some days in those three weeks I didn’t want to get out of bed. I just wanted the whole thing to go away. But it was worth it when I heard someone say about an idea I came out with the other night, “If Dougald says it’ll happen, he’ll make it happen.”

And the party afterwards was good, too…


Pick Me Up was an email zine that ran for two years between 2004-6. It came out on a Friday afternoon and it was meant to inspire you to do something more interesting than looking at your inbox. The zine was written and edited by its readers, anyone could come to the editorial meetings and lots of the stories were sent in to us. The whole thing started with my friend Charlie and his friends Dan and Jenny sending out the first issue, and I ended up being one of the dozen or so core editors. I learned a huge amount from those two years.

By Dougald Hine

Dougald Hine

Themes