Road Raging - Top Tips for Wrecking Roadbuilding

Chapter 2: Your campaign - some first steps

The first step in the process between sitting at home fuming about an outrageous new development, and actually stopping it, is finding other like-minded people and getting organised.

Starting up a Group from Scratch

Groups like the Friends of Twyford Down and Save Our Solsbury grew from a couple of people deciding to actively oppose road schemes. If you decide to set up a group to initiate opposition to a scheme, here are a few ideas for getting started. Firstly, get in touch with other local groups with similar interests - your local Earth First! (EF!), Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth (FoE), Council for Protection of Rural England (CPRE) group or cycling campaign - and see if there is any concern in these circles too. Get in touch with ALARM UK (see Chapter 16) to see if there are any activists or groups in your area. Write letters to the local papers and see who responds, then get in touch with them.

When you feel as if you have enough people to kick things off (remember, you'll only need a few) then consider setting up your first meeting. Book a hall, or hold the meeting in someone's house, and make sure as many people who've expressed interest can come along. Organise refreshments. Advertise in sympathetic places that a group is being set up to oppose the development you're fighting, and that a first meeting is being held. Do not invite the press.

The first meeting should be open, inclusive and inspiring! You could begin by getting to know one another and letting off steam about the development. If there are lots of people it might be an idea to do this in small groups of 4 or 5. Be at pains not to let a few people dominate the whole meeting. If people decide to respect one another as equals, encouraging active involvement from everyone in decision making and action, then both the campaign and the people in it will grow and blossom.

The task of this first meeting could be to choose the group's name. Once a group of people is set up, there are a few essentials to sort out without which your group won't really exist.

Money, Bank Accounts and Treasurer

A bank account is essential, both to allow you to process donations, and to avoid people in the campaign having to keep dipping into their own pockets. Set up an account with an ethically aware organisation, for instance the Co-op bank or an independent building society. Have at least two trustworthy signatories who are also not in trouble with outstanding financial court cases or debts.

One of these signatories should take the role of Treasurer. This is a role best suited to someone with book- keeping skills, time to spare, and who is easy to get hold of. The signatories will be the only people who'll have their names directly linked to the campaign and for this reason perhaps they should be people who are unlikely to be involved in arrestable direct action.

Treasurers should never be pressured into handing out cash on demand but should be able to refer demands back to the meeting. Right from the start the Treasurer should keep scrupulous records of income and expenditure so they are accountable to the campaign. However, never keep records or receipts of anything incriminating.

Points of Contact - Postal Address, Telephone and E-mail

You must have a postal address, as people will soon want to send you requests for information and donations etc. Consider setting up a Post Office Private Box (PO Box) as soon as possible rather than using a private home address, for security reasons. However the Post Office will disclose the names and addresses to which the PO Box is registered on request. Safer still is the BM Box confidential mail forwarding service, privately provided by British Monomarks (see Chapter 16). A BM Box gives your address complete security - except from the police! A third and easier alternative is to have a "care of" address in a sympathetic local radical bookshop or similar.

A telephone contact point is also essential. In the first instance you may want to use individual private phone lines. Several numbers will share the burden. Alternatively the campaign could pay to have a second line installed in someone's house with an answer machine with a message on it.

If a member of your group has access to a computer and a modem you may wish to set up an e-mail address (See Chapter 4 "the internet" section).

Group Structure

British anti-road direct action campaigns have always deliberately avoided formal hierarchical structures such as, committees, leaders and named positions. Hierarchies are stifling and do not bring out the best in people. From a practical point of view, hierarchical structures can easily be nobbled by the victimisation of its leaders.

Although non-hierarchical structures require hard work, patience and tolerance to work, they are worth it as they are definitely the most welcoming and inclusive way to enable everyone to maximise their contribution to the campaign. With this way of working, individuals will be able to vary their involvement according to their personal skills, energy and interests at any time, unrestricted by the straitjacket of formal structure. People will probably be happier too! It would be optimistic to pretend that informal hierarchies, based on experience or dominant personalities, will not develop. Try to minimise this, and ensure that these hierarchies don't become entrenched.

Establishing small but open working groups to tackle specific issues - research, legal support, fundraising - allows efficiency and specialisation without hierarchy. Having no leaders does not mean that individuals do not take the initiative or responsibility. It means that people have to be self-motivated.

The campaign will develop its own unique identity. Preserve this, and guard against being used by other groups or individuals with their own agendas. Hierarchical national organisations (even sympathetic and helpful ones) and political parties (including local politicians) may try to use your campaign to further their own ends, if you let them. Work with them, but on your own terms.

The system which brings about untold social and environmental ruin relies on people respecting and obeying hierarchy. Don't mimic the system - fight it!

Campaign meetings

Campaign meetings are an essential tool for bringing the campaign together for discussion and decision-making. Although they can be tedious and frustrating they should never be abandoned. Running successful, dynamic and positive meetings IS possible, although often hard work!

Firstly, decide on the purpose of the meeting. Regular weekly meetings are good for deciding basic campaign expenditure, exchanging news, and brief discussions, but aren't suitable for in-depth debates on a single issue, or for detailed action planning. It's best to call a separate meeting to deal in detail with planning or specific issues; alternatively, just get together the people interested, and do it! Some campaigns have set up small working groups to work on particular projects; these can then report back to a weekly meeting.

The weekly meeting should have a fixed time and venue, to provide a steady reference point. Weekday evenings are good times, starting the meeting late enough to allow people who have been working to get there, but early enough so that it finishes in good time. Meetings in camps are preferred by some camp-dwellers, but finding a reliable, comfortable, weatherproof and well-lit meeting space for enough people can be difficult. A meeting room in the nearest town is better, but will often pose transport problems for those living on camps. Providing reliable lifts from and back to camps on the meeting night may be the answer. Ensure the arrangement is broadly acceptable to everyone.

Running the Meeting

There are many ways to run a meeting, and the campaign must find one that is accessible and inclusive. Start by sitting in a circle large enough for everyone to see each other. There are two main ways which are commonly used to run a meeting: The facilitator should encourage new points, discourage reiteration in discussion and aim towards concluding the discussion with an action point (i.e. a task that someone agrees to take on). If lots of people have their hands up, note them in order on a piece of paper so each gets their say in turn. Remember that people whose hard work would otherwise go unrecognised should be thanked by the meeting.

It is important to rotate the facilitator at each meeting - this does not mean putting them in the middle of the circle and spinning them around, but instead means encouraging everyone to have a go. Good facilitators tend to keep facilitating meetings, but if you rotate the role, no individual will dominate. Make sure that people from different parts of the campaign with different perspectives have a go.


A piece of paper and a pen should be circulated at the start of the meeting so that all points for discussion can be formed into an agenda. This agenda should then be prioritised by the meeting. Always include an "Any Other Business" section at the end for forgotten items. It is a good idea to write up the agenda on a large bit of paper and stick it on the wall so that everyone (especially latecomers) can see what is going on. If something really dramatic and important happens, (such as contracts being signed) be prepared to abandon the agenda and talk about it for as long as necessary.

Minute Taking

A minute taker should note important decisions, action points and the name of who's doing them. It is important that the work load after the meeting is distributed evenly, amongst as many individuals as possible. If the minutes of the previous meeting are read out at the start of each meeting then you can see what has happened, what should have been done, and how the campaign is developing.

Meeting Structure

Allow time before the meeting for gossip. Decide an end time at the start and try to stick to it. It is useful to separate the weekly meeting into sections, discussing finance and allocation of resources, for instance, for a fixed time, then moving on to other matters. Some basic structure helps everyone understand what's going on - starting the meeting with a current situation report works well, and a short news and information exchange, without discussion, can follow. After these relatively straightforward matters, the meeting can proceed to discussion points. Find your own simple structure that gets things done. If meetings last more than an hour, take a break.


Decision-making is a tricky process. Most campaign meetings have used a form of consensus. This means that everyone must agree a proposal, or at least be prepared to accept it; if someone has a really strong or principled objection, they can block the decision. This should create a process whereby a solution is reached by argument without alienating or dismissing anyone's strongly-held views.

Of course, there are problems, including the ability of one awkward individual to dominate and block decisons. However, consensus remains the most inclusive way of making decisions. Avoid voting if at all possible, especially on contentious issues, as the minority losers of the vote are immediately excluded. This may cause factions to form.

This book is now out of print. You might be able to get a copy from a UK library by ordering on the inter-library loans scheme.

Road Alert!