Road Raging: boosting numbers, campaign building - Chapter 3

Chapter 3: Boosting numbers and support

Before you take on the road builders, your campaign must have a strong base. This means involving lots of people, having an accessible campaign structure and being well rooted in your local community. Your local community is obviously the right place to start looking for your supporters. Do this before mobilising nationally. This section describes essential methods that any campaign can use to build up its support base. The strength of your support base may well determine whether you win or lose.


Well-produced leaflets are invaluable, as they are the first contact many will have with your campaign. To grab attention above the daily bombardment of useless info, originality and creativity are needed. Decide at the start what the main goal of the leaflet is (eg. event publicity, background info, or to raise awareness or funds) and build your design around that.

Tips for producing a good leaflet:

Next, find cheap printing or photocopying; using the photocopier at work is free. However, printing works out cheaper than copying for large volumes, and enhances quality, particularly for photographs. Be realistic about how many copies you need. Then, distribute them. Put in friendly shops, cafes, info centres; send originals for copying to action groups; hand out in town centres, gigs, fairs etc; bribe newspaper-deliverers to pop them through letterboxes.


Most of the points made for leaflets also apply to posters. In addition, use as little text as you can to get the message across. Avoid a cluttered layout - keep images striking and simple. Put "not for flyposting" on the bottom of posters, to cover you when you flypost them! Flypost tirelessly (plastic bags are less conspicuous than buckets for carrying wallpaper paste).


These can be very cheap, and can be stuck anywhere to get the message out. Central Line tube trains used to be covered with "No M11 Link" stickers! Use a simple design, and remember the campaign contact details, if appropriate.


Petitions are popular but we think they are over-rated. Unless they are really huge (several 100,000), they are usually ignored - even huge ones are often still ignored. Some people just sign petitions to salve their consciences and won't do anything else as a result. Don't give them the option. The only thing that petitions are good for is to wave at your opponents when they mention local opinion on the road.


Printed postcards are good for assisting people to register their opposition. They can be pre- addressed to politicians, with space for peoples' name and address, and to add comments. The Newbury Bypass was delayed for 6 months in 1995, largely due to local people seriously "postcarding" for 2 months. They went round from door to door every evening, and in 2 months collected over 2000 postcards from local people urging the Transport Secretary to stop the road. Before you post off the postcards, always add the supporter's details to your mailing list and keep a record of the number you send. See Appendix for an example.

Beat The Bulldozer Pledges

Used in numerous campaigns - most famously to help to stop the East London River Crossing through Oxleas Wood in 1993. They are a form that people can fill in pledging to try and be there when the bulldozers come. Pledges are useful for building up a mailing list (see "mailing lists" in Chapter 3). It is good to include a space on the pledge for people to indicate their skills and what they are interested in, eg. NVDA, letter writing, phone tree, leafletting etc. This can help you target your mailings in future. Ask people to print their name and address clearly. Distribute them nationally. Keep a tally, so you can publicise the scale of expected direct action. For examples of other campaigns' Beat the Bulldozer Pledges see the Appendix.

Door Knocking

This is an excellent, if time consuming, way to increase your support base by getting postcards and pledges signed. It is also useful for getting a feel for the extent of local support and opposition to the road. The importance of talking to people face to face cannot be over emphasised. Don't just moan in your group how nobody realises how bad things will be; get out there and convince them. Door knocking is also the best way to draw out silent supporters who otherwise wouldn't come to you.

Remember that just because people want the road, they are not necessarily manic nature- haters. Try to understand their often legitimate concerns; if you know why people want the road then you can argue much more effectively against it.

Decide which areas you will target first and divide them into manageable chunks so that different people don't duplicate effort. A town map is useful for this. Areas most affected by the development are good places to start. The best times to door knock are weekday evenings after work, ideally before dark, and all day Saturday. Always respect that you are intruding.

It helps to dress smartly and be polite, and is more enjoyable if done in pairs or small groups. If you come across really enthusiastic people, discuss pledges (see above) and suggest other ways of getting involved. Make a note of their names and addresses, and add them to your mailing list. On the other hand, don't waste your time on people who are absolutely for the road, move on politely. Never get drawn into a doorstep row!

Door knocking only needs a small team to stick at it. Meet up after each session in a pub or cafe to analyse patterns, and your methods.


Stalls in your town are a key way to reach people. Choose a prominent position so people notice you. Have all your local campaign info for people to take away, with a big sign saying that the leaflets are free. Try to rotate the stall staff - you are not terribly inspiring if you are knackered. The first contact will probably determine whether or not people are inspired. Ranty accounts of how bad things are will put new people off; so will exaggerated and made-up stories. However, don't be afraid to show passion and emotion.

Have an address list for people to sign - never lose a contact. Campaign postcards, posters or T-shirts can also be sold. Always have an obvious collecting tin for any donations. You may need permission from the local authority or the police to have a stall and you'll definitely need permission to collect money. If you are refused - do it anyway! The worst that can happen is that you'll be asked to move on.

Route Walks


These help everyone build up a relationship with the land that they are campaigning for, and show exactly where the road is going, especially before work starts. Bill them as fairly neutral so that fence-sitters can find out more and won't feel as if they are just political rallies. Once they see the land they will know what side of the fence they are on! Publicise the meeting time and place through local papers, posters around town, and leaflets. Lots of cars arriving is hypocritical, so consider hiring a minibus to take people to the start of the walk, or use public transport. The start should be a well-known accessible place. Publicise the end point of the walk so that people can make arrangements. Remember that you will finish miles away from the start, so use the minibus to get everyone back again. Having a choice of end points means that people can walk for a shorter distance if they wish. Consider those with children, the elderly and others who can't walk far. Have someone on the walk who knows the area and can give a commentary - experts on archaeology, wildlife and local history are particularly good.

Public Meetings And Debates

These are excellent local rallying opportunities and allow people who are undecided to be presented with the facts. They will pull people in if well publicised. If you're feeling really confident, invite representatives of any pro-road group on the platform with you for a debate. Hold the meeting in a central place like a school hall in town, which is easy to find. Give it a snappy name for your press releases and posters. Good speakers from your side should inspire, inform and consolidate support. Create displays for people to wander around with beautiful blown-up pictures of what would be destroyed by the road. After your speakers, always leave lots of time for an open discussion so that everyone can have their say. You will need a good Chairperson for this! Plant people in the audience with things to say as your opponents will do the same. Other groups such as Women's Institutes, Chambers of Commerce, schools and wildlife groups will hold their own meetings. Contact them and ask if you can do a presentation, or at least take part in a debate.

Social Events

These are really good for bringing everyone together so you feel stronger - and can be combined with fund-raising. Have as many as possible with everyone bringing food to share. Get to know each other as friends. The most interesting campaign discussions will often take place in the pub! Games and sports are good too, although don't make them too macho.


Newsletters allow you to put your case clearly, in an ordered manner. You can argue through the real points at issue, creating a different media instead of relying on the mainstream. When replying to enquiries, you can just pop one in the post. They are important for networking to people whom you can't meet face to face.

Think of your target audience, for example: regulars who want to hear the latest, other active groups who can spread your news, or new people who have just picked up a copy off a bus seat.

Offensive language, in-jokes and slang may alienate people who will either think you're mad, cliquey or elitist. Ideally, whatever you write should be clear to anyone. It is quite important to assume your reader has little prior knowledge of the issue.

Only write newsletters when there is news to tell. Check out newsletters from other groups, look at how they are put together and what they contain. Quality is more important than quantity; long newsletters are expensive to produce and post, and may bore people. Newsletters can be typed, or hand-written if you don't have a computer. Think about clarity.

A newsletter can include:

The final product should be readable, interesting and useful. Avoid waffle and make it punchy and enthusiastic.

It is worth asking people to edit and proof-read it, before spending time and money on printing. Good spelling and grammar aid clarity. Form an editorial group including people with different perspectives. The group should work to a tight schedule and stick to deadlines, aiming to get it out quickly. Find the cheapest printer you can and order a realistic number of newsletters. Prepare envelopes and address labels whilst the newsletter is being printed.

Mailing Lists

Mailing lists can be compiled over time, as people make contact. Try to get contact details for everyone who expresses an interest. If people phone in asking for updates, or offering skills or equipment, record their contact details. Ask if they want further information sent and then add them to your mailing list. If they hear from you again quickly they will pick up on the urgency. Add radical groups from around the country from existing lists, eg The Book and EF! Action Update (See Chapter 17).

Computer databases are the easiest way of storing mailing lists. It is easy to copy the necessary software. Whatever format you choose to use for your mailing list, ensure that it can be easily added to and separated regionally for targetted mailouts. Keep it secure and have back-up copies in safe places.

There are security implications of having large numbers of activists' names and addresses on lists. It was from mainstream animal welfare organisations' mailing lists that the British secret services developed ARNI (Animal Rights National Index), a database of British animal rights sympathisers. Consider using encryption software to make the database unintelligible if it is seized (see "the internet" in Chapter 4).

Computer stored databases in the UK are supposed to be registered with (i.e. a copy sent to) the Data Protection Registry. This is a really easy way for the State to get a copy of your mailing list. Don't give it to them. However the Registry are currently threatening at least one environment group with legal action for failure to register. It may be possible to register without using your real database.

Banners And Flags

default Banners and flags are essential in any campaign and have a long and proud history. They are good for rallying people, getting messages across and adding colour to demos and actions. You can also mark out the route near a road, footpath or railway line. They are fun to make. If you are feeling fed up, rather than sitting around moaning, get into a bit of banner making! Have a good stock of banners throughout your campaign; well made ones will be better looked after and will last longer. Messy, mis-spelt banners are not worth the sheets they are written on.

Flags look fantastic and are good rallying symbols. Avoid anything nationalistic or militaristic. If you make them from light material they will fly in the wind and look great. Use bright colours.

To produce a banner with a slogan on, first measure out the letters and draw them on in pencil to ensure they all fit. Keep the message simple and clear. Instead of slogans, why not use imagery or symbols? Banners including the campaign phone number are good for the media.

Always leave a big margin around the edge for banner hanging. Work out how the banner will be displayed before you start. If it is carried then you will need to sew two sleeves up the vertical sides to insert poles. If you are hanging the banner, you will need ropes attached to the top corners and weights sewn into the bottom corners or a pole in a sleeve along the bottom, to stop it blowing in the wind. Small holes in large banners can stop them billowing.

You may not want to paint the banner but use fabric for letters. You can also stick or sew fabric letters onto a net background so that it looks like your words are literally hanging in the air!

If doing a Street Party (see chapter 11), banners strung across the road between lamp posts look very good and define your autonomous zone! See Appendix for how to climb the post.) Take a good look at the width of the road when designing your banners.

Put out the message that the campaign needs artists and banner makers as well as materials and ask local art colleges. Find a space for banner making where materials can be stored - an empty garage is good. Hospital laundries, charity shops and jumble sales usually sell cheap old sheets.

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!