Road Raging - Top Tips for Wrecking Roadbuilding

Chapter 4: Branching out

For your campaign to grow into a force to be reckoned with, it will need more and more people to get actively involved. Make this as easy as possible for them and draw support from as wide an area as you can reach. The more people who are visibly active, then the more likely the developers are to back down. No matter how cunning your tactics or how high your tree houses, there is no substitute for a diverse mass of determined people.

The Campaign Office

Any effective campaign, which seeks to achieve a national (or international or even intergalactic) profile, will need some sort of office. This can become a vibrant hub for your campaign where information flows efficiently, supporting activists on the ground, and helping people get involved by providing an initial point of contact. However, it can also become a burden and a place of contention if the roles of the office and its staff are not clear. Offices are a long term financial commitment (phone and electricity bills etc.).

The Function of an Office

Everyone involved in the campaign should help to decide what the function of the office is. You should also clearly define what it is NOT. Is it a communications centre where the phones are answered? Is it a place where new people are welcomed and introduced to the campaign? Is it a place where quiet work goes on and publicity is designed? Is it a place where activists can go to get warm and a cup of tea? Is it a place where money is distributed and equipment stored? If incompatible roles are merged, people won't get the attention they need and office staffers cannot get work done. The office atmosphere will depend on the stage of the campaign and may even vary according to the time of day. Be flexible and strike a balance without isolating the office. To be honest every campaign has had problems with their office. Maybe you will get it right!

Perhaps another building should be set up for the extremely important roles of welcoming new people and giving activists space to relax, without telephones ringing constantly and crises being played out over the CB's. (See Welcome Centres in Chapter 8.)

Finding an Office - and keeping it!

This is the hard bit. You could rent an office, a cheap portacabin, or maybe use a room in someone's house. Perhaps find someone to take somewhere on using Housing Benefit. Alternatively, you could use a squatted building.

Rented offices are the most stable, but paying money (that could be spent campaigning) to a landlord is a shame. If you manage to get the money together for a rented office there are still many things to consider. You may have business neighbours who won't warm to streams of protesters arriving. If you are renting a "Business" property, you will be billed for business rates, and whoever's name is on the contract will be pursued for it. Try getting premises under a false name, or if you can arrange charitable affiliation, you may get a sizeable discount.

Offices in people's houses usually turn into a nightmare with access a continual problem. When a campaign turns hectic there is just no rest from the 24 hour headache.

If an office is in a house rented for this specific purpose with Housing Benefit, people may see it as a "free" place and not respect it. You will still have to answer to a landlord who may not see your point over muddy boots. Beware that nosy neighbours may inform Housing Benefit or your landlord what you're really up to.

If you have a squat the problems of trashing are even worse as protest squats usually end up getting little respect. Because no one "owns" it, some people may act as if anything goes. It will also be very insecure and open to eviction and attack. Not an ideal place to store computers and files! However, at least the squat and Housing Benefit options are free.


Voluntary offices do not have staff paid to come in everyday. Ideally, a broad group of people should run the office, although it is the responsibility of the whole campaign to maintain it effectively. Good communications skills and an ability to stay calm under pressure helps. Perhaps take time to train new staff and set up a rota to ensure the office is staffed regularly. Most office staff will also be involved in "on the ground" Direct Action, and office work is as vital as any other activity. Try to avoid splits between the office and camps.

Remember that your office is one of the most important places in terms of expanding your campaign - speaking to new people on the phone, press work, doing mailouts, producing leaflets. If the telephone is answered by a stressed out ranting rude person, who can't be heard above background chaos, then the caller is unlikely to want to get involved. If you have happy and effective staff at the office, more people will feel enthused and be encouraged to join in!

You'll also need to discuss the opening hours of the office. At vulnerable times during the campaign, such as during evictions, it is worth staffing the office overnight. Be aware that you may be in breach of an office tenancy agreement if people sleep there, so be discreet. Nobody can cope with the stress of being open 24 hours, so at night consider shutting the office, except for a skeleton staff in case of emergencies. Office staff should be allowed to rest.

Layout of office

The office needs to be user-friendly, with simple procedures for processing and disseminating information. Label everything clearly and write out "how to do" lists. It is a good idea to have a space at the front of the office with information about the campaign, forthcoming events, and news for newcomers to browse through. Notice boards near the entrance are very useful, for instance for lifts offered / needed.

Offices which have several rooms allow you to zone activities effectively. Ideally, you might have a quiet work room, containing computers, files etc; a "nerve centre" with phones, faxes and CBs, where the hectic stuff goes on; a smoking / chill-out / tea-drinking room; and a storage space. Doors between the various rooms allow the functions of each to be preserved, and improve security enormously. It is very important that people - or police - can't just walk in and help themselves to your filing cabinets without being challenged! Preferably keep at least one door locked between the front door and your most valuable stuff (see Chapter 13).

Dealing with Info and Taking Messages

A particularly busy campaign should have about 2 - 4 phone lines, a separate fax line and an "incoming calls only" phone line (label it as such). In the office, a lot of information will be coming in very rapidly - most of it relevant, some of it not so. Those answering the phones will need to have some way of passing information on so that everyone can access and act on the latest news. Information must be passed on accurately; rumour, exaggeration and misinformation waste massive amounts of energy. Note the source of any rumours and try to validate them, before causing a panic.

A vital information sharing mechanism is the campaign message book. This stays by the telephone and has three columns: one for who the message is from, one for the actual message and another for the name of the person who the message is for and any action that is required as a result of this message (with an empty box to be ticked on completion). That way, anyone who wants to quickly see if there are any messages for them can just scan down the last column. Message books form a good chronological record of the campaign, so don't lose them.

Another method involves a large wipeable board which can be fixed to an office wall. Everything that happens can be written up, with times noted, so that office staff and visitors can see at a glance the latest situation. Before wiping clean at the end of each day, copy its contents into the message book to build up a picture of the day's events.

Dealing with paperwork

Incoming campaign mail may be best dealt with in someone's home, particularly during hectic periods. This way, replies can be written and donations passed to the treasurer with less risk of them being lost in the chaos. Always acknowledge donations and record the donor's details on your database (unless they ask to remain anonymous). Positive or interesting mail should always be returned to the office and shared with the rest of the campaign - perhaps stored in a "Cheer up" file.

In the office a system of trays or boxes, marked IN, OUT and PENDING can be used to process documents. Make sure everything useful is filed methodically. You could also have files for today's arrests, to campers, contractors' vehicles, lists of people offering baths etc. A campaign diary or wallchart calendar will help with forward planning. Try to stay focused - information overload will constipate your office. Radical groups often end up on the mailing list of every loony in the land. Much of your IN tray may be best filed in your recycling bin!

Other functions of the office

The office is especially important for people living away from home who may rely on it to send and receive mail, stay in touch with family and other campaigns, write witness statements etc. The office could also act as an archive where information can be stored for everyone's use. Archive material could include: intelligence gathered on contractors (e.g. vehicle movements, meeting places, registration numbers); press clippings; photographs; and a library of resources e.g. government reports and other campaign groups' publications.

Big Events

Organising an event helps boost the campaign profile and morale; you'll get publicity and hopefully more people will get involved. Decide what form you want the event to take - a march, a rally with speakers or a demo. Work-stopping Days of Action are described on page yyy.

Fix the date well in advance - the key to any well-attended event is good publicity and sufficient notice. Avoid clashing with other events. A month's notice should be the minimum time to publicise an event. Weekends are undoubtedly the best time to hold events, as most people can come then. Plan around public transport timetables. Avoid hideously early starts and aim to give your event as broad an appeal as possible. Once you have decided and publicised the details of the event, don't change it otherwise you'll confuse people.

Things to work on include:


Design and distribute posters and leaflets as early as possible. Send publicity to, and ring around, green magazines and other groups' listings to get your event publicised on other networks. If you have a database of supporters, and can afford it, do a mailout. Have speakers from your campaign at other events who can plug yours. It is worthwhile putting a lot of effort into local publicity. Local people are most likely to come, as they are most closely affected and don't have far to travel. Hang banners detailing your event at suitable vantage points. Small cheap stickers with the event details can be stuck on subways, lamp posts, bus stops, policemen's helmets...

Press and Press releases

Send out an initial press release to the local papers giving just the basic details for inclusion in their events listings. If your campaign has enough money you may wish to put an ad in the paper. Nearer the time, send out a full press release about your event (see Chapter 5). Be aware of local papers' deadlines. If you decide to send a press release out to the national press, make sure it is tied into an interesting story.


As the day nears there are lots of things to consider, depending on the nature of the event. As early as possible you should sort out permission from landowners or police, if appropriate - but remember that the best events are often held without permission on land you want to reclaim, or are "illegal" marches! If you are organising a march, you will probably have to choose a route and end-point in advance. Hire or prepare toilets - preferably build your own compost loos (see Appendix); hire or blag a PA; prepare information stalls; invite and offer travel expenses to speakers. Don't feel as if you must have big-names. Often people directly involved in grassroots campaigning are the most inspiring. Think up an activity that everyone can join in with after the speakers which will give everyone a lasting memory of the day. For instance, at Twyford in March 1993, hundreds of people symbolically "re-built" the Down by passing chalk into the cutting.

Organise press spokespeople for the day and make sure you have good banners and flags. Stewards should not take on the role of police, but be there to give directions and to help people.


Telephone Info Line

This is a telephone line with an answer machine which takes incoming calls only. The message should be updated regularly with the latest campaign news - at busy times this would be as frequently as every half hour. This saves office staff countless repeated telephone conversations. Also, people phoning in should get a reasonably sane and reliable message instead of somebody trying to do several things at once. Be aware that the info line will also provide your enemies with a really useful resource, so be careful what you put onto it. The DoT's private detectives faithfully recorded the Newbury info line and used it for injunctions. Cheap answering machines will quickly wear out so consider an electronic answering service.

Phone Trees

A phone tree is basically a network whereby a phone call triggers the person called to ring several other pre-arranged numbers, and so on until everyone has got the message. They are one of the best and cheapest ways to spread messages quickly amongst your supporters. They are used in two broad ways: as a emergency alert (e.g. for the start of work or an eviction) to get people to respond as quickly as possible; or as a general, regular means of spreading information through a group without one person having to ring everyone!

Note that these two functions don't mix well - the power of the emergency phone tree lies in occasional appropriate use. A good way to resolve this problem is to have two separate phone trees. Often the "emergency" tree will be large and national in scope, whilst the "news" tree will probably be mostly local (these can be good for putting local people in touch with each other). Another approach is to only have one phone tree, reserved for emergencies, and to use other means to spread news, for instance a recorded info line.

There are loads of ways to structure a phone tree and some are shown in the Appendix. The start of the tree is often called the roots, and other levels, the trunk, branches, twigs, fruit etc. Whatever you call it, the basic principle is of phone numbers fanning out in levels from the start point. For a very small group not dealing with emergency messages, a simple loop structure may be better.

Setting up a Phone Tree

Before you start, be absolutely clear what the purpose of the tree is, and when and how it will be used. Decide where the tree will be triggered from; usually this will be the campaign office. But wherever you choose, it's essential that the start of the tree is dependable! Ensure that people who are reliable (ie. always near a phone) are near the bottom of the tree. To develop the tree, ring down your list of people who want to join the tree, and ask them about their availability. Find out if they are willing to be phoned at work and check their address. Build the tree up in levels, assigning people their numbers to ring (3 numbers each works well), and checking it as you go. It's a good idea - although a lot of work - to give people a personalised, printed list of their numbers to stick by their phone. Remind people to phone you if they lose their numbers.

A phone tree must contain mechanisms to overcome gaps if people are out. One way of doing this is to create overlap, so that the same person gets rung by more than one person from the previous level. Another way is to have a feedback loop, which entails the people at the end of the branches ringing back to the roots to show that the message has got through. If the message hasn't got through the roots should ring back down the branch to find the gap. Alternatively, if people are given a list of all the numbers after them in the tree, they can leap frog any gaps and ring further down the branch.

Yet another method is not to have any specific mechanism at all but to ask everyone on the tree to report back to the roots any failure to get through to any of their numbers. The roots can then trigger the missing link.

When the phone tree is more or less constructed, send a test message. Get the people at the end to ring back to the start to confirm that the message got through.

Once established, the phone tree will need constant maintenance as new people are added, other people leave and people's circumstances change. It is important to remove people who no longer want to be on it immediately. This maintenance and general operation of the tree is hard work, best done by a small dedicated group.

Autonomous local support groups could have their own separate phone tree which is triggered off by yours.

Using the Phone Tree Properly

There's no point putting loads of time, effort and phone bills into setting up a phone tree if it's misused. It can be a very powerful asset if used to maximum advantage. To ensure this, it is essential that the whole campaign agrees and knows when exactly the phone tree is to be used, especially for "emergency" trees. Stick to this! It's best if a group of trusted people take sole responsibility for setting off the tree. For example, at Newbury in 1996, six people, three from camps and three locals, had to agree before the phone tree was set off for the first time. Don't set it off too often or you will irritate people and they will ask to be removed.

Whatever system you develop, ensure that the tree can't be set off by one paranoid individual on a bad day, or by anyone hostile to the campaign. For the same reason, copies of the whole tree should have as limited a circulation as possible. It's also worth having a back-up plan for setting off the tree in case the phones at its base mysteriously go dead at the vital moment...

The Internet

There's been a lot of hype about the Internet, and debate about how valid and useful it is for campaigners. It's undoubtedly fairly elitist, as you need expensive equipment and technical know-how. On the other hand, just about every British student now has free internet access, and so do lots of people with office jobs. It's relatively easy to use, provides quick, cheap and global communication (including rapid mailing to lists), is very difficult to censor, and can be made extremely secure. It's a tool worth using but not depending on.

Unless you get free access, you'll need a computer, a modem (to send data down a phone line), internet software, and an account with a "service provider" (GreenNet are a UK-based service provider, specialising in internet access to environmental and human rights groups - see Chapter 16). Once set up, there are three main ways to communicate.


This is simply sending text from your computer to those of other internet users, via a phone line. Once received, this text can be stored, printed off or edited - for instance, people on different sides of the country can quickly produce a leaflet together. A message can be sent to literally hundreds of e-mail addresses in minutes. Most internet software programs include a facility to allow you to create e-mail lists. Alternatively, ask your service provider to set up a list for you. Some existing lists are openly accessible; for instance Green Student Network ( will forward your message to hundreds of students. Messages can also be encrypted with software like PGP (Pretty Good Privacy), which gives extremely secure communication. Ask computer enthusiasts how to get a free copy of PGP. Alternatively, you can download PGP directly from the world wide web (see below). Use a search engine to find "PGP".

Bulletin Boards / Newsgroups / Conferences:

These are open access internet "interest groups", each devoted to a particular topic. They are useful for posting your news and views to be read by anyone reading the Board, and for finding information and contacts on a particular topic. Try uk.environment or trans.roadbldg on the UseNet / GreenNet systems.

World Wide Web:

This enables you (with the right software) to "visit" Websites, which are pages of text and images created by an internet user. Any group or individual can have a website, and put what they like on it - although it takes know-how and often cash to set one up. Users can browse between sites for infinity, (phone bills permitting). It is potentially a very valuable info gathering tool, especially if you know where to look. Organisations often put non-confidential information on the web, for instance both the DoT and FoE put their press releases on, and many companies post their company reports. By looking for key words or phrases using search engine software, you can cut through the crap and pull up references and links to whatever you're after. The web is also a good free source of documents and software.

Several campaigns have set up their own web sites, which are good for networking, especially to students, and also internationally. Ask a service provider how to set one up. Web sites offer great possibilities for subversion. For instance anyone searching for Costain Plc, the Newbury contractors, may find more Third Battle of Newbury propaganda than official company documents. If you mimic official company information with bogus web sites, the subversion level multiplies.

A word about internet security: unless you are sending an encrypted E-mail to someone you trust, assume that EVERYTHING you put out on the internet is completely "in the open", and will be read by the authorities.

Autonomous Local Groups

Autonomous local groups are a dynamic and successful way of decentralising your campaign once it spreads beyond your town. The group will be a focus for all your supporters from any given town or district. Each should be self-sufficient with its own phone tree and transport arrangements, working as an "affinity group" (see"affinity groups" in Chapter 8).

Organising this way takes the burden off the campaign and builds the autonomous group into a strong unit. The group should support each other and can travel, organise, and train together. They can also organise their own independent actions for your campaign. An autonomous group can take on particular task, like ground blockading during a tree eviction or researching and planning part of a national action. The group will also still be there after the campaign has finished and can go on to do different things.

defaultDuring the Third Battle of Newbury, the nearby town of Reading had a particularly strong group - the Reading Roadbusters. On the second day of work starting, the group blockaded a Reading coach company due to transport security guards to Newbury. This made them pull out of their contract! This action was organised and carried out entirely by the Reading Roadbusters. Other groups "adopted" camps, keeping them supplied with food, blankets, firewood, equipment and occasional extra workers. One student group set up a new camp and staffed it in rotation.

Your campaign should help establish the local group as far as possible in advance of work starting. Help people who are particularly keen, starting with a meeting to drum up support in their town. Pass on any contacts in their area from your database, and direct new enquiries to their nearest local group. If they need it provide them with direct action training and help with things such as setting up a phone tree. If you can, give them "seed money" to get the ball rolling. Consider doing an exchange with them so one person can go and help out with their group, and one of them can come to your campaign and learn the ropes.

Stay in touch with the groups and keep them informed of what is going on. There should be a few key, reliable contacts within each group who can disseminate information. Consider having an occasional newsletter specific to local groups.

Buying, Blagging And Borrowing

Direct action campaigns can be like black holes for equipment and money. With minimal resources beyond determination and commitment, we need to get equipment as cheaply as possible. Materials and equipment are best obtained free by donation, or acquisition from big companies that: a) won't miss them, and b) need them less than you (e.g. big property developers).

Skips are an excellent source of timber, plastic sheet, carpet and food. Although technically theft, the amount of perfectly good stuff thrown out, particularly in wealthy areas, is obscene. Ask anyone working on a demolition site, or at the end of the day at a market, if it's OK to take stuff from the skip. They'll probably say yes, as it's cheaper for them than emptying it. Leave skips looking tidy. Freight hauliers may have old tarpaulins which you could ask for. Building sites often have spare scaffolding and bags of sand and cement. If they are building on a green field site then liberating materials is a direct action.

Businesses may offer discounts to regular customers or people whose actions they support. Bulk orders of goods like whole foods and rope will be cheaper. Army surplus and junk yards are a good source of cheap clothes, boots, sleeping bags, tools, tarpaulins and other equipment. Boycott local companies that support the development, and let them know why.

Wish Lists

Draft one of these immediately and circulate it widely as soon as possible. A wish list is basically a list of all your campaign's practical needs with a plea for donations. It is a very easy way for people to help who cannot be there. It is amazing how much useful stuff like CB radios, which we all thought were just a 70's fad, are lurking in other people's attics when they should be on your campaign! This does not apply to Boney M and Bay Sitter Rollers LPs.

Make the wish list as beautiful, eye catching and charming as possible. Put everything down, including the boring stuff like socks and photocopier paper (and don't forget to put a photocopier on the list - it may happen!). Also ask for skills such as artists and welders. Send it to any mail enquiries you get, distribute it to your mailing lists and put it on your stalls.

Examples of wish lists are included in the Appendix.


Unfortunately, all campaigns need cash to keep running and to expand. This means that someone, or some people, will have to put some effort into securing you some funds. This is a very important role. Your campaign will be most likely to attract funds if it is genuinely inspiring, and your fundraiser is charming and can enthuse people into parting with their cash! The art of getting people to give to your campaign is a delicate one and should be handled with sensitivity. If people have given once, you will want them to give again and to carry on supporting you. If the donor feels that their money is really going to have an effect and they are shown some proof of how well it was spent, they'll be more inclined to give again.

Sometimes, people in direct action campaigns rely on guilt-tripping and bullying people to get them to "give" - the "we're saving the planet for YOU" line. If you do this, you will alienate people and make them feel as if they have been used or intimidated. They won't feel like giving again and will be put off other direct action campaigns.

Appeals through your mailing list -

In every newsletter or leaflet, mention the fact that your campaign needs money. Some people assume that if you are producing a newsletter then you must be doing alright. The truth is that campaign funding usually comes out of personal pockets. Always give clear instructions on how to donate, i.e. who to make cheques and Postal Orders out to. Be aware that if you really overdo it and are always asking for money, people may doubt your need. If the situation is really bad, you could put in a special leaflet stating your financial situation and ways that people could help. You could also put specific urgent appeals for money or goods on your info line.

Giving examples can help people identify with your situation and illustrate how every little helps. For instance: "This newsletter cost us 100 to print and 200 to post out. This has all come out of our pockets. If everyone on the mailing list sent just 5, this would raise 2,500. 5 would pay for the costs of mailing you this newsletter regularly. 10 would pay for some good healthy food for the camps. 40 would pay for a decent climbing harness for somebody to be able to go up in the trees."

Always write personal thank-you letters to people who have sent you money and keep a record of all donors on your database. If you do a specific fundraising mailout to these people, remember to thank them for their past generosity and give examples of what their donations have achieved.

Direct contributions -

At every event make sure you do some bucket rattling. Small change soon adds up and there are always people who will chuck in notes! Don't overdo it, or do it aggressively. Keep hold of your bucket. Don't do it at other people's events without asking first.

Benefit gigs and other fundraising events -

These, if well planned, publicised and attended, can raise lots of money. Sometimes, however, they are loads of effort and at the end of the night you will only have just about covered your costs. Publicity is the key to any good event: fly-post extensively. Make sure that people realise the objective of the event is to raise money and don't try and free-load their way in! Think carefully about the admission fee. It must be enough to make money for the campaign, but not too expensive. Consider having a concessionary rate.

Most benefits involve local bands. Other options include a folk evening, a ceilidh, a story-telling evening, a bingo night, a fete or fair, a jumble sale, or something else that fits in with the local culture and community. Only pay bands expenses or you won't make a profit.

Always have an information stall at the event, selling campaign merchandise and collecting donations. If any potentially sympathetic band is due to play in your area, or there is a regular club night at a local venue, approach them and ask if you can run a stall. Ask the band or DJ to point out your stall.

Funding Proposals -

This is the best, and often the only, way to get larger sums of money from trusts, individuals and organisations (see Chapter 17). A funding proposal is a summary of your campaign project and a breakdown of the money needed to achieve it. Many of these groups will only consider a proposal if it is on paper and sounds realistic.

A funding proposal should be clear, concise and convincing. You could ask for funding for newsletters, organisation for an action, event or demo, office expenses, or direct action and communications equipment. Funding proposals for outrageous things are always worth a go - a hot air balloon or helicopter perhaps. Like a press release, you will need to catch the potential funder's attention immediately. They may receive loads of proposals and yours will have to stick out. Some funding bodies only allocate funds once or twice each year, so find out when they next meet.

How to write a Funding Proposal

Once sent out, the proposal may take a while to go through the system. Follow up the proposal with a phone call to make sure they received it, but do not hassle them.

If you get the money, well done! The person who did the negotiations should then maintain contact with the funder and build up a relationship of trust with them. Keep them informed of what happens to their money and about the campaign generally. Send them a letter or a report showing the result of the project.

Personal and Individual Contact -

You may be fortunate enough to have a "benefactor" approach your campaign. People like this are rare and often prefer to remain anonymous. They may ask for a funding proposal or they may give freely.

Pub Collections -

These are very easy - just go round pubs rattling a bucket! Ask permission from the licensee first and choose your pubs carefully.

Sponsored Events -

An old favourite and good for publicity.

Busking -

Good buskers can raise a lot of money and can entertain the local community.

Campaign Merchandise -

T-shirts, badges, posters and postcards spread the message as well as raising money.

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!