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free weekly direct action newsheet produced in Brighton, UK, since
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How to Set Up a Local Newsletter
- ORGANISE A MEETING:
You've talked about it down the pub with a few mates. You all
think it's a great idea. There are a few more people you can
think of who'd be interested. So just get on with it - it's
not going to happen otherwise. Fix a date, time and venue (could
be someone's house, it's not a public meeting). Leave other
possibilities wide open. It's important for everyone to have
had a say in the shaping of the project from the start.
- GET IT ALL SORTED:
There's no point in having your founding moment and then coming
away having vaguely agreed to do something soon. Probably. When
we've got our act together. The minimum you should have agreed
is a name and address, which will in turn enable you to set
up a building society account in your newsletter's name. We
use a PO Box, which costs about fifty quid a year. We had to
chip in up front to start it but donations over the next 12
months covered the renewal (just). It would probably be better
to have an actual local street address, not just to save cash
but so people could drop stuff in by hand and bypass the official
- THINK OF A GOOD NAME:
OK, maybe you can't take that advice from a group with a title
like The Pork-Bolter. But it is a genuinely historical nickname
for Worthing people and the piggie identity has provided us
with hours of puns. The main requirements are that it should
be a local name and that it shouldn't put people off reading
your stuff by being too overtly political. This may not come
naturally to most would-be rabble-rousers, but you are addressing
ordinary people here and not fellow subversive scum. On the
same lines, there is no need to invent a seperate name for the
group producing the newsletter. It may well prove an own goal
to declare that ON THE BOG - What's Going Down in Little Bogweed
is published by the South Bogshire Emiliano Zapata Revolutionary
Militia Propaganda Outreach Cell.
- THE NITTY-GRITTY:
Thinking of a name is the fun bit and may well take up 95% of
your opening meeting (if you let it). But you've also got to
start thinking about boring detail, like what size is the newsletter
going to be, how often will it come out, how many will you get
printed and so on. Without wanting to come across all sycophantic,
we were greatly inspired by the Sch-you-know-who in our inception
and had no qualms about blatantly copying their format. You'd
be amazed at how much you can fit on a double-sided piece of
A4. As far as frequency is concerned, once a month seems about
right for us. Quantity is obviously limited by funds. Try getting
500 done to start with, then up it to 1,000 or more if your
distribution is working. Another advantage of double-sided A4
format is that it is easy to photocopy and you may be able to
supplement your print run with the help of office-worker volunteers
(and various people will be busy copying and distributing them
round their mates and colleagues who you won't even know about
Cheap photocopying/printing is hard to come by, but very useful.
Don't just rush out to the nearest High Street print shop. Ask
around for ideas about cheaper options. Try your local student
union or college print department or local resource centre.
If all else fails, why not bring out the newsletter at whatever
cost and appeal to readers for leads on cheaper printing. You
never know who may come forward.
- PAYING FOR IT:
You'll probably find yourselves fulfilling this role. But spread
between the group members it doesn't come to much. If you meet
at someone's home instead of in the pub, you'll have probably
paid for the next issue from what would have been spent at the
bar. Other costs may well be covered by donations/subscriptions
once you've got going.
- GETTING IT OUT:
Distribution is a piece of cake when it's free. It's just a
question of getting them all out into the hands of the local
population. You can do that most directly by standing in the
town centre and thrusting them rudely into people's hands (with
a smile on your face). And you can leave them in public places
like the library and town hall (small amounts but frequently
- they tend to get removed). Ask in shops if you can leave a
pile on the counter. And in pubs. You'll be surprised at the
positive reaction to a lively local newsletter. Keen people
should also be able to subscribe for a small charge to cover
postage (though since they're local you could drop them in by
hand and save the stamp).
You'd forgotten about that small detail, hadn't you? What do
you put in the bloody thing? This should not really be a problem
for anyone who's got as far as even thinking about doing a newsletter.
First of all you read all the mainstream local papers. And then
you get very angry with all the stuff the council's up to and
the MP is spouting on about. And then you don't just forget
about it and resolve not to read annoying local papers anymore,
but instead you cut out the relevant bits and bring them along
to the next newsletter meeting. And everyone else says how crap
the council is and takes the piss a bit and someone else has
cut a bit out of The Big Issue which sort of fits in. Meanwhile,
a person with biro-manipulating skills writes down the best
bits. And lo, the contents start to emerge. Add in your own
little campaigns (anti-GM, anti-CCTV, anti-negative attitudes
etc), plus titbits about worthy local groups (Friends of the
Earth, animal welfare, etc, etc) and you've got a newsletter.
Gives a positive focus amidst all the sniping from the sidelines.
But obviously depends on what's happening locally. And what
- KEEP IT LOCAL:
Forget the recommendation to act locally and think globally.
You have to start thinking locally as well. Only then can you
go on to draw your political conclusions. For instance, trying
to persuade people here that global capitalism is a bad thing
because it is destroying the Amazon rainforests is a waste of
time. But talk to them about the way that money-grabbing property
developers are allowed to build all over green spaces on the
edge of your town and your readers will understand why you then
call for an end to the rule of greed and money over people and
countryside. In your newsletter your views can clearly be seen
as common sense. You are normal and the council/property developers/government
are the outsiders - reversing the way radical views are conventionally
presented. Use words like 'we' and 'our' a lot.
- HAVE A LAUGH:
A jokey approach makes people read your newsletter and explodes
certain ill-founded stereotypes about types involved in radical
political initiatives. Could be a problem, though, if your group
does in fact happen to be entirely composed of humourless left-wing
Remember that you can get done for libel if you make certain
claims about individuals. Get round this with humourous digs
and heavy use of satire and sarcasm (think Private Eye, Have
I Got News For You, etc). It is worth knowing that you cannot
libel a council - so go for it!
You yourselves are the new media for the town, so you don't
need to worry about publicity. But if they want to give a rival
organ a boost, that's just dandy.
- CARRY ON PUBLISHING!
There will be ups and downs. New people will join your circle.
Others will drift away. It might seem like nobody's taking any
notice of you at all. But in fact your subversive message will
be permeating the very fabric of your community. It's got to
be worth it.
from The Pork-Bolter
PO Box 2600, Brighton, BN2 0EF, England
Phone/Fax: +44 (0)1273 685913
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