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SchNEWS celebrated its fourth birthday near the end of November. Four years of publishing news the mainstream press tends to ignore, was celebrated by about four hundred people at the Madeira Hotel in Brighton with a secret set from Channel 4 comedian Mark Thomas, SchNEWS cabaret, DJ's and lotsa beer.

So what else has been happening over the past twelve months?

We really got going properly this year with the launch of our third SchNEWS Book (issues 101-150, a comprehensive direct action lisitings guide and lots more) on Valentines Day, with a gig by Mark Thomas at the Pavilion theatre. Since then its been relentless.

Our coverage has gone a lot more global, especially after all the contacts we made when a few of us attended the Peoples Global Action Conference in Geneva, where half the countries of the world were represented. This has meant our mail bag is as full as ever.

We get up to 100 emails a day, up to one hundred letters a week and countless phone-calls. Being so long in the same place with the same phone number and address is a bit of a rarity in the world of direct action and means we've become a bit of an alternative Citizens Advice Bureau, with everyone from students to the media constantly getting in touch.

Our snail mail subscription now stands at around 500 including 50+ prisoners who get sent SchNEWS free and 85 originals to people who each week copy the SchNEWS and distribute it themselves.

Meanwhile our email subscription list where people get sent the SchNEWS every week numbers one thousand and is growing rapidly, while our website has two thousand hits a week. You can now even print the SchNEWS as it looks on paper straight from our website. Hey, we've even got a new easy to read web address.

Still, all this technology is all well and good, but half the world still hasn't got access to electricity let alone a computer and you can't beat meeting people face to face. In fact SchNEWS has always boasted it's written by activists not journalists, who get out there and see for themselves what's happening in the world.

In the UK we've been busy with the festival scene, with stalls from the Beach Festival in Cornwall to V98 in Leeds; not to mention numerous parties. At the moment we're trying to sort out our own marquee space which will be packed full of information as well as photographic exhibitions.

So how do we fund all this? Apart from free office space from the Levellers, SchNEWS has to rely on subscribers and donations to keep going. Large benefactors this year include a series of benefits from that man Mark Thomas again, a thousand pounds from Chumbawumba and a couple of hundred pounds from one man who sued the police after being wrongfully arrested at the last Brighton Reclaim The Streets!

When we have got extra cash we've subsidized coaches so people can get to Birmingham and Cambridge Reclaim The Streets, anti-Pinochet demo in London, anti National Front demo in Dover and have put in an extra phone line for other groups to use in an emergency. For example, at the moment the Simon Jones memorial Campaign is running a worst Brighton boss bully hotline.

But often it's hand to mouth, with it costing at least £250 a week just to keep going!

All of this is run by volunteers. We are always holding training days to get more people involved and have recently had a large influx of new students after a heavy presence at this years Freshers Fayres. In fact the direct action scene in Brighton is fairly buzzin' at the moment with at least an action a week with the monthly Rebel Alliance meeting pulling all these different groups of people together.

We now reckon our weekly readership is about 25,000 which compared to say The Sun isn't very impressive, but considering the newsletter is run by volunteers on a shoe string budget it ain't bad. And the list of our subscribers from the Big Issue to BBC World Service means the hidden news gets a bit more coverage in the mainstream press.

Last updated 15 January 1999
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