On The Road
CAFCA/ABC Speaking Tour March-July 2014
- Murray Horton
My major project in 2014, in both of my CAFCA and Anti-Bases Campaign (ABC) capacities, was my national speaking tour, entitled “Who’s Running The Show? And In Whose Interests?” This took place between March and July, in three separate sections (plus there came to be a fourth section, devoted to speaking at various venues around Christchurch). You can read my speech at http://canterbury.cyberplace.co.nz/community/CAFCA/docs/speaking-tour-speech-notes-2014.doc and, if you’re so inclined, you can watch a video of me delivering it, at http://canterbury.cyberplace.co.nz/community/CAFCA/murray-horton-speaking-tour-2014.html.
If I say so myself, the speech was a good one. It’s unlike any of my previous tour speeches in that it was on behalf of both CAFCA and ABC. It also stressed the positive, rather than simply regurgitating the negative. And, because of that, it took me much longer to write than previous tours’ speeches. As to its political line, it could be described as “social democrat”. Chris Trotter, who devoted one of his weekly Press columns to it, described it as “old Labour”. I would even go so far to describe it as “small c conservative”. Reaction to the speech from audiences was almost universally positive. It was long, and got longer - with asides, topical anecdotes, and engaging audiences in Q&A sessions, the length blew out from the original 40+ minutes to closer to 90. But I will say, in my own defence, that despite that length, the audiences stayed fully engaged throughout. However, after one North Island local organiser complained that my “digressions” had eliminated any time for questions or discussion (this was a unique situation), I disciplined myself and strictly cut it back to the original length. What is on the CAFCA & ABC Websites and published in Peace Researcher and Watchdog is the original, with no “digressions” (which were never written down, they were strictly ad lib).
Jeremy’s Priceless Generosity
This speaking tour had a number of unique features. All of my previous ones (1993, 1999, 2002 and 2011) had been done solo, using public transport. But things were very different this time – CAFCA Chairperson Jeremy Agar volunteered his car, himself as driver (I’m a non-driver) and several weeks of his time. Special thanks are due to him - Jeremy made an effective donation worth thousands (even buying a brand new car for the trip, which led to some funny looks at some venues), paying all car related expenses himself (including inter island ferry costs) and would not take reimbursement for any of his personal expenses, such as food. Without Jeremy the tour would not have been possible in the fashion that it took place (all of my previous tours had been by public transport); I could not have transported such a large volume of papers with me, let alone things like a data projector and big posters – more unique features - if not for the use of his car. That was extreme generosity of both money and time – he was on the road, driving thousands of kms, for six weeks - plus another half dozen ChCh meetings in widely dispersed parts of town. Jeremy wasn’t merely the driver – he was in charge of screening the Powerpoint at each meeting (using his laptop and the data projector that CAFCA bought especially for the tour).The whole experience was a very interesting one for a couple of technophobes. And, as our Chairperson, he introduced me at every meeting, which meant that he also had a speaking role on the tour. He started the tour just telling people what material we had available but, as it progressed, he also referred to relevant topical subjects in his introduction, which worked very well. It was great to have our own MC and chair. We spent six solid weeks in each other’s company, day and night (including weekends) and were still speaking to each other at the end of it. We had many adventures but the telling of those will have to wait until the Watchdog obituary (depending on who outlives who).
And I also had an accompanying speaker, which was not part of the original plan, but it worked out very well. Greg Rzesniowiecki (due to his unpronounceable Polish surname he is universally known as Greg Fullmoon – which is his e-mail address) had wanted to do a joint speaking tour. We said no. But we invited him to speak from the floor at the end of each meeting. Which he did, from Takaka onwards, entirely at his own expense, and travelling independently of us, living in his van, the trusty Tinkerbell (which provided my transport to and from a couple of my Christchurch meetings. It is an “interesting” experience to be told that the brakes have failed as we headed toward a red light on the motorway). It actually worked really well and his set speech about what people could practically do about the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (i.e. make the TPPA an issue for their local Council) was a great complement to my speech which, quite deliberately, did not propose any specific campaigns or solutions (I focused on the broad sweep approach, the “big picture” when it came to policies). Greg got a really positive response from audiences who basically got two speakers for the price of one. Greg tirelessly promoted the tour, helped us in numerous ways, and organised and publicised the final five Christchurch meetings (North New Brighton, Lyttelton, Heathcote, Fendalton and Papanui. He personally paid for some of those venues’ hire costs). He added a whole extra dimension to the tour. As a direct result of his involvement in the tour he has now become a regular Watchdog writer about the TPPA local government campaign.
In order, I spoke in: Dunedin, Timaru, Ashburton, Takaka, Blenheim, Waiheke, Auckland, Whangarei, Kaitaia, AUT (Auckland), Hamilton, Te Awamutu, Thames, Waihi, Te Aroha, Tauranga, Whakatane, Opotiki, Gisborne, Clive, Palmerston North, Whanganui, Paekakariki, Wellington, Otaki, Christchurch WEA (this marked the official end of tour), plus North New Brighton, Lyttelton, Heathcote, Fendalton, Papanui (these final five Christchurch meetings were organised by Greg Fullmoon, not CAFCA). Otaki was the biggest at around 60; Te Aroha was the smallest at a handful. 20-30 was an average sort of crowd, including in Auckland, Wellington and at the Christchurch WEA. Numbers were definitely down on my 2011 tour, including in provincial cities and small towns. On the other hand, I got to more venues this time around (e.g. I’d never before spoken in Timaru, Ashburton, Tauranga, Te Awamutu, Te Aroha or Clive. I hadn’t spoken in Kaitaia since my 1993 tour). It was a very comprehensive, not to mention tiring, itinerary, which covered a lot of the country, from Dunedin to Kaitaia and back. There were notable gaps – no Taranaki, Rotorua, Wairarapa, Southland or West Coast (I have never spoken in those latter two or Rotorua).
Media coverage varied but the tour did actually get quite a lot. Nothing in the New Zealand Herald or Dominion Post when I was in Auckland or Wellington – but I never have cracked them on any previous tours, either. The biggest coup was getting Chris Trotter to devote one of his weekly Press columns to me (13/5/14; “Horton’s Latter-Day Pilgrim’s Progress”). And I say “to me”, not “to the tour’, because he didn’t say anything about what I said or what the tour was about. Plus, I must say, that I’ve never thought of myself as a “pilgrim”, but there you go. There were decidedly mixed reactions to that column and it’s worth noting that it only appeared in the Press (not in any of the other papers for which he writes) and was never uploaded online. I appeared in the Timaru Herald (3/4/14, http://www.stuff.co.nz/timaru-herald/news/9898929/Chinese-not-biggest-land-buyers - prominent placement, too), Manawatu Standard (26/5/14 http://www.stuff.co.nz/manawatu-standard/news/10084701/Activist-claims-parties-too-business-focused) & the Gisborne Herald. Plus the tour featured in quite a lot of community papers e.g. a columnist in the Northland Age (Kaitaia) gave quite a plug for CAFCA (6/5/14, “Who Owns Us?”). There were plenty of radio interviews – community & Maori stations - in places I visited (but no mainstream radio & no TV interviews this time around).
Local organisers & hosts are a vital part of any speaking tour. Without them the tour wouldn’t happen, simple as that. Not all of them were CAFCA or ABC members; some were complete strangers, from groups such as the Greens. Where you have good local organisers everything goes well. I will single out Nancy Hammond* in Timaru and Dion Martin in Palmerston North. They were both my organiser and host in each case, they were experienced organisers of all sorts of things, they got people out and they both did a great job of arranging media coverage. But the standout was Adi Leason in Otaki, who was both my organiser and host there. That meeting in his barn was the final of my North Island tour and it was a fantastic way to finish – it was the biggest crowd of the whole tour by far (double the numbers I got in big cities like Auckland and Wellington), and it had a completely unique feel to it. We ended with a bang (and after it was over, Adi confessed to me that he’d only started organising it about three days beforehand). Likewise Jeremy and I had only good experiences with all of our hosts (and some of them were complete strangers). Big thanks to all of them – we stayed with some great people. Particular thanks to David Robie and Del Abcede with whom I stayed several days in Auckland; ditto to Russell Campbell in Wellington; and to Mark Tugendhaft and Nedilka Radojkovich, with whom Jeremy and I spent a completely unforgettable day and night in Coromandel. *Sadly, Nancy Hammond died in July 2014, aged 85, a few months after my tour. She was a most remarkable octogenarian and had an energy and dynamism that would put to shame people a quarter of her age. Her obituary is elsewhere in this issue, written by myself, her widower Mo Skiffington, and friend Kate Elsen.
A tour of this scale costs thousands of dollars, which CAFCA (with help from ABC) was fully prepared to pay for by ourselves. We didn’t ask anyone for money for it. But, I’m pleased to report; we received three unsolicited donations that went a long way towards defraying our costs. So, many thanks to Kevin Campbell; and to the two unions that put in money – the Otago University branch of the Tertiary Education Union, and First Union. The latter was the single biggest donor, by far, and requested that it be listed as tour co-sponsor, which we were happy to do. First Union also publicised the tour in its paper and asked all its regional officials to advise their members about it.
And a tour like this takes an awful lot of planning and preparation. For a good year beforehand a subcommittee of me, Jeremy, Colleen Hughes and Warren Brewer worked on it. Particular thanks to Warren who slogged his guts out organising a number of aspects of it – he created the brilliant Powerpoint which was a great accompaniment to the speech. Having our own data projector proved to be very, very useful. For various reasons there were times when we couldn’t use it but the speech was written to be presented as a stand alone presentation, so I did fine in those meetings. Indeed one or two people who saw and heard both the “accompanied” and “unaccompanied” version told me that they preferred the latter, as they weren’t “distracted” and could concentrate on what I had to say. The Powerpoint was a vital component of the tour. You can view it online at http://canterbury.cyberplace.co.nz/community/CAFCA/murray-horton-speaking-tour-2014.html. Warren set up the tour Website and put in an awful lot of work to keep it updated. That was an invaluable tool. Plus he ran the tour’s Facebook presence.
We used a variety of methods both before and during the tour (Website, Facebook, newspaper ads, e-mail, flyers). I met people who told me that they had learned about the tour and specific meetings via Facebook. We spent thousands on newspaper ads and there is no way that cost could be justified in purely financial terms. But a presence in old media was just as important as in social media – and we did encounter people who came to a meeting because they’d seen the ad in their local paper. Prior to the tour I publicised it heavily by e-mail. The most critical factor in letting people know about the tour was an on to it local organiser. Adi Leason in Otaki did not use any social media or paid ads, just basically word of mouth and maybe some e-mail – yet his was the biggest and most dynamic meeting of the whole tour. You need someone (an individual or a group) to take ownership of it and make it happen.
Having a dedicated vehicle at my disposal meant that we could take a lot of material and props with us, including:
We passed around an attendance sheet at every meeting and I subsequently contacted everyone who supplied a (legible) e-mail address, telling where to get information about the issues and campaigns raised in my speech, and adding them to my e-mail database so that they will regularly receive material from us. A number of people joined CAFCA during or after the tour (either new members or former members rejoining).
These tours are always wonderful opportunities to catch up with members, supporters and friends, and this one was no exception. I have to single out Bryan Gould who, along with his wife Jill, hosted Jeremy and I to a lovely Sunday lunch in their home; then, the next night, he introduced me at my Opotiki meeting, with a most fulsome litany of praise for CAFCA. That would not have happened if the tour had not taken us to Bay of Plenty. There were other such occasions with other friends and colleagues. Those social interactions humanise the grind of constant travel and “performing” nearly every day and night. They rekindle the spark. And they enable me to catch up with what’s going on from people that I wouldn’t otherwise see more than once a year, if that.
Was It Worthwhile?
Yes, despite the fact that there is no way such a tour could be financially justified (let alone if we’d paid Jeremy’s travel costs); and that numbers at meetings were uniformly down on the 2011 tour and the demographic of those attending was largely older people (with a welcome smattering of keen young people). We just have to take both those factors as the reality of the situation. The tour was worthwhile because it showed our flag around the country; it was greeted extremely enthusiastically by people (some of whom expressed gratitude that we’d travelled so far to speak to them); some people travelled quite a distance themselves to attend one of my meetings; some attended more than one. It raised our profile and our issues in large and small places right around the country; it brought in money and members; it attracted media coverage in many places; and, ironically, by going to Auckland I got major coverage in the Press (Chris Trotter’s column) for the first time in several years. It was a great way to get out and campaign, and connect with people at the grassroots. Combined with our other means of communications (written, electronic, social media) it is a powerful combination. It is an integral part of what we are and what we do. It was also great fun and an unrivalled way to really see this amazingly beautiful country and reaffirm my faith in its people. Thanks for having me!