Manchester Leeds had been my last stop with the team as we barnstormed our offices in England. Leeds was a new chapter that had self-organized with support from the other offices to over one-hundred members, and visiting with them in and around the showing of “The Organizer” documentary it was easy to see why they had showed such success with a crowd of over forty pouring into the Saturday matinee.
The banner made by a team of folks was one of the best constructed ACORN banners I had ever seen. Trying to ask before the showing who had made the banner, I encountered nothing but dissembling. No one wanted to take credit, even though many admitted having their hands on the job. I would talk to one, and they would point to another. That was interesting to me.
It turned out that in a rarity for ACORN local groups in their formation that they also had doubled up in other areas. There were two communication officers, not one. Two events coordinators, and so on. When there were jobs to be done, they had figured out a good way to get more people on the program. I overheard them discussing the fact that some other progressive group had offered to cook dinner for all of them at their next meeting. Good solidarity might be a hallmark in northern England.
They aren’t alone in the UK. Going to a nearby pub is common practice in both Scotland and England. There were ten of the forty in Leeds in the after session. Even more in Manchester and Sheffield. It’s not your standard debriefing, but a social event among kindred spirits and comrades, and seemingly part of the standard time commitment for the activists involved in building the group. Business is done. Ideas and suggestions come up. In Bristol, I listened to the events coordinator and other members discuss ideas for a future picnic, how to handle a politically astute local band that wanted to play for ACORN at some kind of affair, and so on. A giant bus for an action demanding more public control of the bus system had been made at a something the organizer referred to as a “craftanoon,” short for a crafting afternoon, I assumed, which seemed like a thing.
There are different organizing cultures elsewhere, but like most cultures, this works here. In Manchester, a woman showing up at the pub for a pint after the session allowed her to reengage and explain why she had been missing in action for the last year but was ready to be involved again. Another woman turned out to be from London and the pub gave her an opportunity to assess the local scene and offer suggestions on contacts and funding bids to the organizers.
Gluing people together takes form in a lot of ways in organizing, and it was good to watch – and be a part of – the deepening strength of the organizing culture in the United Kingdom all across the country.