Monday, August 01, 2016

Arguing with my MP


I wrote my first letter to my MP Anne Main (Conservative, Leave) about the EU referendum result on 2 July. You can read it here. She responded (in a commendable 4 days) on 6 July. Unfortunately I didn't agree with a word of it. Today I have responded to her response, reproduced below.

I'll keep you posted how I get on....

Dear Mrs Main,

Thank you for your email response of 6 July to my letter about my concerns post-EU referendum.

I too am sorry that we do not agree on this, but it is too important an issue to just leave it at that. I hope you might hear me out in response to some of the points you make.

You acknowledge that the referendum was won by Leave by a 'small margin'. Yet you go on to argue that a majority must be respected, no matter how slender, particularly in 'matters of the constitution'.

This is dangerous territory. Referendums are problematic in democracies for precisely this reason; 'small majorities' (and how small would you go - 1.9%, 0.5%, 0.1%?) get to decide matters of huge national importance, by-passing our elected representatives while closing down any further  debate on the matter, even if circumstances change.

I wonder if you would be so ready to respect a 'small majority' to bring back hanging, or abolish the monarchy, or use nuclear weapons on ISIS?

All these issues and many more are regular fodder for the tabloids in the same way as the EU and a referendum on them would likely produce a similarly perverse result against the national interest. It is the job of our elected representatives and institutions to be a bulwark against such knee-jerk populism. Even Margaret Thatcher called referendums "a device for dictators and demagogues".

Just because the EU referendum produced a result which aligns with your own views does not absolve you of your elected responsibility in this regard. You are a representative of those who elected you - not of yourself. I really can't stress this enough. The St Albans area which returned you to Parliament voted 63% to Remain - a thumping majority, on a turnouts of 82.5% - yet somehow the tiny national one on a much lower turnout trumps it? Your view of democracy and which parts of it to respect is worryingly inconsistent.

Public opinion is fluid and subject to change, and all serious democracies have mechanisms to recognise and respect that. Referendums can only ever be snapshots of the public mood, at a certain time, in possession of certain information. Since the referendum, and especially since the lies and false promises of the Leave campaign have been exposed, the public mood has clearly become far more sceptical of Brexit and what it can deliver.

Research by Opinium from 1 July suggests at least 7 per cent of the people who voted for a Brexit in the EU referendum now regret their choice. Projected on to the referendum vote, this would cut the Leave share by 1.2 million, almost wiping out the majority.

An ITV Wales/Cardiff University YouGov poll of 5 July found Welsh voters would now vote Remain by 53 per cent and Leave by 47 per cent if there was a second EU referendum.

Moreover, 700,000 British expats living in the EU were denied the right to vote altogether, now the subject of an ongoing court battle. Most of these would have voted to remain.

Your commendable urge to respect the 'will of the British people' unfortunately looks more and more misplaced if this is to be done solely on the basis of the 23 June referendum result.   

Indeed, the truly democratic thing to do would be to respect this new consensus for Remain which is clearly emerging.

The 23 June referendum was not sacrosanct in any case. As has been widely observed, it was merely advisory. David Cameron could have made it legally binding, as he did with the referendum on proportional representation in 2010. He chose not to, rightly, in order to give himself and your party the option to assess what was truly in the national interest, whatever the outcome, and to have the flexibility to respond to changing circumstances and a new consensus, should one emerge.

We are now at that point. I would urge you to follow the example of your leader, use the opportunity he has left you with to reassess what is truly in the interests of the UK, and reconsider your unnecessarily rigid position on this matter.

There is no shame in doing so; on the contrary, it would be the mark of a true patriot and democrat.

As you point out yourself, 'the country must come first'.

I would be grateful for your response.

Yours sincerely,

Fin Kennedy

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

A response on Brexit from my MP

Just received the following predictably dismissive response from my MP Anne Main. (You can read my original letter to her here).

Dear Mr Kennedy,

Thank you for your email.

I appreciate that this was a narrow margin by which the leave campaign won, however, the choice of the majority British people remains the same. A small margin is a margin nonetheless - a view I, and I believe many others including MPs, would hold no matter what the result.

People made their choice based on as little, or as much information as they chose to access. As you may know from reading my responses to other constituents, I do not agree that enough information was not made available prior to the vote. Further, that we do not know if a vote is coming to the House regarding Article 50, however, if it does, I do believe that in matters of the constitution, the country must come first as should the will of the British people.

I am sorry that on this occasion we do not agree, if you do have any questions regarding policy decisions going forward, please do let me know and I would be happy to assist where possible.

With best wishes,

cid:image001.jpg@01CD602B.0F76B330

Mrs Anne Main
Member for St Albans
House of Commons
SW1A 0AA
0207 219 8270
Email: maina@parliament.uk

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Brexit: A letter to my MP

Here is my letter to my local MP, who was part of the Vote Leave campaign in a majority Remain area:

Dear Anne Main,

I'm writing to express my deep disappointment at your backing of the Vote Leave campaign, your unquestioning repetition of the flagrant lies on which many of its arguments were based, and the appalling consequences which the campaign's narrow victory has now unleashed upon the country.

I'm aware that you are writing to other constituents defending your actions and refusing to modify your views in spite of the face of overwhelming evidence of the harm they have done, and indicating that if a vote on triggering Article 50 comes before Parliament you will vote to support it, citing 'respecting the choice of the people'.

The fact of the matter is the referendum was won by the narrowest of margins and purely as a result of the electorate being hoodwinked by self-serving politicians not ashamed to use lies and outright racism to bolster positions on this issue which would otherwise have been highly tenuous. This is not democracy; it is charlatanism. It is no more the choice of the people than the victim of a con artist 'choosing' to hand over their life savings. The growing chorus of 'Regrexiters' - those who voted to Leave and now wish they had not - is testament to this.

If it's the choice of the people you are interested in, may I suggest you begin by respecting the far more resounding 63% vote to remain in the EU, on a turnout of 82.5%, of the constituency you represent? Surely you can understand that if you continue to disrespect the clear wishes of a majority of your constituents, such a position is not only immoral, but untenable? You are highly likely to be voted out in an election which may come sooner than any of us expected. More to the point, it is a dereliction of your duty as our MP. You could not have a clearer picture of our views. Now please respect them.

The least you can do in light of the dreadful economic and social effects you have helped to unleash is to modify your views, align them with the people who elected you, and from now on do everything within your power to make sure that Britain stays within the EU - including voting against any motion to trigger Article 50 which comes before the Commons.

Yours sincerely,

Fin Kennedy

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Reversal by Fin Kennedy*


We have lost our nation forever
And I refuse to believe that
Democratic consensus can be achieved
I realize this may be a shock but
“We are all in this together”
Was a lie, and
“Britain is broken - split down the middle”
So in 20 years I will tell my children
Their futures ended here
Racist politicians and our right-wing press will know that
We got our priorities straight because
Fear
Is more important than
Community
This we know to be true
Once upon a time
Britain welcomed the world
But this will not be true in my era
This is a selfish society
Experts tell me
10 years from now, I will be living on a diminished little island
I do not concede that
I will live in a country at ease with the world and with itself
In the future
Aggressive nationalism will be the norm
No longer can it be said that
My fellow citizens and I welcome outsiders and care about the world beyond our borders
In time, it will be evident that
Hatred has won the day
It is foolish to presume that
There is hope.
All of this will come true unless we choose to reverse it.

*With thanks and a debt of gratitude to Lost Generation by Jonathan Reed.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Bacc for the Future

I went to a meeting yesterday of the Bacc for the Future campaign, a coalition of arts organisations who have come together to try to influence the Government about the damage the English Baccalaureate is doing to arts subjects in schools. I have campaigned about this in the past and can confirm how serious an issue it is, it is already seriously affecting take up of Drama in schools and the amount of Drama teachers leaving the profession. Needless to say this will seriously affect our audiences and artists for years to come. There is a particular impact on diversity because often schools are the only place where inner city young people get any kind of contact with the arts. As it happens every school i have visited recently for Tamasha has said how badly EBacc is affecting the stature of Drama within the school.


EBacc has been around for a while as an optional measure for schools but the campaign has taken on a new momentum because the Government has launched a consultation to make it compulsory in all schools, with a deadline of 29 Jan. If this is allowed to pass unchecked it is potentially devastating for the arts in schools and will be very hard to unpick.


Tamasha is already a public signatory as a supporter of the campaign but I intend to step up our involvement so you will be hearing a lot more from me about this in the coming months. This is the new In Battalions, people! But in a way it is worse than cuts to the Arts Council because it is so insidious, so under the radar and so poorly understood.


I've been surprised how few theatres and theatremakers have even heard about this campaign never mind signed up to support it. If you haven't already done so, please sign the petition. It also signs you up to updates from the campaign which will contain suggestions for other actions you can take.


There is going to be a dramatic escalation of activity in the new year, including open letters to newspapers, a major MP lobbying campaign and various ongoing meetings and publicity stunts. The more of us are signed up and advocate for it within our networks, the more effective this will be.


I frankly would not have become a playwright, never mind an artistic director, if it wasn't for the fantastic Drama provision in my state school - and I am sure the same can be said for many of you.


Play your part, people. This is serious.


More soon.... but in the meantime, sign that petition: www.baccforthefuture.com

Thursday, May 07, 2015

The Domino Effect and other plays for teenagers


My publisher Nick Hern Books, have kindly given me permission to publish the Foreword to my new play volume, The Domino Effect and other plays for teenagers, as a blog post. In an eerie coincidence, this new volume of three large cast plays for inner city teenagers, is out today, Thursday 7 May, the date when Britain goes to the polls... I reflect on that towards the end of this Foreword.  
What's more, there's a 20% discount on ordering the volume in the next week, details here.


Introduction
Fin Kennedy
I first experimented with writing for an ensemble in my very first play for teenagers, East EndTales, a series of dramatic poems about inner-city life, written for multiple voices and inspired by articles in East London newspapers. At the time (2004) I was writer-on-attachment at Half Moon Young People’s Theatre, developing my first professional play for young audiences for a national tour. That play, Locked In, involved only three actors, largely because they were all professionals who needed paying – and also because the entire show had to fit into the back of a van. East End Tales, however, was the result of a short residency in an East London school, into which Half Moon sent me as part of my own professional development as I learned to write for their target age group.
Writing a play for young people themselves to perform, as opposed to professional actors performing for an audience of young people, is a very different thing. For a start, in the former, large casts are actively encouraged so that as many people as possible can take part. This presents challenges as well as opportunities. Maintaining coherent storylines and meaningful character arcs for ten, fifteen or even twenty named roles is not always possible, especially when the overall running time is unlikely to exceed forty-five minutes. Then there is the nature of rehearsals stretching over weeks or even months, and the likelihood of cast changes due to teenagers’ busy lives, clashes with other projects or just general dropouts.
One technique I developed to deal with these variables is a choral writing style, which uses nameless narrators to introduce and guide the telling of the story. This can accommodate anything from two to twenty narrators in the chorus. Often the language is in a playful, lyrical style, which makes the lines easier to learn – the idea is that everyone learns the lot, so that in the event of cast changes (or drying on stage) others can cover the lines. This form also plays to one of teenagers’ great strengths – acknowledging the audience and telling them a story directly. Young actors are naturally good at this, and audiences love its conspiratorial nature. Other, named parts can and do emerge, but the chorus of narrators is never far away.
The three plays contained in this volume are therefore for large casts of young actors aged thirteen to nineteen. Cast sizes can vary due to this ensemble style, but the minimum is about eight (for The Domino Effect, though it can be done with more), and the maximum about sixteen (for The Dream Collector). Fast is more fixed as it uses named characters throughout, and tries to do justice to giving each of them a journey, but even so it can be performed with either nine or twelve actors (depending on whether the four older parts double or are separated out). Ensemble casting can also include non-speaking parts, who can use physical theatre, dance and music to create stylised representations of the world of the play. In this respect, the only upper limit on cast size is the imagination of the company taking the play on.
Each script in this volume was developed with a different group of diverse young people in inner London, though the characters and stories are universal enough to suit most young people’s groups. The specific circumstances of ethnicity, culture and geographical location are less important than a strong ensemble ethos. A willingness to experiment with a physical performance aesthetic will help significantly, as will a commitment to working together to create the onstage magic necessary to tell these stories in a way which will delight an audience, allow transitions to unfold smoothly, and communicate each story’s emotional truth.
Each play was conceived under different circumstances and it may help those of you hoping to stage them if I tell you a little bit about how each of them came about.

The Dream Collector

The Dream Collector was the fifth play developed with my long-term collaborators, Mulberry School for Girls in Shadwell, East London, with whom I have been creating new plays for over ten years. (Our first four are also published by Nick Hern Books in The Urban Girl’s Guide to Campingand other plays.) However, in 2012 we added a new twist. By this time our work had become known locally as a pioneering partnership between a playwright and an inner-city state school. In an effort to continually evolve the way we work together, and to share some of the expertise we had built up, we decided to reach out to another local school during the making of our next play, and see if it was possible to develop a new play across two schools simultaneously. I approached local comprehensive, St Paul’s Way Trust School in Bow, who were eager to be involved.
The practicalities of such an arrangement at first appeared to be problematic. If I was the sole writer then clearly I could only be in one school at a time. Yet running joint sessions, in which one school’s students would travel after school to attend workshops at their partner school, would soon become expensive and logistically difficult. With sessions having to start some time after 3.30 p.m. in order to allow the other school’s students to arrive, what would the students already on site do in the meantime?
After some deliberation, our solution was simple. As the one who was the most easily mobile, why didn’t I travel between schools, taking the ideas for the play with me? In this way we hit upon what turned out to be quite a neat model. After-school workshops were held twice a week on different days, one in each school. I would develop ideas with Mulberry in one session, then take them with me to St Paul’s Way, presenting them to their students, developing them further, then taking the new ideas back with me to Mulberry the following week. The whole thing became like a long-distance version of the party game ‘Consequences’. It was fun – each week the students were eager to see what new ideas the other school’s group had added to their own. In this way, the two groups never actually met one another until the readthrough of the first draft of the complete play.
All this had an impact on the play’s form. The Dream Collector concerns a Year-Eleven school group who go on a Media Studies trip to an isolated country house which had belonged to a black-and-white movie pioneer, Charles Somna. Upon arriving, they soon discover that Somna was responsible for much more than the creation of mere movies – as the inventor of the Somnagraph he had built the world’s first machine for screening your dreams. Once they step through the movie screen and enter the Dreamworld, each of the young friends meets their dream double, the sinister Neverborn…
The idea of having essentially two casts within one play was deliberate. It was intended to allow two real casts to rehearse their parts separately if necessary. While the Neverborn are present during the journey to Charles Somna’s house, the Real-World cast are not aware of them. Both casts could (in theory) rehearse their sections separately and come together later in the process to put the final show together. This could be useful in future iterations, if two groups within the same school cannot rehearse together for timetabling reasons.
However, once the play was written, it became clear that the logistics of joint rehearsals across two schools would be insurmountable. Who would direct the show? If it was to be two teachers, one in each school, how would creative responsibility be equitably shared? Would rehearsals have to wait each day for half the cast to show up from the other school? In which school would the set reside?
In the end, each school agreed to stage their own separate production. At first this seemed to be a pity, but the benefits soon became clear. Each school had co-commissioned the play via an equal financial investment, and that investment suddenly reached twice as many students. Eventually, each school’s students were able to visit one another’s production and discuss the creative choices made with a deep knowledge of the play. For some, this became a piece of coursework.
In terms of the education and theatre sectors working together in future, this got me thinking. If two or more schools co-commission a play from a writer, yet produce their own versions, suddenly the project becomes a lot more affordable.
It multiplies its reach, and the writer gets two (or more) productions all in one go. In this age of austerity, this kind of innovative thinking could well come into its own. If any schools reading this are interested in forming a consortium to work in this way to commission new work (and not just from me!) then I would be happy to advise – do get in touch.

Fast
Fast came out of a very different process altogether. It was commissioned by a theatre company rather than a school. Y Touring has for fifteen years been producing and touring plays for young people about complex, science-based issues. Their unique ‘Theatre of Debate’ format allows young audiences to be involved in the creation of new plays right from the start, by inviting them, along with the playwrights who will be creating the work, to workshop days in which scientific specialists present different perspectives on the issue under discussion. I was invited to attend the debate day surrounding diet, fast food and food security, which took place as part of the development of Sarah Daniels’ 2014 play Hungry. My brief was to conceive an accompanying play for an ensemble of young actors along similar themes.
Fast concerns Cara, a sixteen-year-old student at a comprehensive in an unnamed small town, close to some countryside. Cara is from a farming family, and we learn that one year previously her father had committed suicide. When Cara’s school holds a twenty-four-hour fast in aid of Oxfam, Cara decides she will not eat again until Tesco and the other suppliers, whom she holds responsible for driving her father to suicide, are held to account. The play touches on issues of diet, commerce, class, industrial farming, the environment, grief, austerity and friendship with (I hope) wit and a lightness of touch. In Fast, the ensemble are all named parts and as such have clear identities and character arcs, each with their own distinct view of Cara’s actions. This allows for considerable ownership of each character by each cast member, and would lend the play to analysis and deconstruction, for example hot-seating each character to learn more about their background and views. Fast was workshopped at Regent High School in Camden before being performed by a young people’s summer school cast in August 2014.

The Domino Effect

For The Domino Effect I returned once more to Mulberry School for Girls. In 2014, Mulberry was celebrating its fiftieth anniversary and was keen to take a new play to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Mulberry and I had built our reputations at Edinburgh, taking a play every year for three years between 2007 and 2009, with our third show, The Unravelling, scooping the Scotsman’s prestigious Fringe First Award. (All three of our Edinburgh plays, plus one other, are published in The Urban Girl’s Guide to Camping and otherplays).
The Domino Effect was conceived in summer 2013, while on a short break in France, during which I watched again one of my favourite films, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie. Hang on, I thought. This is a Mulberry story. Set in the inner city, with a teenage girl at its heart, Amélie is about a quiet deep-thinker with a rich imagination, which starts to spill out into the real world, until even she isn’t sure what is and isn’t real. I often met young women like this in Mulberry, though I often met loud extroverts too, but this seemed a good opportunity to develop a play looking at the interior worlds of these more introverted students (who are also not always the easiest students to engage in Drama). I started to wonder, what would an East London version of Amélie look like? As I knew Mulberry and its students so well, the school agreed for me to lead on writing a first draft then to workshop it with students afterwards.
Around the time I was sitting down to write the first draft, I was having some work done on my house. One morning, one of the builders came up to my study and handed me a set of dusty Victorian dominoes he had found underneath our floorboards. Playwrights can be superstitious about these sorts of signs arriving as some kind of heaven-sent inspiration, and I am no exception. The metaphor seemed to be perfect – dominoes, and the domino effect, as a cascading symbol of actions we set loose into the world, knowingly or not, from apparently insignificant beginnings. All the subsequent sessions at Mulberry confirmed that this idea captured the students’ imaginations as much as it had captured mine. The resulting play about ‘small actions, big effects, and mastering the law of unintended consequences’ ended up securing us our first five-star Edinburgh review and a clutch of enthusiastic reviews comparing the dense, poetic text to Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood.
The Domino Effect was the first time Mulberry’s Drama and Dance departments had collaborated on a show, and the script was conceived with this in mind. It is undoubtedly the most ambitious text I have ever written for a young people’s group. The detail of the world it observes is not only about the audience seeing things through Amina’s peculiarly observant eyes, it is about planting small references which will become significant later, and about charting the ripple of one’s actions in an area of high-density living. In performance it requires crystal-clear diction, an ensemble that support each other instinctively, and the sharpest of physical-theatre aesthetics to bring to life the play’s multiple locations in the blink of an eye. Every narrative section is intended to be physically animated onstage by the ensemble. The play will not work if everything stops for the narrative to be merely recited.
I have described The Domino Effect as a love letter to East London, and indeed to the wonderful Mulberry School, where I have spent a decade honing my craft. But I hope that the play will have a resonance far beyond the specific British-Bangladeshi community that inspired it. Ultimately, it is about showing young people that they have more power to change their own destinies than they could ever realise, whoever they are and wherever they are from. The play would suit mixed casts, though it also provides the opportunity for teachers to offer leading roles to Asian or Muslim students, and I would encourage them to do so.

Since writing these three plays I’ve been appointed Artistic Director of touring theatre company Tamasha, a new chapter for both me and the company. In the immediate future it means I’ll be doing less writing of my own and more working with other writers to develop a new generation of dramatists. But I carry the inclusive, community-focused ethos which inspired these plays with me into my new role. Having an infrastructure opens up some exciting possibilities – such as Schoolwrights, Tamasha’s pioneering new playwrights-in-schools training scheme, the first of its kind in the UK. If you are inspired by the plays in this volume I’d encourage you to get in touch with us to see how we might be able to work with your school, to support and develop the work your Drama department is doing. As a national touring company, Tamasha has national reach, so it is not necessary for your school to be in London or the south-east.
I could not finish an introduction to a collection of plays for young people in 2015, with a looming General Election, without some reference to the current Government’s attemptsto downgrade arts subjects, and especially Drama, in our nation’s schools over the past five years. To be putting out a new volume of plays for schools at such a time feels positively defiant.
It is.
As I hope the plays in this volume show – and the many more by my colleagues still writing for young people, not to mention the Drama teachers up and down the country heroically defending their subject from a hostile Government – to teach Drama is to teach life. It is to teach how to be human, how to have agency, how to be heard. How to work through our differences, how to compromise, struggle, think and feel. How to be an intelligent, successful and humane society.
I’ve written elsewhere that teaching creativity in schools is like installing the software on which all the other information will run. Disincentivising it within the curriculum makes no sense. To teach Drama, creativity, the arts, is to teach how to think for oneself, and ultimately therefore, how to become oneself. What lesson could be more important than that?
I hope that this volume, in its own small way, will help keep our subject alive in the place where its flame can burn most brightly: in the next generation’s hearts and minds. 

The Domino Effect and other plays for teenagers is published today by Nick Hern Books and can be ordered here.
For more on Tamasha Theatre Company and its work see: www.tamasha.org.uk
For more on Fin kennedy and his work please visit: www.finkennedy.co.uk 


Monday, March 30, 2015

Operation Mobilise: A pause in the fighting

So, the big date is here at last.

30 March has always been our deadline for In Battalions: Operation Mobilise. That's because Parliament is formally dissolved today, which means it is also the official commencement of hostilities in the general election campaign. Technically, your MP is no longer an MP but a candidate fighting for re-election. (Technically, it means the UK doesn't actually have a Government for 5 weeks, but let's try not to worry about that and hope we don't need one for a while.) 

But the main reason the date is significant to our campaign is because it means you no longer have your MPs' attention any more - unless they knock on your door, in which case by all means bring up the issue of arts funding. But for now, cease fire, put down your weapons and take a deep breath, soldier. Because for the next five weeks, Operation Mobilise is paused

I say paused because there will be a Part Two, but we'll get to that in a moment. But for now, let's enjoy the lull in the fighting, relax, have a drink and look back on what we've achieved.


Let's all have a pint and watch the election

For an idea which was born in a pub, Operation Mobilise hasn't done too badly. Our In Battalions Crowdmap has been charting our progress. In total, 44 copies of the In Battalions report were sent to MPs across 34 constituencies. 

Here's the full list:

Manchester Central
Beckenham
Hackney North
Islington North
Leeds North East
Holborn and St Pancras
Hammersmith
Brentford and Isleworth
Hornsey and Wood Green
Putney
North Thanet
Lewisham and Penge
Wokingham
Nottingham East
Islington South and Finsbury
Camberwell and Peckham
Ruislip and Pinner
Brent Central
East Ham
St Albans
Harrogate
Stroud
Streatham
Guildford
Richmond Park
York Central
Tottenham 
Walthamstow
Bermondsey and Southwark
Clchester
Hackney and Shoreditch
Bethnal Green and Bow
Coventry North West
Eltham

So, there's a preponderance in London and the south-east, but we got as far north as Harrogate, as far north-west as Manchester, as far west as Stroud and as far east as North Thanet and Colchester, with Nottingham and Coventry representing for the Midlands. So not too bad a spread. 

Very few constituencies received multiple reports. The highest was Hackney North with five, followed by Holborn and St Pancras with three, but that's mostly because a year group of student from MA Dramatic Writing at Central Saint Martins (where I am a visiting tutor and got them all fired up) sent a bulk batch, and lots of them live in the same constituencies nearby. A handful of other constituencies got two, but overall we spread ourselves out quite well given the numbers taking part.

So, first of all, a big Thank You to everyone who took part. You have done a Heroic Act and tonight there are many more MPs who are aware of this issue than who would otherwise have given it any thought. Together, we really are stronger and although we only hit 5.2% of the 650 UK constituencies this was basically all done via goodwill, word of mouth and Twitter. It didn't involve any kind of mainstream publicity (save an honourable mention from the ever-supportive Lyn Gardner, The Stage and the Writers' Guild of Great Britain) or any large organisation getting behind us. Yet at times it really did feel like we had a bit of a head of steam, so I think we can fairly say Well Done Us.

And for those of you who didn't get your act together in time, there is still another opportunity. But more on that in a moment.

In the meantime, many of you have been tweeting and emailing letters of response from your MPs which you have received. This is great. Someone was even offered a meeting with their MP about this issue, if re-elected. That's even greater. You should definitely take them up on it if your MP offers this. (If you're nervous about what to say get in touch and let's talk it through.)

Several of the letters have offered to write to Ed Vaizey on their constituents' behalf. This is less good. Not only will it annoy him (you will recall that he was the whole reason In Battalions came about in the first place) but it also shows that your MP hasn't read the report properly. In the report's Introduction it clearly describes the genesis of the report being the comments Ed Vaizey made to me when I met him in Parliament at the end of 2012. Even the most cursory Google of 'In Battalions' brings up the protracted and public exchange of letters he and I had about it. 

But perhaps more importantly, your MP writing to Ed Vaizey about this issue isn't the point. This issue has been raised at Ed Vaizey's level already. Operation Mobilise was more about getting it onto the agenda of constituency MPs, for them to recognise its importance to ordinary voters when they next come across it.

So, I would like to encourage everyone who has received a letter to write back making some of these points. In order to support you in doing so, I'd like to propose that everyone who has received a reply scan or photograph it and email it to my tireless In Battalions helper Liberty Martin. Liberty will collate them all and send them on to me. I am genuinely curious to read them to see how MPs have been responding to this issue, but also to see if there are any recurring themes or points they are making. If you can do this then I pledge to write another blog post in a few weeks collating these recurring points and listing what I would argue is the best response. Then you can use that to craft your own letter in your own name and send it to your MP, assuming they are re-elected.

Which brings me on to my final point: Operation Mobilise Part Two.

At last summer's In Battalions Festival, professional lobbyist and What Next stalwart Rosie Luff made the point that there are two times to write to your MP: just before and just after an election. Putting aside for a moment that this depressingly seems to suggest they couldn't care less outside these times, this means that we have another window of opportunity after 7 May.

Keep an eye on what happens in your constituency. Here are some possible scenarios and what to do in the eventuality that they arise. This is how Operation Mobilise Part Two is going to work. (If I knew how to put this into a flow chart on Blogger I would, but I don't, so I can't):

1. Your MP is re-elected. You sent them the report before the election and they responded.

What to do: Write back congratulating them on their win and responding to the points they made with help from my forthcoming blog post (see above).

2. Your MP is re-elected. You sent them the report before the election and didn't get a response.

What to do: Write back congratulating them on their win and asking for a response to the report now that the election is over.

3. Your MP is not re-elected. You sent them the report before they election and maybe they responded, maybe they didn't but it doesn't matter now because they've been booted out.

What to do: Write to your new MP congratulating them on their win and sending them a copy of the original report and cover letter. Await response.

4. Your MP is not re-elected. But like an arse you didn't get round to sending the report anyway.

What to do: Now is your time to shine! Albeit retrospectively. Send the new MP the original report and cover letter. Await response.

 
Newly-elected MPs can be ridden like this hog

I think that just about covers it. 

Now get that pint, sit back and watch the 24-hour election coverage, heckling loudly.

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P.s. My previous 'save the date' p.s. about Weds 17 June (all day) still stands. We are planning a major In Battalions event shortly after the election. More details soon....