Protesters Take On The Post Office - And Win!
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Last month we saved our local Post Office. This week it’s Ban the Mast. Well – you gotta try, haven’t you?
RADICAL ACTIVIST NETWORKS
Actually, I’ve never been a try-er in the sense of protestors who regularly practice militancy, marching, or sitting-in. I recall the Ban-the-Bomb lot, and the Greenham Common women with a mixture of awe and revulsion. All those unwashed bodies. But what dedication! And what about Swampy? Remember him? His dreadlocks emerging from his tunnelled home beneath Binsted Wood were a regular feature on our TV screens in the nineties.
Our campaigns have not been in that league. Faced with the axing of numerous Post Offices up and down the land, our protest, orchestrated by the husband of the sub-postmistress, took the form of letters and polite meetings held in the local church to accommodate the large number of protesters. Inspired by their zeal, the local community willingly became campaign helpers. Many of our number were small-business owners who vowed to take our daily volume of postal packages and parcels elsewhere if our local branch were to close. But it wasn’t all self-interest that inspired us. What about the elderly, we argued, for whom the three-mile trek up-hill and down-dale without private or public means of transport to collect their pensions would prove impossible. For many of them, the trip to the Post Office is their lifeline.
And that is true of the branch owners, as well. Without the Post Office income, many will no longer be able to make a living from the proceeds of a corner shop in competition with out of town supermarkets. Yet very often, since the demise of the ubiquitous milkman, the sub-postmaster is the only person who knows whether Dolly Blogs at No. 7 has fallen ill, or old Mr Leeman is in need of help.
PROTESTERS GET THEIR WAY
The point of telling you this story is not simply that we won the battle with the mighty Post Office Ltd, but the way in which the fight brought us together as a community. Is it peculiar to Britain, I wonder, this breaking down of reserve which results from being comrades in arms? So taken were we with the concept of talking to people we’d previously only nodded to, that we held a street party. Or at least, the Post Office owners and other local businesses did.
It was just like the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. The police closed the road at both ends, we had a bouncy castle, beef burgers to die for from the local butcher, a street licence for the local restaurant to serve alcohol, fancy dress competition for the children, and a superb jazz band made up of, among others, the local nursery school proprietor and the bloke from the glass-blowing place. Tables with white cloths were set out up and down the road, home made cake and pastries stalls did a roaring trade, as did those selling books and bric-a-brac. Pièce de résistance was the auction in which there were both winners and losers: some bidding ridiculous sums for mystery gifts which turned out to be soft toys; others acquiring, for a song, six-months membership at an elite leisure centre. Altogether, it was an outstanding success, not least because we raised £2,500 for the local hospice. It now looks likely to become an annual event.
ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST GROUPS
I’m not so sure that a mobile phone mast in a designated area of outstanding beauty will have quite the same appeal – but I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, I feel an extraordinary sense of pride in being able to rank my name amongst those of the great campaigners. Well – not quite!
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