cryptogirl: (Bella)
[personal profile] cryptogirl
So, when I'm not basically being Grauniad Public Enemy #1, I may have mentioned that I went along to my local Yes event last weekend.

I have never done political activism. As I explained to a few folk a while back, this isn't because I haven't wanted to do it. It's been a combination of waiting until I was sufficiently fired-up about something, and getting away from the sort of people who put me off the concept completely. (Yes, the internet care carousel/Citizen Smiths, why'd you ask?)

One of the first plans we made when we moved was to hook up with the Yes folk, because it's got increasingly apparent that nobody else is helping the cause along, least of all the media. So it was that I trudged round to the local park not really sure what to expect. There were a few gazebos set up and some people with blue tabards that I wandered up to and looked confused at. Suddenly I was herded along by a cheery 40-something woman, given a first-timer's info sheet, and then a woman with a megaphone said she was looking for two people for a photo. I got picked.

I went round the corner, and there were HUNDREDS of people. HUNNERS. Here was me thinking it would be sparsely-populated. But there they were, cheerily holding Yes signs for the paps in the cherry-picker.It turned out this photo was for the official start of the 100 days countdown. It also turned out the BBC were taking some of the pictures, and it has been all over the media subsequently. (Look carefully at the top of the S for a lady in a purple top. That's me.) So, that was unexpected. Also unexpected for the Beeb hipsters was the booing that began when we were told they were there. Can't possibly *coughmediabias* think why.

The crowd were a pleasingly mixed bunch. The youngest was a boy about five, the oldest was possibly standing in front of me, a kindly, sarcastic gentleman in his 70s. There was a good ethnic mix too. And more generally, the atmosphere was really cheerful. I made about five new pals before the photoshoot was over!

Wandering aimlessly afterwards, I ended up grouped with three other folk to do leafletting. (There was an option to do canvassing, but I'd like to have some training first, because I have no idea what to say :/) So it was that I ended up in a converted Transit van with an elderly gent called Dod, and twin sisters Adrienne and Gillian. Dod was a somewhat interesting chap; it seemed he'd had some mysterious well-paid job, and was retired with a girlfriend, an occasional trad music band and a Jag in the driveway. The sisters worked at the Forestry Commission and what used to be the Scottish Office, and were the most chatty people ever.

Off we trundled in the van with me navigating, via the Farmfoods where Dod kindly got us some fruit juice for the heat, to deliver Yes newspapers to the people of south Edinburgh. It was a lovely sunny day, and a good chance to get to know the area. My observations:

- Folk were friendly on the whole if they were hovering outside. Dod had a monosyllabic, dour old couple (probably No's) but there was no abuse. In fact, Dod being one of the canvasser trainers meant he got two conversions, one interestingly being a lifelong Labour voter who had no idea a section of his party was pro-indy. Can't blame him.

- I could hear people taking the papers and occasionally spot them reading them, so at least they're not going right in the bin. Or into the mouth of the angry dog at one letterbox. Gulp.

- It was good to chat to people who were feeling the effects of the Coalition- or had the wisdom to see what it was going to do to newer generations. I even had an extended conversation about pensions with Gillian, and got enraged for Dod when he told me how a Polish woman dobbed him in and got his free bus pass revoked (not his blue badge for his car, thank god), because 'you don't look like you're ill'. He has artificial valves in his heart. Seriously.*

- The Yes movement- which is cross-party, by the way- struck me as very slick and organised. The tabarded helpers buzzed about herding people, blowing up balloons, selling cakes for funding**, advertising sister events such as stand-up comedy gigs and talks at the miner's club-cum-Hibs football hall with such luminaries as Margo McDonald's husband Jim Sillars***. People had come from the West, North and East Edinburgh groups to help out, and there was a large chunk of the local Craigmillar & Niddrie one too. (They have a stall outside the library every Tuesday night, and one of the best, most informative Facebook groups ever. Warms the cockles of my heart <3)

- There's no badgering or hectoring involved. It's very civilised. Adrienne was saying she was nervous about leaping into canvassing because 'you have to respect people's views and sometimes, they can't be changed'. Well, quite. Something a few people could learn. It's all about engaging, discussion, getting a feel for how people think about what happens post-September 18th.

Three hours later- and a thwarted attempt to leaflet some flats where only Gillian's charm got us into one- we ran into a chap with his shy-looking son. It was the son's first activism thing too, but his dad was a veteran. Not as much as the twin sisters, mind, who kept a vigil from 1992 to 1997 campaigning peacefully for a Scottish parliament! He was part of Business for Scotland, and seemed particularly good at persuading the 'middle-class No's' (of which, he said with an eyeroll, there were many in Corstorphine where my folks are). He takes his iPad and shows them charts and graphs when they come up with super-specific financial questions- what a great idea! He also told us some horror tales of abusive drunk students in Gorgie nearly pushing him down the stairs (to which the lovely Polish lady he was talking to said 'Really sorry. He's always like that.'). I feel they're in the minority though.

The Yes guys often get a local business to provide refreshments after all the hard work, and this time the Radical Road was the venue. This is named after a very significant event in Scotland's history. Unsurprisingly, the pub is overtly pro-Yes, down to the decor with lions rampant, the Declaration of Independence and lovely watercolours of Burns. And they laid on hot sag aloo and stovies for the foot soldiers.

STOVIES. They were one of the first things I educated Pete about. Mmm, stovies. No wonder the atmosphere was even more jovial than in the morning. I got chatting to a whole bunch of people; many of them had heard of stuff I've been reading for ages which was a refreshing change from having to explain it. Many of them had good rants about stuff like the BBC, interesting facts about Empire-era spending on Scotland, and one chap had a lovely squee about National Collective. His words were something like 'I can't think of a more creative process than making a better nation for ourselves'. YES I GOT MISTY EYED OKAY. After a few drinks kindly bought by Adrienne, and a promise to go to next month's Super Saturday in Muirhouse**** to a chap nicknamed Mr Epsom for all the flyer printing he does, and I was toddling home. But props to the people who stayed for the afternoon shift, who sadly got the rainy weather.

So, what did I take from my first Yes event? An overwhelming sense of enthusiasm and positivity, a refusal to be bullied and belittled, a badass piece of flyer art and a bunch of new friends. In conclusion, 10/10, would campaign again.

* Yes, you've guessed it. Don't start a conversation about race at this point. For some reason, I'm not overly keen on them at the moment.

** Please remember just one thing here- Yes have a tiny, miniscule amount of money to spend compared to No. Especially when popular Edinburgh-based authors throw a million quid at Better Together.

*** I found this piece from 1992 which is oddly prescient in a lot of places. He's a good egg, and his wife was even more so :(

**** And he said 'please come, I know people think Muirhouse is dodgy, but we had a great reception last time'. I have a post brewing about postcode snobbery and how much I love the 'dodgy' areas next to us. Whether I post it depends on whether I get more shitstorms online. So PLAY NICE.

TL;DR- went to Yes Super Saturday, had a splendid time, will spend as much time as I can afford volunteering. Because life's too short to sit on the internet farting out things you've read in the Guardian.
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