Phil Tyler – along with a small core team of committed Positive Money supporters – leads the Positive Money Southampton local group. Below he recounts what inspired him to set the group up, how he did it, and what’s next for this brilliant grassroots effort joining the push for money and banking reform.
In the beginning: retirement and an event called “Money Talks”
I had just retired from Southampton’s Solent Credit Union and decided to go along to a Dangerous Ideas event in October 2014, ‘Money Talks’. It included Bristol Pound, Frontline Debt Advice, Solent Credit Union, Southampton LETS, the proposed Hampshire Community Bank, Tax Justice Network, local economics blogger Joe Hudson, shared economy guru Cara Sandys, and Frank from Positive Money.
I signed up to get the Positive Money newsletter, and after getting a few emails and invitations from the Bournemouth group, I started attending their monthly meetings. I gained a bit of confidence after about six months of attending and started thinking about the possibility of a Southampton group and creating a launch plan.
Getting down to organising and promoting my own group
I know that it can take a lot of work to get people out to a first event, so I decided May was to be the launch month – a month when there’s several festivals in Southampton. A trip to the PM Office secured us some merch table tools, leaflets and a banner, and we printed 1,000 leaflets promoting our first event. I had gazebos, display boards and tables etc. and got it all set up starting with the Mayday festival, then followed by two more.
The QE for People polling box game
One of our main tools at festivals was a seven-sectioned transparent voting box (very easy to make). People are given £70 billion pounds in milk bottle tops valued at £10 billion pound per Milk Bottle top, so that they could spend the £70 billion of QE money across seven budget areas. This was very successful and started numerous conversations. The NHS section even overflowed on one occasion!
Our first meeting
The Southampton Group’s first meeting on 31st May 2017. It was well attended and 32 people were counted at one point, including Rachel Oliver from the Positive Money office team who came down on the train, and it helped us a lot. The core Bournemouth group members have also come to every event and have been really great at supporting us.
Knowing from experience that it’s important to maintain continuous promotion, we had a stand at the Umbrella Festival in June and at Leftfest in July. We also visited some other groups and kept up most of the other promotion tools for each event of our subsequent monthly meetings. Attendances have been variable, ranging from 20 down to six people in August (naturally a quieter month), but there has always been at least one new person, and the discussions have always been very informative and enjoyable.
In early September Nigel, Adam and I went to the PM Retreat up in Cumbria which was a great experience. It helped us bond, think forward and be more open/honest with each other. I highly recommend it. In September Charlie Evans and Nick Potts joined our core group. Charlie wanted us to screen The Spider’s Web film and so we did this as our November meeting. Nick is a professor at Southampton Solent University and he booked us a lecture theatre in Solent Uni’s Spark Building. The Film crew came down to do a Q&A at the screening. This was a great success. Charlie and I went on Awaaz FM radio to talk about the film and the recording of that interview is on a blog on this website.
Where we are now
We have 130 names and email addresses on sign up forms and 30 local people on our Facebook group site. We have a good community presence and reach. We now have six in our core group and so we have come a long way. Our core group and majority of our attendees are male and white and mostly 30+. Southampton is a very mixed-race city and so we need to do more to reach a more diverse audience. We are also working on how we can help people who come to our meetings effectively campaign and lobby their MPs. And we want to build more/better connections with other groups.
We were very lucky that we had two retired people. A Dangerous Ideas Group. A city with a developing community network. One medium and one very large university. An established PM group 30 minutes away by train. We support and are supported by a great campaigning organisation that is very effective, growing and understands that people have to feel the need for a changed economy as well as getting confidence to talk to others about it.
Phil Tyler is part of the core team who runs the Southampton Positive Money local group. If you want to join a Positive Money local group, you can find the one nearest you here. Or if you’d like to set up your own group, please get in touch with our team on firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7253 3235.