An activist’s tool kit

This started out as the activists tool kit, but then I thought it was a bit presumptuous to call it ‘the’ tool kit and it would also imply that it is as good as it gets. It’s not; new ideas and developments are occurring every day.

I digress, what matters is that it is a rather small list with the nuts and bolts of a digital activists tools to get those stories and pictures out whilst it is going off.



I have long championed the evolution of the smart phone as a tool for change. The world of apps such as Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook have changed the way people engage in protest. Whilst the downside has been an increase in something we call ‘keyboard warriors’ – people who tweet and message from the comfort of their living room (or toilet?) it has also inspired flash mobs when people are asked to leave pubs and restaurants for kissing their same-sex partners and of course helped to coordinate the Arab spring and Occupy moments of 2010 and 2011 and many others. Armed with just your smart phone and a data or wi-fi connection, you can literally create your own media and report stories as they happen.

Along with this, the advancement in technology of cameras has been of huge significance too. Whilst some photographers bemoan the sight of every man and his dog with a DSLR in their hands and driving down the price of their images, it also means that a far greater, far wider view of life is being captured. If it is not caught on a camera phone, it will most definitely be caught by a DSLR enthusiast. Some DSLR cameras are now fitted with wi-fi connectivity, reducing the previous time delay between taking an image and having to upload it to your laptop before sending it off to a news room or the blogosphere. I recently upgraded from Nikon D3100 to the D5300 for two reasons; the moveable lcd screen and the wi-fi connectivity and they have proved their worth countless times in the short time I have had it (D5300).

It would have been easy to add a laptop or tablet device to this list (I regularly carry my iPad with me for its larger screen and copy of photoshop I have on it) but in the main, and to keep it light, the smart phone (Samsung S4 in my case) is more than capable to receive and upload pictures as I go and is much more versatile. A multi-functional device if you like.

On the subject of smart phones, I moved from Apple to Samsung 2 years ago because I was fed up of the minor Apple upgrades, short battery life and storage issues. The Samsung enables me to increase the storage size with mini SD cards and has the bonus of being able to change my battery when I am running low on juice. This is invaluable when you are not anywhere near a power point or the event is going on. When considered with the portable pebble charger (good for 3 charges from flat for a smart phone) it means that you have more than enough power to see you through the day. Unlike my previous iPhones where they would kick it half way through an event. They may have remedied this with the new 6 plus but I have yet to be convinced.

A megaphone (£5 from Tiger pictured) is useful depending on what side of the camera you are, if like me you are keen to record and capture the moment that is making our history, you will find yourself less behind the megaphone and more with a camera in your hand. I was once told that a journalist should cover an event as removed from the emotion of it as possible. I am not sure that is necessarily possible as we are an empathic civilisation and it is in our nature to emphasise with the people around us.


A decent pair of walking shoes is a must, you’ll certainly start racking up the miles attending protests and if the current format of governments continues in the UK, then I presume there will be many, many more miles covered in the near and foreseeable future. If you are going to crawl around on your hands and knees though, make sure you use tape to protect the fronts otherwise you’ll quickly wear a hole in the toe caps. The Karrimor shoes here are cheap and cheerful, getting the job done without worrying about damaging the expensive alternatives. A good pair of walking shoes also aid in the inevitable walls, trees, fences and gates you’ll climb to get to where you need to get to or to evade the mounted horse back charge from the police! Knee pads and gloves speak for themselves, if you intend to crawl anywhere, the street is filthy. You will also be surprised to see how much human hair lines our pavements. Knee pads also double up usefully when taking pictures, you’ll often see photographers performing contortionist acts to get the shots they want, knee pads will help with this, or at least they do me as I am not getting any younger.

The Anonymous mask speaks for itself, it has become synonymous with protests, both physical and virtual in recent years after the movie V for Vendetta. There are now a significant number of new designs out there today than this old one.

The fire truck was my nephews, they begrudgingly donated it to me for a greater cause to campaign about privatisation within the public sector but you can use any prop that supports your cause. Work as paramedic? Use a toy ambulance, dress up like the object of your frustration such as Chris grayling or Michael Gove and make a visual demonstration somewhere, be seen and be seen doing something out of the ordinary. It will always attract attention and local press love a good unusual story.


Lifeventure thermal cup; keeps hot things hot and cold things cold. When on a shoot, it’s important to have a cup of something hot and I never leave for a day out campaigning without making sure it is filled up with fresh, hot coffee. Of all the cups I have used over the years, this is by far the most reliable. I’ve had the same one for 3 years. It’s had 2 new heads and new bodies… it is rugged and fares well after being dropped (and keeping the coffee where it should be) from considerable heights!

Most importantly, it comes in black.

Berghaus Freeflow 20

As well as the kit, you’ll need something to carry it with. My man bag is the Berghaus Freeflow 20, which is big enough to house the kit when you transport it around, rigid frame with air flow around the back with hydration pouch. A particularly useful feature when you are running around a march trying to get the pictures you want and you want to top up those fluid levels. It has useful stagger pouches and integral rain cover. Also coming in black.

You may think that there are things missing such as placards, sharpie markers, montana spray paint and stencils but then this is just a quick stop through an activist tool kit, not ‘THE’ activist tool kit. Other kit I could have included would have been my white board and marker, much more 21st century than a placard with one message. A whiteboard enables you to have a limitless number of messages throughout any given protest and allow for significant engagement with the hundreds of single serving strangers you will encounter on any rally, protest, march, occupation etc.

There are whistles and maybe 101 other things you could take on a protest (maybe I that will be the next blog) but the aim here is to keep it light, keep it tight and keep it easy. See you at the next one.

Save People, Not Banks

What’s in your essential activist tool kit?


Banking terrorists go from strength to strength

The wolf is certainly wearing sheeps clothing and he is stalking his prey with blood drenched lips. RBS have this week recorded a further loss of £8bn which now means they have lost every penny of the £46bn of tax payer money given to them by the government after their bailout in 2008. How has this been met? They have rewarded themselves with over £500m in bonuses.

Of course RBS are not the only bank to play ‘catch us with our pants down if you can’ as Barclays Bank have played a similar hand with respect to their 10% increase in bonuses worth over £2bn and announcing cuts to over 7000 jobs, presumably due to technological unemployment. This the same Barclays Bank who were complicit in the libor scandal, the fixing of interest rates, and also recipient of tax payer money to soften the blow of the economic meltdown of 2008.
The mainstream media are playing tacit dismay at these announcements, with only opinion pieces by people such as Owen Jones offering any real insight into the daylight robbery and daily economic terrorism being waged on we the people. The social media of course is full of it but that is information that you have to actively search for and not receive as part of your regular, daily spoon fed government message. Who really has the time or energy for that after 10-11 hours of being a debt slave?

Whilst these banks and politicians continue to bleed us dry, everyday people are being assessed by Atos, the SS arm of the DWP at the behest of Iain Duncan-Smith, and having their social security slashed and/or withdrawn. These actions have resulted in many people who are sick and dying being told they are fit to work. You literally couldn’t make it up. Why is all this happening? Because in 2008 the world found out that major banking corporations had played a dodgy game of roulette with public money and when it came up black and not red, they lost it all. Instead of cutting them adrift as any one of us would have been if we gambled our savings at the casino, or as Iceland did with their banking ‘elites’, Gordon Brown bailed them out with our money leaving us to pay for it. David Cameron and his side man Nick Clegg continue to make us pay for it, with some of us paying the ultimate price for this ideological austerity with their very lives.

What can we do to challenge and change what is happening?

Well firstly we have to become informed; this means not relying on the prescribed daily dose of hate given at specific daily intervals from the mainstream media, it means using the wonderful tool that is the Internet to find out more about the world immediately around us and the wider world too. We are all connected.

We have to question what we find; just as we should not blithely listen to and believe what the mainstream media tells us, we should be mindful of the information we find on the Internet. Cross referencing sources and claims is a must in a world full of disinformation, don’t believe me, look for yourself.

We have to share information – knowledge is power; but power to do what? The success of life and the evolution of species is hinges on co-operation, by communities working together to adapt, improvise and overcome. It is not about the survival of the fittest. That is not to say I am calling for a Tory-esque ‘big society’ but for us to use the tools at our disposal, i.e. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc to share information and not just cute pictures of cats and dogs (that’s not to say you shouldn’t as without enjoying life what is the point in fighting for a better one?) Oh and don’t forget the power of the old-fashioned word of mouth.

Get out there; as in once you have taken the first steps in finding and sharing information, you need to act on it. That might mean taking an hour or two out of your weekend to go to a rally, march or candle light vigil but it is an essential part of the process in making change, to get people together peacefully on the streets at events. You can and will meet some of the most varied and interesting people you will ever come across at events like this and it is where ideas start to grow.

Connect the dots – we’re in this together; as in once you have taken the steps to attend an event for something close to your heart look for the next one on a different topic. Joining each others causes is important, we have to build networks across the different campaigns being run from stop the war to save the NHS.

Take stock of your history; we are all standing on the shoulders of giants, nothing has ever been given to us, it has all been fought for over the centuries by people collectively and not won by individuals. The Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s was not Malcolm X or Martin Luther King, it was the collective will and actions of the people who helped to bring about change and gave these individuals a platform from which to speak and act.

Finally, believe in yourself; Collective and peaceful civil disobedience is a powerful tool when used in conjunction with mass economic withdrawal. None of these ideas are new and have been suggested in the past by the likes of Martin Luther King and Ghandi. What we have to do is believe that we can make change and we have to be daring enough to do so.

For more inspiration see:

Scriptonite Daily
The Artist Taxi Driver
Dominoes Falling Productions

Media Break, give us 3 minutes we’ll give you the world


Screen Shot 2013-06-26 at 13.41.29

Media Break, week 2, highlights included Barack Obama calling George Osborne Jeffery, the US announcing that their Quantitative Easing would be scaled back, China’s economy slowing, Mervyn King retiring and the bankers back to their bonus gorging ways.

Our three minute Media Break can be found here