Making trouble made easy

Melbourne-based author and community radio presenter Iain McIntyre has been documenting and celebrating Australian radical history since the 1990s. A series of zines he created entitled How To Make Trouble And Influence People were compiled into an expanded edition by Breakdown Press in 2009 with a second edition released in conjunction with US publisher PM Press in 2013.

Rachel Evans spoke to McIntyre about the How To Make Trouble And Influence People 2016 Diary he has put together as a fundraiser for Melbourne's community radio station 3CR and Ecuador's Los Cedros biological reserve.

* * *

You are the author of the book How to Make Trouble and Influence People and this diary is an offshoot of that. What inspired you to write and compile the original HTMTAIP series and book?

First and foremost a desire to make a whole bunch of history available that was otherwise locked up in troublemakers' heads or only accessible by sifting through academic journals and old magazines and newspapers.

The focus of the zines and subsequent book, and now diary, has always been on the ways in which Australian progressives and radicals have acted creatively to seize attention and shake things up. When I say creative, I mean not just in the sense of using humour and artistic expression, but also by inventing new tactics or reformulating and applying old ones to new issues and audiences.

In the diary, by including lots of images and writing up many of the stories as snapshots that are a line to a page in length, I've tried to cover a broad range of issues, eras and geographical locations via an entertaining and easy-to-read format.

Hopefully this inspires people to get involved in creative protest, as well as dig deeper into the context and background of our history and movements.

The book includes 500 stories from the time of colonisation all the way to the present. The diary includes 366 radical dates and dozens of stories and images. How did you make the selection?

The publication focuses primarily on public and overt forms of protest and direct action, and covers everything from Indigenous guerrilla warfare through to Cranky the Koala locking onto a truck to stop coal seam gas mining. By including such a wide gamut of activity I've aimed to highlight the fact that many of today's movements either have historical parallels or a long history in and of themselves.

As with many other radical historians, I've sought to underline that the basic rights and conditions we're often now trying to either defend or extend were won through political struggle.

By favouring stories that include humour and mischief, I also hope to demonstrate the ways in which people have sought to leaven the hard graft associated with troublemaking, cleverly subvert oppressive ideologies, and have some fun at the expense of the rich and powerful.

Back in the 2000s, I provided a radical event in Australian history for each day of the year for 3CR's Seeds of Dissent calendars. With this diary, I set myself the challenge of coming up with all new ones.

Convict escapes, environmental blockades, boycotts over beer prices, unemployed riots, land rights embassies, peace marches, pranks, street art, refugee breakouts and strikes in workplaces ranging from tea rooms to aerated water factories, are just some of the troublemaking activities covered.

How did you research these stories and collect the hundreds of images and photos in the book and diary?

Much of the information has come directly from the source via interviews I've done with activists, reading through old volumes of socialist and radical newspapers and checking out websites, social media and people's personal collections of posters and photos. The research for the collected editions of the book involved Lou Smith and Tom Civil and their help was immeasurable in terms of tapping into their networks and pointing out things I'd previously missed.

Although there is a massive amount of material that still needs to be digitised or otherwise preserved for posterity, I tapped heavily into online archives hosted by Trove, Reason In Revolt and Green Left Weekly to uncover a stack of new strikes, protests and other events for the diary.

[The How To Make Trouble And Influence People 2016 Diary will be launched at the Friends of the Earth Food Cooperative, 312 Smith Street, Collingwood, from 6pm on November 13. Copies are available from various radical booksellers or can be ordered for $15 plus postage from]

Like the article? Subscribe to Green Left now! You can also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.