Political fundraising gigs ― experiences from Brisbane

Issue 

The Brisbane branch of the socialist youth group Resistance has linked up with Occupy Brisbane and Stop CSG Brisbane to pull off two successful fundraising gigs. Dominic Hale and Alice Jenkins, from Resistance's cultural committee, spoke to Green Left Weekly's Hannah Reardon-Smith about political gigs.

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What was the idea behind your approach to these Resistance gigs?

Hale: Over the past few years, Brisbane has lost a whole heap of its community spaces. We wanted to make the Activist Centre, which Resistance organises out of, somewhere people could come and share a good time with like-minded people.

So we decided to approach these gigs in a way that was trying to break from some of the left ghetto stuff of having gigs just for your supporters, and instead from an outreach understanding. We also linked with community groups, like Occupy and Stop CSG Brisbane, to bring in a wider audience.

Jenkins: Brisbane needs a place like this, that’s why it’s successful. We really asked ourselves: how can we bring the public into our space?

Hale: Things like this won’t be successful if you don’t do the networking. It took us being proactive in getting artists and getting to know people in the music scene. Get good bands and people will come. Approach people, talk it up, get their numbers and call them back.

Jenkins: We have a long-term view, we want this to become an institution. So we tried to make it enjoyable for everyone and a welcoming place to come back to ― this means we didn’t just try to get every dollar out of everyone we could. It’s about creating a space. We went with cheap drinks, cheap food, safe space, discussing issues, focussing on common ground, and started keeping it politically quite open.

How did you achieve this openness, and then how did you introduce the Resistance message?

Jenkins: We didn’t push our politics on anyone. People can feel like they’re signing up for something they’re not ready for. We gave them space to discover political stuff for themselves, with more of an outreach focus.

Hale: Regardless of whether you do have an activist centre or not, this kind of thing is about building political communities. But we avoided what we’ve seen in the past ― lots of speeches, militant recruitment style. This is much more relaxed, everyone is aware of the politics, but we’re less about signing tons of people up. It’s about putting the Socialist Alliance project, of which Resistance is part of, into realisation ― non-sectarian, non-exclusive, outreach.

The funny thing is, you don’t actually need to tip-toe around politics ― in fact it was kind of the inverse. By focussing on personal contact and one-on-one discussion, people often talked up their politics.

How did you approach practical considerations? Getting it organised and getting people to help out?

Jenkins: What was really important was to give people in the organisations putting it on a sense of ownership over the gig. Getting them involved in some way in the organising process, like putting up posters, was key. If you find yourself doing most of the work, you haven’t networked enough.

The gigs were huge fundraising successes. How did you achieve this?

Jenkins: Drinks and food make the most money. Have a barbeque, but sell food cheap. Buy in bulk ― buy more than you need, you’ll always use it in the Activist Centre. Cheap alcohol ― look for microbreweries, the beers are delicious, super cheap, and a point of interest! Variety is important, the ginger beer we had here was a real hit.

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