Producing a troublemaker's diary

Melbourne-based researcher Iain McIntyre is the author of a number of books including a recent anthology entitled On The Fly! Hobo Literature and Songs, 1879-1941. Rachel Evans spoke to him about the 2019 How To Make Trouble and Influence People Diary he has produced as a fundraiser for the Rainforest Information Centre and Community Radio 3CR.

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You’ve been involved in books and various projects documenting the history of radical movements, the latest of which is the 2019 diary. What inspires you to do this work?

On a personal level, I find history fascinating and entertaining and I have a strong interest in and commitment to progressive politics. Researching and sharing stories, images and information about activists and movements from the recent and distant past is a fun and fulfilling thing to do.

More broadly, I hope that people draw inspiration and ideas from the events and people I document. I hope they get a sense that actions they take today against inequality and repression, and for a healthier and more rewarding world, follow in a radical tradition that has accomplished many changes, big and small.

All that probably sounds pretty earnest and serious, which I guess political activity often can be. So to balance that out, I try to emphasise the excitement and creativity involved by focusing on actions that involved a lot of humour at the expense of the rich and powerful, that incorporated music and other art forms, and which involved unpredictable, striking and innovative tactics.

Why produce a diary?

Over the decades there have been a number of radical diaries produced overseas that include a historical event for each day of the year. I’ve owned a few of these and enjoy the way they liven up every day with these brief reminders, which often contrast with the generally mundane to-do list I’m writing down. I also like the way in which 365 brief summaries of events can expose the reader to a wide breadth of periods, issues and movements.

I thought it would be great to have one focused specifically on celebrating Australian troublemaking. I first created one in 2016 and have now followed up with this one for 2019.

The new edition combines some of the best entries from the 2016 one and the Seeds of Dissent calendars from the 2000s with around 200 new dates. These cover stories from all over the country regarding Indigenous resistance, picket line hijinks, strikes, blockades, street art, convict escapes, occupations and more.

Other than combining a historical overview of Australian activism with a practical everyday item, it’s also a way to raise money for some organisations doing vital environmental and media work.

What are some of your favourite images from this edition?

It’s pretty hard to choose specific ones as I’m really happy about the spread I’ve been able to include. Literally thousands of negatives from the original Communist Party of Australia’s archives have been digitised by the State Library of NSW. With the Search Foundation’s permission, I’ve been able to include a range of photos from the 1960s to 1980s including those of rollerskaters at the 1979 Sydney Mardi Gras, anti-war activists defacing the share-price boards and burning a US flag inside the Sydney stock exchange in 1970, and protesters running off with a fence at Pine Gap during the 1983 Women For Survival Protest Camp.

There is also a classic photo of some demonstrators who had snuck in front of an anti-choice protest in Canberra during the late 1970s with a banner reading “Catholic Women In Favour of Abortion”.

These are mixed in with cartoons, woodcuts and photos from the early 20th century onwards as well as recent snaps from more recent demonstrations to remind everyone that we’re still making history.

[The 2019 How To Make Trouble and Influence People diary is available from a variety of bookshops, including the Sydney and Melbourne Resistance Centres. It can be ordered it here.]