CML Doc 10: Progress Report and call for new funds 11 Jan 2009

CML Doc 10: Progress Report and call for new funds 11 Jan 2009

Progress report and outline of additional funding requirements

Anthony Barnett, Henry Porter

11 January 2009

This report has two aims

  1. It is a report for existing funders as well as for potential new backers of The Convention on Modern Liberty on our progress and plans
  2. It sets out our additional requirements and their costs.

We are very happy to answer any questions and queries and receive any suggestions on how to ensure a successful Convention, from new partners to ideas for publicity and outreach.

Current state of play

The Convention on Modern Liberty will be held on Saturday 28 February 2009. It will be launched on 15 January at a party organised by Henry Porter and supported by Vanity Fair at the joint invitation of Henry and Helena Kennedy.

Its print media coverage will start with a ‘call to arms’ in the Observer on 18 January and the first advert in the Guardian on 19 January.

A new website, whose design was conceived for free by staff at Agency Republic, should go live on 17 January, carrying the first of a series of new short videos made for the Convention by its supporters and speakers.

The centre of the Convention on the day will be at the Logan Hall complex in the Institute of Education, Bedford Way, London, which takes a thousand people and in addition to its main amphitheatre has spaces for 10 parallel sessions in the morning and afternoon. There are 105 confirmed speakers. Currently, 36 organisations, from the TUC to the Countryside Alliance, are supporting the Convention. We have 53 registered volunteers to help on the day.

We are actively working to expand the number of supporting organisations and there is likely to be a small number of additional speakers.

The Convention will also take place out of London. Simultaneous meetings watching live webcasts of the London plenary sessions with their own speaker sessions are planned in Glasgow, Belfast, Cardiff, Manchester, Cambridge and Bristol. More may be added. The external meetings are being organised by NO2ID, which is playing an outstanding role in building the Convention. The meetings are being supported by Amnesty (UK), Unlock Democracy and The Countryside Alliance.

144 tickets have been sold as of 12 January. Tickets cost £35 which includes tea, coffee, and a sandwich and fruit lunch. For students and unwaged they are £20. We offer £15 a head for groups of between 4 and 12 students who agree to share their experience and report back. Four sets of such groups are being organised already.  The Convention’sfacebook group has over 700 members.

What’s the aim?

We have been asked what will be different on March 1st? We hope it will witness the birth of a movement. The Convention is an event. It aims to bring together and debate the many connected issues, outrages and abuses that threaten our fundamental rights and freedoms in contemporary Britain. Should it succeed people will feel less isolated and fearful, organisations will feel strengthened, public awareness will be heightened and become more intelligent and articulate, media coverage will greatly improve, and the United Kingdom will – eventually – become a home for modern liberty.

Of course, a birth can mean bringing into the world a bawling, sprawling, uncoordinated, hungry and protoplasmic life force that may not survive. Its strength and personality will take time to develop. We look forward to it with anticipation – but not with detailed plans. These would be inappropriate. Certainly we want to see changes in government policy and an end to the building of a database state. But we are not seeking to create a new organisation with a programme of demands for reform in Whitehall. These exist already. If we can, our aim is to help them by widening the context of their appeal. We are not looking towards Westminster but outwards. Our aspiration is to influence the country’s political life and its public spirit in the belief that only the people themselves will be able to ensure the change of course Britain needs in order to secure our freedom and fundamental rights.

This is a big expansion of our original ambition – it has been lifted by the exceptional support, enthusiasm and creative input we have received.

Originally, in August and September 2008, the Convention was conceived as a mixture of a teach-in and a protest at the proposal for 42 days detention without trial, the spread of unaccountable surveillance, the rise of intrusive database technology and the failure of parliament to defend us from these modern threats to our civil liberties. We proposed to mount the Convention in November. This proposal was funded thanks to exceptionally rapid and generous support from eight trusts, foundations and individuals.

We could have filled the Logan Hall but the demand to do more than this grew while the financial crisis – rightly – drew all the immediate oxygen of attention. We needed time to publicise the issues more widely and generate the national conversations they deserve. We moved the date to 28 February. Thanks to the confirmation of a personal TASK grant from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, we could bear the costs of extending the budget by three months.

Now we are able to budget the additional costs of the ambitious outreach programme involved, one that we have already begun to put into action, only part of which was budgeted for. This document is a request to existing and new funders to contribute towards the rest as quickly as possible.

First, three points

  • We are more than delivering what we originally promised – see the website and also the ‘taster’ for the programme (appendix 04)
  • We have enlisted an enormous amount of support in kind from volunteers as well as those who have been modestly paid. At commercial rates the value of the work put into the Convention is probably worth at least as much again as the amount donated. This applies especially to Henry Porter’s time (as well as his considerable, direct, private support for the launch party).
  • We made one important mistake in the original estimate. We reckoned that we could persuade an organisation to undertake the webcasting and video recording of the day pro-bono in return for brand recognition. (This had been done before for a smaller event). We were not able to persuade them this time. We do now have a generous pro-bono offer of time, see below, but the essential equipment hire remains expensive.

Our outreach needs in summary

Paying a public relations company to manage our press and publicity. We have temporarily engaged four at our own risk who are doing excellent work: 

£12,5000 + VAT = £14,375

Pay for equipment hire to webcast and video the day. A team is being put together to do this who will work pro-bono:   Estimate = £9,000

Research team to produce key issue Convention Papers designed for news desks and broadcasting                                          Estimate = £4,000

Meetings outside London

Estimate = £5,000

Producing and editing Convention videos

Estimate = £2,500

Total           £34,875

Public relations

In December Henry did some intensive research into PR agencies. He contacted a number of them and received full presentations from three. His report is attached (appendix 01). His recommendation, after discussion by the ad hoc management team was to go with ‘four’ the largest, toughest and most professional. Their bid note is attached (appendix 02). A power-point of their presentation is available. Before Christmas we contracted them to work for us, at our own personal risk if necessary, to start immediately and assist the publicity around the launch party. They have been effective and have raised our game.

Webcasting and meetings across the country

Meetings across the country will watch the main plenary sessions, feed in some questions of their own via email, and debate with their own speakers. We do not know of any previous examples of this kind of event. We think it is a very important development, one that ensures the Convention itself is not spun as a merely ‘metropolitan’ event. The experiment will also be a learning experience that will deepen an independent democratic culture. To make this happen we will upcast from the Logan Hall, which has direct access to the UK university SuperJanet broadband network. We have received a very generous offer from Robin Lough to direct this pro-bono for the cause of liberty. Robin is very experienced at live broadcasting (of opera in particular – he will be doing “La Bohème” live on Sky Arts TV on Feb 2 – you can see some of his filmography here). To film from the main hall will require three cameras, for the speaker, the platform and the audience, and equipment to live edit between them and transmit. Costs of hire for this with back-up and insurance will come to between £5-10,000. He is confident that “the personnel (cameramen, sound, editor etc.) will give their services for free or, at least, for travel costs and a pint at the end of the day”. Robin has also offered to give us a 90-minute edited film of highlights of the day and complete it rapidly for us to make it available on the web or as a DVD. All combined, this is a tremendous offer.

Convention Papers

Two strategic priorities have become clear to us over the past two months, as we have argued the merits of the Convention. We can, and we will, make considerable inroads into published opinion, greatly helped by the Guardian’s support in Comment is Free and the expansion of a dedicated website to be called Liberty Central as part of this. But there are limits to the influence of opinion. Two additions are needed: first, to make and broadcast the evidence that shows how the various outrages are connected and are not just coincidental, so that the public begins to grasp the reshaping of the state that is underway. Second, to get such stories out into the news columns of the press and into broadcast coverage. This calls for the collation and presentation of the data and hard evidence, which is plentiful enough. Henry has drafted a paper on the need to aggregate and publish such research (appendix 03). This will back up our arguments in the news columns of the press and on radio and TV. It will be a formidable addition to the Convention, greatly enhancing its influence and ensuring that this lasts. He will oversee the work and liaise with existing research centres like the Democratic Audit to ensure rapid, clear analysis and response.

Meetings Outside London

While we budgeted for the costs for NO2ID to liaise and organise the meetings we assumed that they would be self-financing. It is clear that quite modest sums of £500 up to a maximum of £1,000 will make a great difference to the capacity of local organisers to hire the facilities and underwrite the costs and publicity of additional meetings that will bring 2-300 people together in towns and cities across the UK. We want to be able to make up to £5,000 available to be used in these amounts where capable local organisers argue a clear need.


We have decided to make the Convention come alive by using short videos of key supporters to say why they are involved and what they want to see happen. Inspired by the idea, young designers at Agency Republic have redesigned our website around this concept. The videos will be hosted on a Convention page on YouTube where anyone can add their own, and we can upload the best onto the selection and landing page of our own site. The first five have been made by volunteers, thanks to the loan of a free studio, and we are being assisted by the Guardian media team. We need modest costs to cover production and editing expenses.

The combined impact of these five activities: public relations; webcasting and filming the day; distributing research papers; supporting local meetings; and creating short, accessible videos, will together guarantee the impact of the Convention.

Existing Budget

The budget drawn up in October after we shifted the Convention to 28 February is set out below. As can be seen it has very limited allowance for outreach and none for direct support of the meetings outside London. On the revenue side, all of the grants committed at the time have now come in except for two of £5,000 each that we expect to be paid across shortly. We have also received three individual donations of £1,000 each. We are heavily reliant on getting the full budgeted ticket revenues.

Convention on Modern Liberty, Rough Budget

10 October 2008

Projected Outgoings



Venue Hire


Catering Teas, coffees and sandwich lunch


Conference team and costs 3 full & one part time 7 months


AV, dressing event and Wifi


Outreach, partners & publicity


Website +Rent 7 months


Stewarding + 6 UK meetings Managed by No2ID


Delegate packs


Contingency Approx 10%




Projected Incomings

Ticket sales 700 @ £35/each

200@ £20/each

200@ £15






Nine grants


TOTAL 104,500

Additional Needs

We think there is just about enough in the budget in terms of the money allocated to outreach and publicity and for audio-visual for us to cover £7,000 of the £34,875 costs set out in this paper. However we need to use it as part of the overall outreach programme we have described, as each element is essential to enhancing the success of the rest. This means that we are looking for at least £28,000 in additional grants. We believe that this offers exceptional value for money in expanding the influence of the project we embarked upon in September.