23 May 2014
It's like something from the problem pages. My husband dresses as a truck, my daughters are all over the Mercury and I've become obsessed with an alleyway. But it's all in a good cause. Clarendon Park residents have revived dormant skills, made new friends and rediscovered fabulous shops – all because of Tesco.
Many were fatalistic at first, when Tesco announced it would open an Express store in a former bank. The deal was done months after Tesco's public denials.
It would be Clarendon Park's third supermarket, on a dangerous road junction. But, under current planning law, it wouldn't require permission to open – only permission to alter parts of the building.
Initial shock became anger – anger channelled by councillors Kitterick and Clayton, who called a meeting on November 5. Yes, the fuse really was lit on Bonfire Night. A campaign meeting followed within days.
So, how have we kept the show on the road for more than six months – running rings around Tesco's polished propaganda and convincing last week's council planning committee to block key building alterations?
Without giving away any secrets to Tesco, here are some ideas that have worked well for us.
It's crucial to have a clear message. Ours is that we're opposed to a third supermarket, due to the impact on our shops and at an already dangerous junction. It just happened to be Tesco.
Keep everyone involved and in the loop. Petitions and window posters give people a chance to show support, even if they're busy. Regular e-mails and leaflets keep them informed.
Make the most of your campaign volunteers' talent – set up teams to focus on key issues such as communication, lobbying, events and planning issues.
Stunts and PR launched the campaign and kept it in the limelight, while our planning gurus worked out how to fight Tesco's applications. Yes, that means studying lorries and whether they fit in alleyways!
Pace the campaign with quirky stories. Two campaigners dressed as a Tesco truck and had a stand-off with the real thing, creating a Twitter sensation. Councillor Grant made headlines by ambushing Eric Pickles for us at a Downing Street reception.
Always look for allies. The fact we have support from students and a range of rival traders and politicians shows how inclusive we are.
Finally – be realistic. We know the odds are stacked against us stopping Tesco but, whatever happens, we've strengthened community spirit, boosted trade in local shops and are founding a Friends of Clarendon Park group.
These are all worthwhile outcomes, win or lose. As our giant friend would say: every little helps.