The European Movement's 2023 Grassroots Conference

Published on July 17, 2023

Building on the success of last year’s Grassroots Summit, on Saturday 15th July 2023 the European Movement UK hosted another of their Grassroots Conferences. This year the conference took place in Sheffield and was attended by over 170 people both online and in person in Victoria Hall.  

It was great to see so many attendees from across the entirety of the UK. 

The conference began with a welcome from Emma Knaggs, EMUK’s Interim CEO and Head of Grassroots Engagement. Emma made everyone feel extremely welcome and thanked everyone for everything they do as members and supporters of EMUK. Emma set a fantastic tone for the rest of the day.  

This was then followed by a polling session conducted by Pablo O’Hana, Head of Communications, and Mike Galsworthy, Chair of the European Movement UK. Pablo discussed in detail how polling can help us understand the view of the UK and shape the direction of EMUK’s campaigns. He explicitly touched on polling conducted after the release of the European Movement’s film which marked 25 years of the Good Friday Agreement, and how different kinds of campaigning influence public perception of the movement.  

After an invaluable session on polling, Mark English, EMUK’s Strategic Advisor took the floor. Mark outlined in detail exactly how the EU has changed since 2016, how that is affecting relations with the UK now and what this might mean for UK/EU relations in the years to come.  

Following on from Mark English, EMUK’s Local Campaigns Manager Maura McKeon gave an informative talk about our upcoming campaigns. Maura touched on campaigns at a local level and gave particular attention to the Market Access Survey, first developed by Wandsworth and Merton EM. Maura discussed the results of the survey in detail, she outlined the plans for the future of the campaign, and finished on the ways that this campaign can help us to achieve wider EMUK goals.  

Finally, before the conference broke for lunch, EMUK’s newly appointed Vice President Dominic Grieve gave a speech on what he believes he can bring to EMUK. Grieve started by outlining why he accepted the position of Vice President and how honoured he feels to be in such a position. You can watch Dominic's speech here. 

After a light lunch, the attendees both online and in person were asked to attend a choice of three workshops.  

  1. Campaign Messaging with Pablo O’Hana, Head of Communications and Richard Kilpatrick, Campaigns Manager 
  2. Engaging with Local Media with Andrew Plant, Head of Press and Media 
  3. Street Stall Conversations with Peter Packham, Member of Local Group Leeds for Europe 

1. Campaign Messaging 

This workshop taught attendees how to develop a powerful campaign including emotional messaging and the importance of testing everything before running a campaign. To test the attendees' knowledge Richard and Pablo asked everyone to come up with their own campaign. They put up 4 ‘personas’ on a whiteboard and delegated each of the personas to a different group. For example, one of the personas was a young man who didn’t vote in 2016, another was a Red Wall voter who voted Conservative for the first time in 2019, another was a woman in her 60s who is sick of the Brexit debate and finally the last was a young girl who voted for the first time in 2019. The participants were then asked to come up with a campaign based on topics that may change their minds about Brexit. Each of the groups then shared their ideas at the end of the workshop while Richard and Pablo gave feedback. Overall, this was an extremely interesting workshop and attendees left with a greater knowledge of how to build a campaign.  

2. Engaging with the Local Media  

This workshop gave attendees an insight into how to work with local and national press. Andrew the workshop lead and EMUK’s Head of Press and Media worked for the BBC for 17 years, so has a wealth of knowledge on how the media works. Andrew gave tips on how to get stories placed in local newspapers, what the perfect ‘story’ consists of, and the work he is doing to get EMUK’s message in the press. This workshop improved attendees’ confidence when it comes to trying to place things in the media.  

3. Street Stall Conversations  

During this workshop, Peter gave advice on selling EMUK’s message to the people. Peter started by saying that one of the basic rules of selling is that people buy benefits, not features. When partaking in street stalls we tend to talk facts to people and expect them to understand why they would benefit them. So, instead, Peter pointed out that we should focus less on facts and more on personal benefits. To get to the concerns of the individual and then show them how they could benefit from rejoining the EU he suggested that you should ask open questions such as:  

What do you think of Brexit? 

How do you think the UK is doing after Brexit? 

What sort of improvements would you like to see? 

How do you think we could go about improving things? 

Attendees left Peter’s workshop feeling more confident and excited about getting involved with future street stalls near them.  

After the excitement of the workshops, everyone was asked to join each other again in the main hall for three more presentations before the end of the day.  

The first of the three was moderated by Maura McKeon but was led in part by the attendees themselves. Maura asked attendees, but particularly group chairs and active members to give an overview of the things their local groups have been doing recently. This included events, merchandise, campaigning, petitions, and the development of new local groups around the UK. It was a great way to learn more about specific local groups and allowed members to share their exciting news on the future of EMUK.  

After this Stella Mavropoulou, Head of International Affairs and Partnerships at the Young European Movement (YEM), gave a presentation on how local groups can engage with young people in their area, this included hosting events and encouraging members of their local groups to join YEM if they are under the age of 35. Stella then went on to talk about YEM’s upcoming events and campaigns, such as their Erasmus+ campaign and the ways that EMUK can get involved. This discussion demonstrated that there needs to be a closer relationship between EMUK and YEM and that without a doubt young people are the future of the campaign to reverse the calamity of Brexit.  

The final talk of the day was given by Amelia Hughes, Communications and Campaigns Officer. Amelia walked members through membership at the European Movement, touching on things such as growth, what the membership team does, and how things have changed since Sept 2022. Amelia then gave tips and tricks on how to recruit more members at a local level but ended by saying that EMUK’s local groups are already doing amazing work. Overall, it is not always about how many members we can recruit but about brand awareness, peer-to-peer interaction, and growing our supporter list.

Before the end of the day, Emma Knaggs once again thanked everyone for attending and praised everyone for the work they do day in and day out to reverse the calamity of Brexit in their local area.  

Overall, it was a fabulous day filled with hope, optimism, and excitement for the future of the European Movement UK.  

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