Fifty Years of paid Focus

June 8, 2020 4:31 PM
Originally published by South Central Region Liberal Democrats
Martin Kyrle

Martin Kyrle

This year marks 50 years since the party first published a circular entirely funded by advertising. Focus is a well-established and integral part of Liberal Democrat activity, but the prototype was called AD-LIB: AD for the adverts and LIB for the party publishing it. In the spring of 1970, Martin Kyrle was Agent in Chandler's Ford in Eastleigh, where for the first time the Liberals were seriously challenging for a council seat. He wanted to campaign outside the customary month prior to the local elections, but how could this be funded? Here's how. Martin received the President's award at the Brighton conference in 2018.


Martin Kyrle writes:

It was John, my barber, who first put into my head the idea that commercial advertising could fund Liberal newsletters. Back in the 1960s money was always short and came either from our own pockets or through branch fund-raising: jumble sales, coffee mornings and our annual garden fête.

John asked me to get some leaflets printed advertising his business. He delivered them himself after closing, having been on his feet all day cutting hair.

'There are an awful lot of long roads in Chandler's Ford!' he moaned, next time I saw him, and the idea struck me: we have supporters who deliver our leaflets during elections. Would they be willing to deliver the Liberal message at other times of the year? If so, would John place an advert? If so, and I could find others to join in, we might do it at no cost.

I put this to the branch committee, who turned it down flat. No business, they assured me, would risk being publicly associated with the Liberals. Not only did we have no councillors, we never had had in the borough's history!

I asked John to confirm that he'd advertise in a Liberal newsletter, then went round other shops and businesses where I was a customer or I knew them to be party sympathisers. I found sixteen willing to place an ad - enough to pay for a 12pp A5 booklet. I asked local candidates and our PPC for articles and printed 2000 copies.

At the next branch meeting, I put the boxes on the table. 'You said no one would risk advertising. Well, I found enough to pay the entire cost of this leaflet. I've collected all the money and paid the printer. There are enough leaflets here to cover the whole ward. All you have to do is deliver them.'

Just like that, Focus paid for by advertising income was born! A full reproduction of the very first AD-LIB is included in Part 2 of 'The Liberals in Hampshire'.


Martin shared his political tales in his several volumes.
The Liberals in Hampshire - a part(l)y history
  • Book1Part 1: Southampton 1958-65 - object lessons. £5

    Only about half-a-dozen copies left! - Mark Pack's review: 4/5
  • Book2Part 2: Eastleigh 1965-72: out in the suburbs something stirred! £6.
    Includes reproduction of first AD-LIB and covers Martin and his wife's time in Chandler's Ford. Mrs Margaret Kyrle won the seat at the sixth attempt with 50.7% of the vote. and held on to it until 2002! - Mark Pack's review: 5/5
  • Part 3: Eastleigh 1972-81: the thorn in the flesh bursts into flower. £9.95
    A much bigger volume in a larger format because of the reproductions of leaflets and other memorabilia. - Mark Pack 4/5.

If you'd like to purchase any copies of Martin's excellent books please contact him via email.