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'THE VALLEY PARTY' TWENTY YEARS ON - PART 4 - The Advertising Campaign

One of the key elements to the success of the Valley Party, was the professional, visually-striking poster campaign. Richard Hunt, now based in Prague, was a key driver in this achievement. In Part Four in our journey remembering 'THE VALLEY PARTY 20 YEARS ON', Richard explains how the creative aspect of the campaign developed.


There are three brothers named Powell, who have had an enormous influence on British politics.

Sir Charles was Thatcher’s adviser on foreign affairs. Jonathon was a key Blair aide. Way to the left of them politically is Chris. He is chairman of a world renowned ad agency, then called BMP, which in the 80s had run the campaigns for Labour, the GLC when Thatcher announced its abolition, and various radical non-government organisations.

It was my huge good fortune, and privilege, that in 1990, he was my boss.

Chris had no interest in football, and an intellect that could shred any argument that wasn’t bulletproof. But he told me that he liked me because I ‘believed in things’; so very tentatively I told him about the Valley Party, and asked if the agency could do a ‘pro bono’ campaign. Despite the opponents being Labour, with whom he still had connections, he agreed on the spot. On one condition: “make sure the creative work is good!”.

Football was still not fashionable then, but around me in the agency there were plenty of real fans, and they jumped at the chance to help. Its these people who made the campaign so brilliant.

We had to start with what’s called the creative strategy (the main message the ads should convey). In BMP, people with super-sized brains were responsible for this. One, called Dennis, was an expert in political campaigns. I briefed him by showing him a draft of a campaign leaflet which we in the Valley party had knocked up. In a rich Belfast brogue, he tore it to shreds; “I read it and I had the impression that it came from some really angry people. I didnt know who they were; maybe the BNP. But they made me nervous”

It was what we call a “key learning”. Our anger might have been justified, but we had to reach out to people who might not even be interested in football. We needed to present Charlton as a symbol of the local community, a symbol increasingly hard to find in the transient melting pot that London had become. A reminder of why, wherever you live now, you call Charlton home, and The Valley the place where your dad took you, and his dad before him.

We knew that big posters would be the right medium. But how would we get them, and what would they look like?

Fortunately my favourite creative team were football nuts. Dave Buchanan and Mike Hannett are native Mancunians, and hardcore United. Mike, a quiet peaceful guy, is the brother of the sadly deceased “Madchester” rock producer, Martin Hannett (depicted in “24 hour Party people”). Dave lived in Blackheath, and met the Valley Party inner circle in a curry house to get a grip on Charlton’s history. There was hardly any money available, so the ideas would need to feature mainly stock photography, but we found good ones, and the results speak for themselves. We never, though, found out the identity of the little kid who was depicted in one of the posters.

Inside the Valley Party nobody knew what to expect of me, and there was some understandable scepticism. But when I presented the rough ideas at a Valley Party meeting there was spontaneous applause. And when we took the press to an unveiling of the real thing at a printers in the East End, you could hear a collective gasp from both friend and foe.

It was, as I think about it now, our Nick Clegg TV moment.

The Valley Party was no longer a bunch of silly football fans. It was backed by professionals and it was going to outgun the lot of them!


But there was still the question of how many posters we could actually get up.

We had no money.

This was where the agency’s media department came in. It was a strong buying point, which could get favours from poster contractors. All I had to do was put up with some ritual humiliation. I sat in the office of Bill Jones, head of print media, a Spurs supporting street trader type, as he called up one of the big poster contractors. “Derek, I’ve got this little **** in my office who thinks his Valley Party should be treated as a charity campaign, pro bono. What d’yer reckon, Derek?” Down the phone line I could hear “Derek’s” arm being twisted up his back. And over the next days, Bill managed to deliver not just the 12 big posters that were considered a decent size campaign for Greenwich, but 28 !

When they went up, the local Labour party went into conspiracy overdrive, talking about backing for the VP from a mysterious millionaire.


The amazing thing about the Valley Party is that it just came naturally to people. All of us were ordinary people, doing extraordinary things. There was no leadership structure, people just sensed what they should do, and we were always one step ahead of the politicians.

One of the battlegrounds was the letters page of the Mercury. One day I came into the agency a bit crushed because a local citizen had written in suggesting I was an outsider, who should stick to his day job. Mike and Dave though, greeted me cheerily:

“eh Rich, see our mate’s been ‘aving a go at you in the paper”
“your mate? You know him?”
“Aye, schoolmate and Citeh fan. And he’s a full-time Labour worker at Walworth Road HQ”

Gleefully, I fired off a letter to the Mercury, unmasking the ‘local citizen”. The day it was printed, Mike took a call from their mate.

“There’s only two f*****s in the world could have told him that. You, and the f***** sitting next to yer.”

Dave and Mike got their rewards, precious creative prizes for the ads. With the help of the account planners, I wrote an entry for the Effectiveness awards, which seeks to prove academically that advertising works. In the end it received a special kind of consolation prize, which everyone was still delighted with. The planning director, who was one of the judges, said it had been in the running for a silver, but what counted against it was that the awards were meant to make the case for investing in advertising, but the VP was not a campaign that everybody else could hope to do in the same way. Some of the judges, he told me, had realised that the VP were lucky, because I worked for BMP.


And in the end he was right. Lucky, privileged, and still 20 years later, thrilled by the memory of it all.

For a link to other articles in this Valley Party series, CLICK HERE


  • Super super piece.
  • excellent
  • Great stuff.

    Great series.
  • and if you know your history it's enough to make your heart go whoooooooooooooooooooah...

    good stuff
  • Those posters always bring a lump to my throat, what a great piece of work they were, and to see them round the Borough was immense, Richard and his team cetainly produced the goods, but for this campaign I am pretty sure our club would have died, no Valley meant no Charlton, thank god we had people like Richard, Rick and Steve Dixon about with enough balls to decide on action. I doubt if any single issue party could ever be so effective again.
  • Thankyou Afka. I've been away from the site for the past few weeks, and then i come back to read five excellent postings.
  • Just hope you enjoy Parts 5 - 624 as well :-)

    Sadly we weren't able to get decent images of all of the posters. If anyone has any images stored away that we could include, we'd be extremely grateful.

    Out of interest, how many differing poster slogans were there ?

    I can remember the following:




    there there was one about traffic, and another with the little boy. What were these slogans ?

    Were there any others ?
  • Well done Richard Hunt. Excellent piece.
  • "IF YOU DON'T SUPPORT US, WHO IS HE GOING TO SUPPORT" is the little boy one I think? I think it may even have been posted on one of the other threads.
  • IF the council had its way, we'll never see this sort of traffic problem again.

    (With photo of open top bus and FA Cup being paraded)

    If you don't support us. who is he going to support?

    (with boy in classic 80s ski hat and scarf)

    pics in Richard Redden's history.
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  • Didn't the club / casc do postcards of the posters?
  • [cite]Posted By: guinnessaddick[/cite]Didn't the club / casc do postcards of the posters?
    There were 'press packs' produced with copies of the posters, the election leaflets and press releases, I think I may have one tucked away in the loft somewhere.

    I've also got an official declaration of candidates for the Burrage ward. Shaun Edwards ran for the Valley Party against Len Duvall for Labour.
  • Brilliant piece. Thank you Richard.
  • Part 5, with Peter Cordwell - then Sports Editor of The Mercury, will be published tonight
  • Peter Cordwell played a big part in the campaign, should be interesting reading.
  • Great piece.
  • Awesome piece - got the framed pics from the Superstore a few years back and has pride of place in my study

    has nobody still ever found out who the young kid in the beanie was?
  • very good!
  • Dan

    that is the dog nads mate a little while ago i was getting fed up on herethat has just made me realise why i keep coming back, fantastically written and done so in a way that leaves you wanting more, mate if you aint in media you should be the lay out is top and the piece by Richard is nothing short of sensational

    i have so much to thank so many for, i remember my bruv doing the leafleting and attending meetings but to read it is different gravy

    thank you all of you involved i owe you my footballing memories and experiences
  • Brilliant, brilliant piece, easy to forget how much we owe to everyone involved. They not only saved the club but defined it for a generation.
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  • Richard Hunt............."joined up writing" sooo good, can still hear him say it! must be on one of mine or bigfatpetes videos...

  • Great piece Richard - always a top man my friend!

    I have the framed limited edition prints of the posters up on Floyd's Bar wall - gret talking point with many people who ask what they are - I never tire of telling people about it.
  • double bump
  • Quite fitting we'll be playing a club like Brighton aswell to celebrate 20 years back at home
  • Without wishing to start sniping I hope some of those who have had a go at Prague on other threads read this.

    The bloke knows his stuff.
  • edited September 2012
    Yep - if you know yor 'istory, an all that.. or is that Bob Marley?
  • bump

    razil said:

    double bump

    Goose bumps

    I have the set of posters and the permission to have 'em all up on the landing

  • pic pls
  • Just seen this - great post, well done Richard / Prague.

    This post actually has special resonance with me - I too used to work at BMP, starting in late 1990 and staying for 13 years. Therefore I know Mike and Dave, and can indeed testify to them being a) top blokes and b) proper footy fans. I remember in our many discussion about football them telling me about their involvement in the VP campaign. Haven't seen them for a while, but do know they're still doing well.

    Small world, eh?!

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