Over a long weekend in early spring first Reclaim the Fields UK gathering took place at Grow Heathrow, a squatted set of greenhouses in the path of the (for now) defeated third runway.
For two days around 60 of us spoke and worked together, sharing ideas about what we hold in common, and acknowledging the differences that set us apart.
Through intense and fertile discussions, interspersed with work and play, we began to create visions of what a Reclaim the Fields group could become here on this island.
The first gathering
Our discussions at Grow Heathrow highlighted a number of common threads loosely uniting the assembled groups. From these four themes emerged to guide the emergence of RtF. They can be seen as anchor points of solidarity from which we can strengthen our local actions and ideas.
In the UK we suffer unparalleled land concentration and extremely low levels of agricultural employment. Those who want to return to working with the land are hobbled by unaffordable prices and a disempowering planning system, while huge swaths of the country are held as the sole preserve of a few aristocratic families. To challenge this system we must critically analyse patterns of land ownership and distribution and create positive and practical alternatives. This may lead us towards creating common identities around the issue of land ownership in this country, towards sharing tools and ideas for gaining access to land, and to using the issue of food and land access as a medium for larger social changes.
To effectively understand the structures of land ownership that underpin the British land use system we must understand our place in time. We are born into a rich history of resistance and opposition to the enclosure of land and culture. Only by understanding the histories that form the ground we stand on can we create the futures we dream of. The Reclaim the Fields movement must look back as it looks forward. The lessons of history are as valuable as the lessons of the present.
At the base of our projects and campaigns we are engaged in a revolution of what is considered normal. If we want to create a vibrant culture that values sustainable production and the integrity of the unenclosed commons, we also need to change perceptions of food growing and land based work and. This means a major culture change. To achieve this, we must reach out beyond our comfort zones to create spaces of inclusion and participation where viable alternatives are lived and felt as new realities by more than a marginal bubble
In a project of this ambition, the Reclaim the Fields network has a valuable role to play in strengthening mutual support networks between projects. We need to establish structures through which we can skills, opportunities and outlets for produce among people who want create livelihoods from land based work. Building a constellation of this kind involves establishing ways of organising and communicating that facilitate democratic networks across diverse contexts. Our strength is measured by the integrity of the relationships between us; by coming together we can strengthen our voices.
All those who are interested in becoming involved in this emerging constellation are welcome to connect and add their energy to the gathering momentum. There will be a second gathering over the summer and many of us will be travelling to the Reclaim the Fields European camp in Romania this September. This invitation extends to all.
In the meantime, see www.reclaimthefields.org for more information.
For more information on the history of Reclaim the Fields have a look at the article by Ed Hamer in issue 8 of “The Land” magazine.
Stay in touch, spread the word. Resistance is fertile.