Solidarity still needed at Yorkley Court Community Farm – What you can do

Residents of Yorkley Court Community Farm would like to say a huge THANK YOU for the support & solidarity received so far…

Background:

For the last two and a half years people have been occupying land at Yorkley Court in Forest of Dean, with the aim of establishing a sustainable community farm. The land ownership has been contested due to a complex and unique scenario in the farm’s history.

On the 26th February, a judge granted a possession order to an un-liked local millionaire property developer. A timeframe for eviction was given.

The house has been taken over by Brian Bennet and the other areas of the land are still being defended.

Yorkley Court Community Farm has been (and still is) an inspiring example of reclaim the fields, bringing to light issues & putting into practice food sovereignty, agroecology, access to land, permaculture, anarchism, collective living & more… It is a site of struggle that needs your solidarity.

What you can do:

  • Get to the site on the 12th March at midday. The date for the full eviction attempt.
  • Donate via this link. Funds are needed urgently: http://www.gofundme.com/mr9ar
  • Visit & stay at Yorkley Court. Every day is unpredictable. There are many practical jobs, from building to cooking, even just making cups of tea & listening is a very welcomed thing!
  • Participate in the Activist Training Skill Share and Workshop Camp that has been organised. Everyone with a passion to learn or a skill to share are welcome to join us, please email yorkleycourt@gmail.com if you would like to offer a workshop. Confirmed workshops include:
  • Climbing and Rope work training – every day from 10am
  • Building skill share – every day all day
  • Legal Observer Training – Sunday 8th
  • Contribute something that is on the wish list:
  • Bedding
  • Tents
  • Tarps
  • Tin Food
  • Waterproof Boots
  • Climbing Equipment
  • Polly Prop rope
  • Candles
  • Cammo Net
  • Jerry Can
  • Sand+Gravel+Cement
  • People
  • Spread the word about Yorkley Court Community Farm. Encourage your friends & comrades to visit: https://www.yorkleycourt.wordpress.com  or like YorkleyCourtCF on facebook. Follow @yorkleycourt on twitter. Spread the infographic here:

Information for people coming:

  • Bring sensible clothes, sleeping stuff and tents.
  • If you need financial support to be able to visit please email yorkleycourt@gmail.com – we really appreciate all visitors & will do our best to cover your costs if needed.
  • You are welcome to interact with the emerging situations in anyway you feel comfortable (in terms of resisting eviction & securing the site). We reject problematic divisions of labour. All support is appreciated.

Contact Details:

Website: yorkleycourt.wordpress.com
Facebook: YorkleyCourtCF
Email: yorkleycourt@gmail.com
Phone Number: 07522025889
Twitter: @yorkleycourt


SOLIDARITY IS OUR STRENGTH

WE CAN DEFEND YORKLEY COURT COMMUNITY FARM!

Yorkley New

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Yorkley Court Community Farm Court News

News from court:

Yorkley Court Community Farm lost in court this morning. The judge ruled in favour of millionaire, Brian Bennett. There is a possession order. A timeframe for eviction has been given.

They have:

  • 24 hours for farmhouse
  • 3 days for area surrounding farmhouse
  • 14 days for the bottom strip

People living at the farm will be meeting this afternoon to determine what they will do next and what support they need.

Please continue to support them! Visit/donate/spread the word.

More people are hugely welcome on site. Travel money can be given if its a barrier for you. Please bring sleeping equipment and be prepared.

Donate: http://www.gofundme.com/mr9arc

Email: yorkleycourt@gmail.com
Facebook: YorkleyCourtCF
Twitter: @yorkleycourt
Web: https://www.yorkleycourt.wordpress.com
Phone: 07522 025 889

Viva YCCF!

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Reclaim the Field’s Day in Cardiff, Saturday 7th March

Reclaim the Fields day

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Support Yorkley Court Community Farm

Support Yorkley

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Protest camp in Bristol against Metrobus

Tree protesters stall metrobus construction project in Bristol, UK.

A camp has emerged in Bristol last weekend to halt the development of a MetroBus route which would involve mass tree felling, relocation of allotment plots onto an existing wildflower meadow with toxic soil, and a massive construction compound. The land has highly fertile food growing soil – some of the best in the country.

The proposed route’s function would be to get passengers to and from UWE through Stoke Lane a few minutes quicker than using alternative routes.

Contractors were due to start felling trees on land bordering the land off Frenchay Park Road this week, to clear the land for the new bus route.

The trees are being occupied to prevent the felling..

“What next? We are stepping up the action and focussing on our our priority aim to protect the trees and land in Stapleton allotments and small holdings.

Your presence and support are much needed in this moment and we are calling out to people to come to the Stapleton smallholdings site – by Feed Bristol (Frenchay Park Road BS16 1HB) whenever they can.

Do come up to the site – there is a positive and constructive atmosphere and we need all the support we can get.  We have been overwhelmed by the positive response and gratitude shown by the local and wider community.

There will be information on arrival, bring good energy and motivation, hot drinks and food, music, songs and good cheer! Wrap up warm and don’t forget your camera!

Pass on the word…”

More info at http://risingup.org.uk/

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Oh what a state!

Mouse_King_Details_06“Since political power proceeds from land ownership, a simple diffusion of land- ownership is all that is needed to insure a satisfactory distribution of power” (A.J. Nock).

Land reformation could be just over the horizon for the people of Scotland. But can we count on meaningful changes coming ‘top-down’ through the mainstream political process? Let’s take a look at some of the background to how the Government was formed to help with our expectations.

The sordid history of political power in Scotland as we know it begins with King David I (1124-1153). Following the crumbling of the Roman Empire, the Celtic system of common land and the Roman idea of private property blurred. The result was feudalism: a land-based power structure with the King at the top of the tower. David I ruthlessly introduced feudalism, creating a loyal elite which he granted control over pieces of Scotland in contracts called ‘feus.’ These contracts were revocable at any time, so kept the nobles in check. In this way King James I cemented his power over a young Scotland and kick-started the landowning system which we inherit today. This was the first great step in creating a national power. Kings from this point on reigned in more and more of the country under a royal dictatorship.

Advisors to the King took until the 14th Century to morph into something resembling a Parliament. Known as ‘the three estates’ it consisted of clergy, burgh commissioners and nobility. Theses were in many respects the holders of landed power: The church was once the biggest landowner, controlling ¼ of Scotland before the Reformation; burgh commissioners controlled the growing urban centres and the nobility consisted of men holding feus directly from the King. It was this last group which came to be the most important political group by the 16th Century. Partly populated by men with hereditary, landed titles (Duke of Bucchleuch, Earl of Fife etc.) it also included a social stratum of untitled ‘gentry.’ To be accepted as part of the gentry one had to own a large swathe of land and country estate, so entering the class of people who lived off rents from the land they owned (a.k.a. enjoying luxurious lifestyles funded from the labour of the landless peasantry).

As decisions on how the country was ruled were made increasingly by the men who owned the land they perhaps unsurprisingly sought to secure their interests. This was achieved by Acts of Parliament which cemented a monopoly of land ownership in their hands. For example the Act Concerning Talzies prevented land being removed by debtors when gentry went bust, the Law of Succession ensured estates were never split up and the Register of Sasines allowed the general pillaging of land by those who could afford expensive lawyers. This power to create laws which ‘good citizens’ must abide by was basically a monopoly of violence. If an impoverished peasant attempted to use land which had been enclosed they were forcibly evicted by the King’s constabulary, locked up and fined. This increasingly occurred as the commonly held ancestral land of peasants was enclosed, eventually sparked resistance during the Crofters’ War.

Such a power to write the laws of the land was central in the next two great leaps made by the landowning class towards our fine Parliamentary system. First the landowners rid the Parliament of clergy by excluded Catholics in 1567 and Protestant bishops in 1638. They also kidnapped huge areas of land held by the Catholic Church during the Reformation at the start of the 17th Century by hoodwinking the threatened clergy. The other vital step was the removal of the monarchy from the top of the pyramid . This happened following the defeat of the Jacobite rebellion when a whole raft of the King’s feudal powers were swept away by a landholders’ Parliament. The monarchy was retained but with greatly dwindling powers. This reform may have prevented widespread uprising by depleting royal rule before the masses rose up to kick them out.

The overthrow of the monarchy was by no means a win for democracy. The Parliament was now dominated by the landowning elite; a class of people defined by gaining financially from others. By securing power over the land – the only means to produce wealth – they establishing the continual transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich. Those working the land rented it from a class who lived off that rent. It is no accident that the very same class held or influenced the positions of political power. Not only that but they also secured the ability to vote for seats in the Parliament. From 1430 men could only vote if they held land worth more than 40 shillings. This of course meant that landowners voted for their sons and grandsons, securing Parliamentary power.

But wait! It surely all changed with the Great Reform Act of 1832 I hear you shout. The industrial revolution brought a new class of wealthy capitalists made rich from extractive and productive industries. These nouveau-riche men demanded political power such as their old-money peers held. In France the result was Revolution and political upheaval, the removal of hereditary ownership of land and land redistribution. Not so in the UK, we instead had the Great Reform! Extending the right to vote to property owning men, reform again extinguished the fire of revolt. However, again this was no move away from the landed class as the new industrialists bought up land in a desire to join the social elite. More fundamentally, the means of wealth was still tied to the land. Industrial capitalism simply introduced another layer of profit-driven power. The raw materials required for the industrial revolution were dug out the ground or grown from it, so great capitalist riches were still at the whim of landowners and rent. The 1832 Act was a clever move by the establishment to relinquish enough control to prevent their upheaval, effectively allowing new entrants to their social stratum into the game. And so the power-hold of the landed class was retained.

So the origins of the political system is entrenched in landowning power and the ability that gives to extract wealth from the labour of others. Although the Parliament has visibly moved far away from the blatant landed power of the feudal system, the influence of landowners, directly through positions in political parties and indirectly by influencing land use, remains deeply ingrained. Reforms in 1918 and 1928 brought the vote to all men and all women respectively but did these changes really hack at the roots of landed power or simply avert any significant upheaval? To this day we see the continued, methodical exploitation of one class of people by another, enabled and justified by the Political system. Maybe things haven’t changed so much as we would like to think…

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Feedback from European Assembly

sumacbirds

Last week gathered some 50 people from all over Europe in the terrific SUMAC Centre in Nottingham. The topic for discussion: a new year for the European constellation of people and projects determined to create alternatives to capitalism through co-operative, collective, autonomous, real-needs-oriented small scale food production initiatives.

We were met after a long journey from Scotland by a wonderful introduction into the history of the organisation. Here, we could clearly see how organised this self-run collective really is. We were issued FM radios so that we could tune in to real time translations into our own language. Supported languages were French, German and English broadcast from a translation desk that could have sat well in a scene from the French Resistance. Impressive stuff.

For a complete description of the structure of RTF Europe, please see the 2014 Bulletinnote, this link starts a 7mb .pdf download of the Bulletin and might only work if you have a crabgrass login and you are logged in – need to get it hosted somewhere as the RTF EU bulletin web page hasn’t been updated

After history introductions, we were invited to share what we hoped to get out of the meeting. I can happily say that it more than met my expectations – I learned exactly what I had asked for; how to link anarchist struggles to mainstream life in meaningful ways – and I think this feeling was mutual for all by the end. We were all deeply inspired into action and a number of working groups were formed.

RTF Assemblies are functional meetings and they come with a rough outline for proceedings to include: workgroup discussions, thematic debate, local group project presentations, planning the next assembly and camp. With these points discussed, we have an international grass roots organisation running on the basis of face-to-face consensus discussions for the next year.

Working groups within RTF, after the assembly, are now (and hopefully I haven’t missed any):
-A translation group
-A paper and email Bulletin team accepting article submissions
-Camp and Assembly organising teams called Carrots
-A seed saving collective
-A nomadic concerns collective
-A group looking at land access strategies
-A website team
-A propaganda group
-A finance group
-Regional groups might also be considered working groups

Thematic debates this year were held under three titles; Radicalism Vs. Reformism, Access to Land and Urban Rural Divide. Whilst we will have to wait for the minutes posted for release in April to hear more details, the working group looking at access to land strategies formed under the debate of that title which I was part of. The debate was one of the highlights for me, and I think the other debates were equally invigorating judging by reactions once we re-joined the main circle. Summaries of these debate will follow in the full assembly minutes.

UK Local Stars

RTF UK held a local group meeting within the Assembly. We discussed the need for skills in taking a land squat and infrastructure building skills. Several points came up as to how to attain these skills, not least a Farm Hackmeeting/presentation on the 18th/19th April and the Earth First Moots, the next of which is on the 20th – 22nd Feb and there may be another in August.

However, a major outcome of the Assembly was the decision to have an RTF Action Camp this summer in the UK. RTF UK discussed this and set up a Carrot group to oversee it’s organisation. Although this is very much still in the beginning of process, this could be seen as an opportunity for people to come together and practice this stuff first hand.

Another major outcome for the UK was that, without wanting to be specific, a local group in the North of England is planning an action early Spring, so be ready to lend a hand if the call goes out.

zinesr

Stars’ Presentations

On the evenings of Friday and Saturday we were treated to local group “Stars” presentations where those who have been organising in their communities got to talk about their successes and failures. While there is a lot I could cover here, and I will direct you to the 2014 Bulletin for more details, the following were the most informative for me personally and, I must stress, outlined very briefly.

In Andalucía, Spain, a group called Can Piella with some direct support from an RTF camp had managed to occupy a piece of land for 3 and half years, until they were evicted dramatically after 7 months of resistance. After the eviction more people became active and a variety of new projects were started. The group reconsidered it’s approach and even bought a small piece of land with which to start community gardens and use as a base for expansion and proving their production ideas on solid foundations.

In Vienna, Austria, an RTF group tried to occupy two bits of land on two consecutive years, planting seedlings and working hard to organise all for these attempts. However, both years they were evicted within ten days. However, this last year, they changed tactic and approached the local authorities for land. This they were granted but, happily, they haven’t been billed for the use of. They call it squatting ‘Vienna style’. On this land, with broad community engagement, they grew 40 varieties of potatoes! We were presented with a photo showing a veritable rainbow of potatoes.

In Slovenia, a group of three academic students are attempting to bridge the gap between older and younger generations, seeking to maintain the flow of knowledge from old hands to new. With this central theme, they have built a structure whereby farm owners are now sharing their land with landless youth on the basis that it is used for production of food in polyculture.

In France, La Zona a Defendre “la Zad” is a farm that was occupied after the threat of an airport construction roused local objection. This farm/community defence project saw off the airport project which has now been cancelled. The Zad now produces 15 tonnes of potatoes and 1 tonne of beans, amongst other produce, which is given away for free according to need. In exchange, the farmers get somewhere to live and food to sustain them.

In these projects here mentioned and in others presented but not mentioned, such as Yorkley Court, a common theme became apparent. Local communities that directly benefit from the activities of these groups – in terms of community space and food products, etc – rallied around these groups in times of crisis and helped to defend them. Increasingly, local people are themselves becoming part of these radical struggles. These positive responses from normal folk to the valued input of food producing peasant activists is a huge success. To me, this is hugely hopeful and represents an example of practical answers to the problems of today in action..

The next Assembly and Camp were planned in outline. We will have to wait for the Carrots to release more details as they are formalised as there are no solid plans yet. However, the UK is the likely place for the Action Camp this year. More detailed minutes from this 2015 Assembly will be released as a micro Bulletin in March, so watch this space.

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A Brief History of Reclaim the Fields UK

In March 2011, a small gathering took place at Grow Heathrow, a land squat set up to resist the expansion of Heathrow Airport. The site has remained a pioneering example of an RTF attitude and approach to politics. The European Assembly brought together 30 people to discuss RTF and if there was the energy to make the UK into a star of the RTF constellation.

The ‘who are we’ statement resonated with many that had been engaged in food and land struggles. A small group stepped up to then organise the next gathering, which took place in Bristol in August 2011. Bristol is a vibrant city with a strong anarchist culture and many growing projects. These networks came together over two days at the Factory, a squatted social-centre in the city centre. There were organised workshops, visits to local projects, an open space, and facilitated discussions, which explored about next steps for the constellation. Around 80 people participated over the weekend.

Following the gathering, the UK website was born, more Land & Farm projects were identified and added to the website. A small group formed that began squatting abandoned farm buildings over the river, who would soon occupy ‘Yorkley Court’, a 60 acre farm in the Forest of Dean, where the land ownership is contested and where the soil is abused by industrial agriculture.

In October 2011, RTF met together at The Land is Ours Gathering, an existing network of people working on land rights in the UK. A strong connection with the old guard and the new school was formed in the land rights movement in the UK.

In the Winter 2011, Grow Heathrow became a ‘winter base’. From this gathering emerged the WOOLF network. This is called ‘woofing with teeth’ and was started to create learning opportunities at radical projects, where skills not only relating to food growing, but also political struggle, can be shared.

A reclaim the fields group also began living in the woods squatting ‘The Wilderness Centre’, an environmental education centre owned by the local authority and closed due to austerity cuts, in the Forest of Dean, in the South West of England. The site received much media attention and local support. A RTF UK Spring Gathering was organised in March 2012.

Two days before the gathering was to begin the Council gained a possession order from the courts and so during the gathering the site was under threat of eviction. This meant that the workshops focussed on building barricades, resisting arrests along with other more usual workshops. However many from around the country still came and did their best to learn and share together.

With an awareness that most activities were in the south, in the Summer of 2012, organisers in the constellation arranged a gathering that took place in Darlington, Durham, in the north of the country. More than 70 people travelled to the biodynamic farm that hosted us. There were numerous workshops, moving conversations and ideas for action.

In a cold Spring 2013 another gathering was organised in the Forest of Dean, this time at Yorkley Court. The gathering had a different format, and become more of an action camp, with a DIY or die ethos, where people could learn practical skills to support the land occupation, such as building structures and stoves.

Finally in the summer of 2014, Reclaim the Fields Scotland organised a gathering to mobilise the movement in Scotland.

RTF Summer GatheringRTF Scotland have been taking action on land rights, supporting community food growing projects and creating a network of those interested in getting back to the land for the past three years. Land rights in Scotland are more in public awareness, with many learning about the Highland Clearances, or witnessing the pattern of landownership of rich billionaires and royalty that have carved up the lands of the country. However the gathering helped to raise the profile of the struggle further. People came from across Scotland and the Islands to Monimal Tower Project, who hosted the gathering, and have beautiful gardens and food production systems in place. There is now more energy to take RTF forward in Scotland.

The gatherings are obviously the most visible aspects of RTF organising in the UK, however much other work has taken place. RTFers are extremely active in their own local projects and struggles. The UK email list has served as a platform to share news and projects. Relationships and friendships have been formed that have fruited in multiple ways. RTF has had a presence each year at big food events, such as the Oxford Real Farming Conference, and the Food Sovereignty UK Gathering, as well as many local gatherings and forums on food and land.

Small numbers of RTF UK organisers have also traveled to European Gatherings and Camps, such as in Romania, Germany and Italy.

A number of RTFers have helped to start the Landworkers Alliance, a new organisation in the UK linked to Via Campesina. While its main focus is lobbying, its RTF sister helps it to stay aware of its radical roots and visible actions, for example, April 17 demonstrations, have been organised together. The difference in politics and tactics, however, has potentially diluted or at least distracted a number of people that were previously very active within RTF. We hope there can be a beneficial relationship into the future and solidarity.

The challenges in organising however, are shared by many across borders. Each gathering new people get involved and excited, yet eventually move onto other projects or priorities. A local groups network was suggested but not formalised. Sometimes the email list feels less responsive than hoped for. However we feel we can only measure our strength by our response in moments of struggle.

In June 2014, illegal bailiffs turned up to evict Yorkley Court. Call-outs went out, and people from across the country came to support and effectively kick out the bailiffs and protect the site. Emotional, material, practical and political support has come from all corners of the Island. A similar swell of support has been felt by Grow Heathrow.

Many of us turn to each other in times of need, whether its help on the land, or frustration in political projects or the subjugation of wage slavery. The fact that RTF exists gives hope to many and strengthens us all.

We are very aware of our niche in the more liberal food sovereignty movements, however the ‘who we are’ statement acts like a mirror for the politics in our hearts and we are committed to struggling against capitalism, not fitting within it.

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Reclaim the Fields European Assembly 2015 – Final Practical Info

RTF Assembly Web
About Reclaim the Fields

Please update yourself on the functioning, process and previous discussions of the RTF constellation before the assembly:

Registration

First of all thanks that you have registered, if you know about friends that haven’t done so yet, please urge them, thanks!

Register here: http://reclaimthefields.org/form/registrationfortheeurtfassembly2015

When and where to arrive:

Meet us to be able to welcome you at Sumac Centre, Nottingham – blogs.xtreamlab.net/sumac/find-us/ map: goo.gl/48jAjH)

The first day (Thursday 8), we’ll have dinner at 7pm, like the other days. Afterwards we’ll take a time to introduce how we -as preparation group- propose to work during the assembly (in terms of facilitation, group agreements, timing, translation, …). After that we’ll start introducing stars (collectives, struggles, … ) of the RtF constellation.

[ if you arrive during the day, no worries, you will be able to help us out to further set up things, and get involved in a 'star hunt' to get to know each other]

We would like to invite everyone to think of a way you prefer to introduce your star/struggle (picture/movies can be nice, we’ll have a beamer). A question that might help you to think on how to do this might be: “How do you see your link with RtF?”  
remember :) Reclaim the Fields is a constellation of people and collective projects willing to go back to the land and re-assume the control over food production.)

What to prepare (for the following days)

A proposal of the meeting’s timetable can be found here, to have a better idea about content.

On Friday there will be ‘discussion’ groups on the following themes:

  •  Reformism and Radicality in the food sovereignty /access to land movements.
  •  The ‘alchemy’ of social change: how can we bridge the rural-urban divide
  •  Access to land

We invite you to prepare a little bit and, for the discussion you’re interested in, to bring infos about your local context / experience.

On Sunday we will be discussing proposals where the next assembly/camp might take place. So great if you can check within your groups/collectives beforehand if you want to make a proposal

We also invite you to bring ideas for the evening time: movies, games, music (if you know band that want to come and play, let us know! If you have DJ or other talents, bring
the stuff needed) – it could be nice to think of games, dynamics that you did/use within your star/network

What to bring:

  • Don’t forget your sleeping bag and mat
  • Feel free to bring food to donate to the kitchen collective Veggies.
  • If you have any special dietary requirements (besides being Vegan), please let us know.
  • There is internet access. For helping us to type notes and so on, it could come handy if you bring a laptop.
  • Bring info-material about your projects/collectives, about struggles happening in your region, zines, or whatever you want to share
  • Bring seeds to share and swap

Disabled Access
The Sumac Centre has a level access entrance at 73 Beech Avenue (behind the centre). There is a disabled access toilet.

Bar
People who bring alcohol to the gathering that were hoping to share it/sell it will need to speak to the Bar Group (for the bar that runs at the centre on Friday and Saturday.)

Children

  • There is a kid’s box with various things e.g. toys, books. (but please bring along any of their other favourite toys)
  • We are able to allocate you in a ‘child-friendly’ house if that would better fit your needs.

Travel reimbursements:

As you read or not, we will be able to reimburse travel costs if you need them, this will be done in cash during the gathering.

Donations for Food

We are suggesting a donation of £5 per day for all your meals & drinks. The cost will be spread on a collective basis anonymously, if this amount is not possible for you.

We will also happily accept any donations towards Reclaim the Fields activities :)

Contact us:

Phone number: (0044) (0)7516653765 (The phone will be switched on Thursday morning 9am)

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RTF Bulletin # 8

Click here to download the Reclaim the Fields Bulletin # 8.

RTF Bulletin 8 (English)

To view it in other languages & to read past bulletins please see: http://www.reclaimthefields.org/content/bulletins

bulletin cover

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