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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Where now for RTF Scotland?

We recently did a survey of what people in the RTF Scotland network think should be the priorities for the network.  Here is a quick summary of the results.

What should RTF Scotland focus on?

The most popular answer was land rights which was entered by nearly 50% of the respondents.  ‘Food growing/sovereignty’ and ‘all of the above’ both received 23%.

surveychart3

Next we asked “what would you like to get from the RTFS network.  The most popular answer was a network of like minded people ‘ entered by 92% followed by News and updates on issues relating to the land (73%).

surveychart2

The most popular answer to the statement “RTF should do the following,” was ‘support groups and projects already out there’ (85%) followed by ‘let me know what’s going on in Scotland’ (69%).

surveychart1

This survey is by no means definitive, but can hopefully give direction to the Scottish network and form an ongoing discussion.

In summary, it looks like folk want a network of those interested in land rights, food growing, food sovereignty and related issues.  People feel that we should support what’s going on in Scotland and let each other know about projects and events through the network.  We should use the network to keep each other informed, make connections and produce analysis of land and food issues.

The RTF network is self-run, so get involved where you can.  Write to the list about events, projects and issues by emailing reclaimthefieldsscotland@lists.noflag.org.uk. If you would like to write something for the blog email meerkatcampaigner@gmail.com. Facebook coming soon.

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Reclaim the Fields European Assembly in the UK

You are invited to the RTF European assembly.

Thursday 8 – Monday 12th of January 2015 at the Sumac Centre, Nottingham

animal assembly

The goal is to meet up to see how the European Reclaim the Fields constellation is getting on and to exchange information amongst the network. It will be an occasion to put in practice new forms of organisation which were decided upon at the last meeting (in Austria). As it will take place in the UK, we also want to create stronger links between those in the UK and elsewhere in Europe. This meeting will be a working and reflection space for local/regional groups and on themes present within RTF. As such it is mainly meant for people already active in the constellation, or which are aware/informed on the dynamics and last discussions of the network. But everybody is welcome!

Program:

Thursday 8th – arrival, in the evening presentation of the different groups/collectives/people/stars of the RtF-constellation
Friday 9th – working groups and thematic debate
Saturday 10th – organisation of the camp and next meeting
Sunday 11th – writing up notes of the meeting, if needed more time for the working groups
Monday 12th – collective work at Sumac Centre

If you have any proposals or questions concerning the content please email: contactrtf@riseup.net
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Documentary: The Gallowgate Twins

In this documentary focusing on two high-rise flats in Glasgow doomed to demolition, Liam Young explores the consequences of regeneration imposed on the East End by the Commonwealth Games.

This once industrial area was an example of social housing creation in the 1960′s.  Now people see their houses demolished and replaced with velodromes and other ‘mega’ sport venues in order to create a playground for the rich.  From the vantage point of the 29th floor Young contemplates a changing city, increasingly controlled by corporate investment where residents come second to speculation.

YouTube Preview Image
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Reclaim the Fields European Assembly

RTF Assembly Web
When: Thursday 8 – Monday 12th of January 2015.

Where: Sumac Centre, Nottingham (blogs.xtreamlab.net/sumac/find-us/) map: goo.gl/48jAjH

Why: The goal of this meeting above all is to meet up to see where we are at with our European Reclaim the Fields constellation and to exchange information amongst the stars and local groups. It will be an occasion to put in practice new forms of organisation which have been decided upon at the last meeting (in Austria). As it will take place in the UK, we also want to create stronger links with people and collectives present there and exchange on local dynamics.

This meeting will be a working and reflection space for local/regional groups and on themes present within RTF. As such it is mainly meant for people already active in the constellation, or which are aware/informed on the dynamics and last discussions of the network. But everybody is welcome!
Program:

  • Thursday 8th – arrival, in the evening presentation of the different groups/collectives/people/stars of the RtF-constellation
  • Friday 9th – working groups and thematic debate
  • Saturday 10th – organisation of the camp and next meeting
  • Sunday 11th – writing up notes of the meeting, if needed more time for the working groups
  • Monday 12th – collective work at Sumac Centre

A detailed agenda proposal will be send before the meeting. If you have any proposals or questions concerning the content please contact: contactrtf@riseup.net

Why there and why at that moment?: We choose to have this assembly in the UK to create more links with the UK and Scotland RTF groups who have been having regional meetings themselves. You can find out more about this here

We choose these dates (as besides our garden/farm activities might be more relaxed at this time a year) as it follows the Oxford Real Farming Conference (an alternative to an agro-business conference happening simultaneously) taking place just before the assembly in Oxford (UK) on 6th and 7th of January. The program you can find on oxfordrealfarmingconference.org. All RtF-ers are very much invited to take part (take into account there is a participation fee of about £35). The Landworkers Alliance (UK branch of Via-Campesina) is facilitating a whole day at this conference. Reclaim the fields UK and Europe as well as the newly formed Groundspring network (a new entrants to farming support group made up of organic, biodynamic apprentices and others wanting to make change and get into farming) are very much invited to share their experiences on how we can procreate changes to move agriculture forward.

Travel: Nottingham is right in the centre of the UK, accessible by affordable coaches and trains (from London, trains:the oxford tube and oxford express. Coach: the mega bus and national express. From oxford to Nottingham there will be a few lifts and some buses. We are applying to a fund to try to cover travel costs. So please let us know when you would come and what your possible travel expenses may be. So if the fund gets through, great; if not we will try to help each other out -so anyone who wants to come, is able to do so!
Some websites to check international travels (keep in mind that advance booking lowers the costs!) Megabus: uk.megabus.com (around 40 pounds single) Eurostar: booking in advance now seems to cost 88 euros return from Paris: www.eurostar.com/fr-fr/calendar/londres… IDbus: fr.idbus.com/fr Eurolines (buses to london) : eurolines.com

Info about the host: The Sumac Centre is a volunteer-run social and community centre based in Forest Fields in Nottingham. They host multiple radical & community groups and are run on non-hierarchical principles. They have a lot of indoor space available for the assembly and indoor accommodation at both the centre and at the Housing Cooperative across the road. They run on a sliding-scale basis. We will be able to access beds/floor space/showers & warmth in the winter!

Food from Veggies: Veggies, a cooking collective based in this centre will organise the cooking and local food supply. They are a vegan cooking collective supporting campaigns for humans, other animals and the environment since 1984. Even so we will help with the cooking, and any produce that people want to bring is definitely appreciated! We can connect with the multiple growing & food related radical projects in Nottingham (such as ecoworks.org.uk / summerwood.org.uk/).

Call-out for funding: We have accessed some funding to support with travel costs. Please email contactrtf@riseup.net

Registration: *Please fill in this registration form to let us know that you are coming and if you are coming by car/van this is particularly useful as then we can organise lift/car sharing as much as possible.

Seeds: « Reclaim The Seeds » invite you to bring your self produced seeds and all the pedagogical material that seems relevant, in order to swap seeds and discuss about it.

Some more practicalities:

- ALCOHOL: there is a bar, when the bar is open, please use it, when its closed its ok to drink your own

- DOGS: we are still checking with Sumac Centre about their dog policy. If you want to come with a dog, please contact us before at contactrtf@riseup.net, so we can talk about it.

- KIDS: people with kids are welcome! We are trying to organise a special space for children at the meeting. If you plan on coming with kids, please contact us before contactrtf@riseup.net in order to talk about what you need there in order feel comfortable.

- LANGUAGES: thanks to the bla collective, there will be interpretation into three or four languages depending on the needs of the people present at the meeting.

Contact: If you have any questions concerning logistics or content of the meeting please contact contactrtf@riseup.net!
See you all there!

Some background on the last European meeting and general RtF-info At the last European meeting in February 2014 in Nikitsch/Austria we worked on the functioning of the RtF-constellation. This is what came out: We still understand RtF as an organizational constellation of stars which is in constant movement and process. Stars are persons, collectives or projects who/which share the RtFs values and relate themselves and their work to the RtF goals. The stars are organized and meet in local networks which are autonomous and have their own objectives. The local networks are the base of the RtF constellation since it is essential for RtF to work from the bottom up. Apart from the local networks, there are seven working groups (website, bulletin, translation, finance, propaganda, infokiosk and a group organizing the next meeting). And five thematic groups (seeds, farm network, gender, access to land and presentation of RtF).

On the European level there are three different kinds of meetings:

    • Functional meetings once a year during winter time. The objective is to get feedback from the working groups, plan the camp, get news from the local networks and have an exchange about what is happening in the different local contexts.
    • Thematic meetings take place whenever people/local networks/working groups organize one. The idea is to work on specific topics. This can be for example a discussion of concepts, an exchange on agricultural techniques and knowledge or the support of a local struggle.
    • European camps take place in summer and are bigger and take longer than the other meetings. The objective is to make RtF grow by „going to new places“, support local struggles and share skills, knowledge and ideas. h2. The last two camps took place in Rosia Montana/Romania in 2011 and in Manheim/Germany in 2013. There is the proposal to do the next camp in 2015 in Chalkidiki/Greece.
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RTF gathering in Scotland: summary of events

From 22-24th August 2014 Reclaim the Fields Scotland hosted a UK gathering at Monimail in Fife.

Monimail is a small community living in a beautiful walled garden and orchard set around a medieval tower. Those living at Monimail grow all their own fresh produce, as was evident by the huge vegetables, manage a small wood for fuel and wildlife and look after the walls and the tower. Monimail is an environmental charity which offers opportunities for people to learn about organic gardening and low-impact, sustainable, communal living. They also host WWOOFers. Monimail was a great venue for the gathering, having inside and outside spaces so that we could hold several workshops simultaneously, a covered outside kitchen space and we set up a mini cinema. We ate well all weekend from the Monimail garden and other produce people had brought along.

The gathering was self-organised. This meant that everything happened through our collective involvement. So there was a board to write up when and where someone would like to host a workshop, one for cooking/washing up and a donations box so that we could meet costs communally. Each morning we got together to discuss plans for the day and people could chip in with what they would like to do. We think that this worked well, everyone chipped in with cooking and washing up etc. making it run like a well-oiled machine. Still, this is an area to work on and make gatherings more self-organised.

We got plenty of sunshine over the weekend so we crammed in some lounging around and volley ball, then finished off the days with outside films and a fire.

Workshops galore

We had so many workshops! Here’s a quick run-down of what went on.

Energy, independence and land reform – discussing the realities of our energy use, impact on climate change and the potential for a low-carbon future. Lead by folks from Biofuel Watch.
The Land Question – an introduction to land ownership and the problems it causes.
Garden tour – a tour of the Monimail garden and discussion about growing.
Intro to La via Campesina and Land Workers Alliance – which lead to a discussion
Bee keeping – how to harvest wild comb
Free software – in introduction and discussion on free software
Mushroom growing basics – Monimail resident showed us how to grow oyster mushrooms.
Scything – created several expert scythers.
Herbal medicine – an introduction on how to prepare herbal remedies and a walk round the garden to discuss different plants.
Sustaining resistance – a quick intro to looking after ourselves in activism.
Seed sovereignty – a detailed introduction by a Crofting Federation member.
Connecting children with nature – an intro to the theory and practice of play and child-led learning
T-shirt printing – giving us all a great RTF t-shirt
Communal living – a photo tour and conversation on communal living in the UK by Diggers and Dreamers.
Rhythms of resistance – the protest drumming group got everyone to the beat
Connecting with the elements – tools for returning to what we stand for and remembering our individual and collective vision of what is possible

We also had a facilitated discussion session to bring out the issues people attending the gathering felt were important for the movement which includes RTF. The first session was a discussion split into groups covering the topics of ‘where are we now?’ ‘what do we want to do?’ and ‘what is the RTF context?’ We split into three groups in the second session to discuss the main points from the first, falling broadly into three categories:

Networking (RTF and wider) – what’s there and how to improve our networks

Community – organising, ownership and action

Direct action – land squat possibilities

Networking

Here are the outcomes of the networking discussion:

  • The RTF Scotland email list needs more clarity on how people can post to this list and we also need to bring new people to the list.
  • RTF UK website needs more regular posts. We plan to get contributions from groups in the RTF network, make the website more visible and post something on the gathering.
  • To contribute and promote the EU bulletin, write something up for this on the gathering.
  • Create a map of places and projects currently happening in Scotland for the website.
  • We need more clarity on what we want RTF Scotland to be. This will come by getting feedback from those on the list and groups/places in Scotland who are connected in some way to RTF
  • Link RTF up with other networks in Scotland, we drew up a list of networks.
  • In general we need to energise the network, bring new people and be more involved in the wider EU network.

Sustainable Community Organising

The group talked about:

Crofting

This is a system of tenure/small-scale food production unique to Scotland. A crofter is usually a tenant but some have purchased their crofts. Rent is paid only for the land, improvements are provided by the cofter. Crofting is characterised by its common working communities, or ‘townships’.  Individual crofts are established on the better land, and poorer hill ground is shared. In this way, the model promotes individual and collective responsibilities. The Scottish Crofting Federation is the largest association of small scale food producers in the UK.

Food sovereignty/community food production

We discussed the Fife Diet movement and the challenges they are currently experiencing establishing a community food coop: www.fifediet.co.uk/fife-food-coop

We discussed the benefits of linking up/supporting smaller producers to increase viability/sustainability, e.g. Skye and Lochalsh Food Link Van.

Grass roots community organising

We discussed some of the challenges faced by groups/practitioners/activists in building sustainable communities and agreed that sustainable solutions must come from communities themselves and be based on existing needs/strengths/challenges.

The community garden project in Glespin (RTF project in South Lanarkshire) has been a positive example of engaging the local community.

Young people were identified as potentially playing an important role in helping to generate energy and resources for community projects.

Example given of ACORN, which supports low-income community struggles/movements in the UK: http://www.acornbristol.org.uk/

This discussion poses the question of what role RTF Scotland could play in supporting communities to organise sustainably? Where and how should our energies be directed, and to what end?

We also talked about non-ownership, new energy to support existing groups/struggles and practical food growing.

Info stall

We had a zine stall set up for the weekend with RTF bulletins, the Scottish RTF zine and heaps of other zines and information people attending the gathering brought along. The info stall was a great point for people to distribute their writings and let people know about the RTF network in Europe. We have some zines left to take to the next gathering. The tea urn was also there so it naturally became a hang-out.

Reflections

Feedback from the gathering in general has been that it was great overall. The atmosphere was very social and relaxed. There was a good mix of thinking and doing workshops and nice social element in the evening. It was great to get together to share in issues that are close to our hearts and learn a few more skills and bits and pieces of information.

The venue was great. This made things pretty easy in that we had good spaces for several workshops at the same time and a good cooking space, plus fresh veg from the garden. The weather was decent which helped, meaning that we could do outside activities with no bother, including volleyball! We got a load of outcomes from the main discussion session, which is useful to take RTF Scotland forward.

We didn’t have loads of people, but a pretty good number (about 40) to make it work well. There were old and new faces, we linked up RTF folks from around the UK (plus Belgium) and made some good connections with like minded people across Scotland. It would be good to draw in more people next time, including those which aren’t from the usual crowd. To do this we need to build up the RTF network and presence, so that people are aware of RTF and what the network does. The website worked well, but we need to work on social media.
Organising was by a small number of people, but we managed to keep work pretty minimal, particularly due to the venue. People took part during the weekend, although it could be more ‘self-organising.’ Need to work on involving people in the process and making them feel like it is a gathering run by everyone.

Thoughts for future gatherings are that it would be good to have a more focussed gathering concentrating on one issue and with an explicit aim. Suggestions also include: building infrastructure that would be useful in a land squat; focussing the gathering around doing work for the venue.

So thanks to everyone who came along to the gathering. We all met some new people which is the best thing about these events. Let’ss get on with strengthening the network!

With love from RTF Scotland.

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