Reclaim the Fields Gathering, Bristol, 6th – 7th August 2011
Last weekend the second UK based Reclaim the Fields gathering took place in Bristol. The inspiring weekend brought together growers, activists, farmers, squatters, students and more from all over the UK. It was held at The Factory a squatted social center in St Pauls.
Saturday began with a talk introducing Reclaim the Fields – where the constellation has emerged from in Europe, the first UK gathering held in London in March and how the Bristol gathering had been organised to explore how we can make the constellation shine brighter in the UK.
The event was designed around horizontal open space principles. The thirty or more people who arrived introduced themselves and communicated in the group what they would like to talk about. Written on post it notes, these suggestions then formed how the morning would be structured.
The morning workshops and talking topics that manifested included: rewilding, anarcha-herbalism, freeconomy, community supported agriculture, mobile education spaces, squatting and legal means of land access and how to engage communities, workers cooperatives and harvest shares, forestry, land rehabilitation, the upcoming RTF gathering in Romania, and resistance to biotechnology such as genetic modification.
All of the ideas and resources generated through these sessions were then feedback to the group. To read more about the outcomes of these workshops, please see here (Link to follow).
Following a morning alive with conversations and connections, everyone then headed over to local growing project, Eastside Roots, for Lunch. Eastside Roots, is a not-for-profit, volunteer-led co-operative focused on promoting gardening, skill sharing and community in and around Easton in Bristol.
It was an amazing place to be and delicious food was dished up to the swelling sixty plus group which set the scene for a great afternoon. More workshops were held including how to access land, Oh fuck, it’s the apocalypse, liberation permaculture as well as an introduction to Sims Hill; a local member-owned and led Community Supported Agriculture scheme.
Filled with ideas and apple crumble, many stayed and others went their own ways before returning to the Factory in the evening for a group meal and film showing.
Sunday began with typical weather. Having missed all the sunshine the day before through meetings the rain prevented us from leaving the factory in the morning, however a relaxed cup of tea and and lush porridge with home grown fruit kept spirits high.
After a chilled start to the day, we discussed why Reclaim the Fields exists amongst the many emerging collectives, and what makes it different from the rest. The main points which grew out of this discussion were the importance of mutual aid over Europe, it’s non-centralised, ‘bottom-up’ nature, and RTF’s focus on land struggles. The fact that RTF is a constellation of a massive variety of local groups and individuals allows for an energetic and diverse collective.
Smaller working groups were formed to discuss The Website, Land Access and Education/Outreach. A full list of the ideas brought up can be read here (link to follow).
After an informal lunch we braved the broken sunshine to set up a Yurt with BHAM on the mound in St Werberghs. While chatting and learning how to make seed bombs we dodged the rain and enjoyed some delicious curry cooked over an open fire. Oh Fuck it’s the Apocalypse organised a foraging walk through the beautiful nature reserve.
SQUASH introduced the proposed change in the law on Squatting, and how it will affect all of us. We heard a talk on the Common Agricultural Policy and it’s unbelievable unfairness, a call out was made to accompany the campaign to the reform hearing next year.
After an efficient, if a little damp, take down of the site – and a brief altercation with the caretakers of the mound – the few remaining RTFers returned to the factory to drink tea and digest the full and inspirational weekend.
We want to thank all those who hosted, cooked, talked, discussed, travelled far, rolled out of bed, facilitated, organised and galvanised for enabling a brilliant weekend. Reclaim those fields!