Land is always political. We cannot really engage with this kind of magical practice without at least some awareness who owns land, what our national culture represents, and the lives of living people upon the land. Additionally, I want to proactively define this tradition's political perspective as left wing to ward off interest from unsavory fascist types. It goes without saying that people of several different political backgrounds are welcome here - up to a point - and agreement with one political viewpoint or participation in political activity is not expected. And depending on where you live, there might be specific consideratious - like indigenous "Land Back" movements - which you need to include in your personal Reading. We just don't want white nationalists at our parties.
The Imagined Village: Culture, Ideology, and the English Folk Revival (1993)
Book | Unread. We do a lot of "little English pastoral" here at castle Fencraft, so it's good to be aware of some of the politics and history of how that image was formed - as ideas don't just come out of nowhere.
English Rebel Songs (1988)
Album | Yes, that Chumbawamba. This is a nice introduction to English rebels and their music throughout history - from the Peasant's Revolt, via the Diggers, to the Chartists, poaching, and the Miner's Strikes. A spiritual tradition to do with the land is unavoidably political, so we'd like to pre-emptively discourage an attitude of ethnic nationalism and look to the history of dissent, revolt, and ordinary people fighting for the good of all. Listening to the album has introduced me to a number of interesting new areas to study; and it's good to have songs to learn.
Getting There (1990)
Album | Making a note of this album for "A Place Called England", & Maggie's notes on what to look up: "It took me a long time to finish this song—and I probably would never even have started it if I hadn't emigrated to Scotland about six years ago. I tussled with it on long train journeys and hummed it to myself whilst grubbing about in the allotment. I could not have written it without the inspiration of Christopher Hill's book The World Turned Upside Down, Leon Rosselson's song of the same name, Naomi Mitchison's Sea-Green Ribbons, William Cobbett's Cottage Economy, Hamish Henderson's Freedom Come-All-Ye, Jean Giono's The Man Who Planted Trees, animated discussions with (rightly) proud and passionate Scots like Dick Gaughan (“The first place to be colonised in the British Empire was England”), and many a quiet and gentle gardener; Mr Harding, my aunt Amy Rawling, and my godfather Alan Wells, to name but three."
New Model Island (2019)
Book | Charming short pop-political book asking if England even exists (and if it doesn't, what should we put in its place?) Thought provoking, and a nice overview of the rise of "Englishness culture" in the 00s. I got a lot more out of this than I expected. Reviewed on the blog.
Power in the Land (1987)
Serial | Firecracker of a political documentary, as Shoard travels around the countryside asking - who owns it? Why? And how can we make it more open and collectively managed. I love this documentary: many of the issues she raises are still live today, and there are some incredibly punchable faces in it as various Lords of this and that try to explain why they should have more land than anybody else.
Ownership of the countryside is a key political issue in Fencraft, for a couple of reasons. It limits our ability to Walk; it poses a threat to the survival of archeological remains and the natural world; and additionally, although this is not really a spiritual thing so much as a moral one, limited ownership of land forms the basis of persecution of Travellers, and a threat to their traditional way of life. Watch online here.
Album | New folk songs in the traditional of working class international solidarity. Fantastic, stirring stuff, but you will need a hankie. It's hard to hear this album and not feel, somehow, far braver than you did before you began. It's particuarly notable for updating the tradition of "hero ballads" to include contemporary people - like the first black woman to recieve an MBE, or a Teeside grandfather who attepted to drive a bus of food to refugees stranded in Europe. Their song Benefits Street - not on this album - is also a must-hear. If you only have ten minutes, start with Ghafoor's Bus and Place Called England. Its relevance to Fencraft is this: to make a religious tradition which is, essentially, nationalist - rooted in the heritage and lore of a specific country - but creating new narratives of place and people which don't define a single person or culture as "English". I believe we need to do that *proactively*, not *reactively* - not merely banning white supremacists and putting out statements, but consciously trying to make the argument within our faith for why this is our strength. For that, I recommend this.
Film | Such a beautiful film. Made on a miniscule budget and half-forgotten for years, this is a historically accurate - yet dreamlike - retelling of Winstanley's commune, which claimed land in 17th century England to dig and live there and distribute what they grew equally among all who came. An angry, heartsore film, threaded through with Winstanley's own words. Beautiful bit of cinema.
Writings of WInstanley (1609-1676)
Book | Winstanley was a 17th century firecracker who had a vision of God and then wrote blistering polemics about how the land was made to be a commonwealth among all who lived there, and how private property was a sin. With a group of friends, he went to illegally dig up the commons and live there, growing their own food that they shared with all. Winstanley is one of my heroes - an icon in the English socialist tradition - and a good ancestor figure for the Solar-Lunar path, of the rebel and the radical thinker. See also the film Winstanley (1975).