New Putney Debates grew out of a democratic festival initiated by the Occupy London collective in 2012. The first New Putney Debates was a series of events inspired by the Levellers’ and Diggers’ demands for social justice, civil rights and equal access to the land, celebrating the 365th year anniversary of the original Putney Debates.

The festival took place over two weeks during October and November 2012, over the same time period as the original Putney Debates. Events were held in locations through out London, including the St Mary’s Church, where the first debates were held in 1647. Watch some highlights here.

Contributors included Richard Wilkinson (The Spirit Level), John McDonnell MP, Natalie Bennett (Leader of the Green Party), Michael Mansfield QC, George Monbiot, Polly Higgins, Jeremy Leggett,  Halina Ward, Professor Conor Gearty, Annette Zera, Joseph Choonara, Hilary Koob-Sassen, and many other writers, theorists, artists, and activists.

The biannual New Putney Debates took place again in accessible London locations during 2014 examining the democratic pathways to social, economic and ecological justice. Some highlights from one of our most relevant and popular debates,  asking ‘Is Capitalism Part of the Answer?,  are here and here. Please visit the programme pages on youtube and this website for more information on past events.

In  the autumn of 2017, New Putney Debates marked the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest, first issued in 1217 as a companion document to the better-known Magna Carta. For ordinary folk, the Charter of the Forest was a far more significant document than the Magna Carta because it aimed to stop royal encroachment of common land and protect the rights of commoners to gain their livelihood from commons resources.

To celebrate the 800th anniversary, a group centred around New Putney Debates organised a series of events to highlight the contemporary relevance of the Charter. One of the principles enshrined in the Charter was the right to subsistence. It was also the first environmental charter, the first to offer a defence of the commons in general and a fundamental part of the British Constitution that stayed on the statute books longer than any other piece of legislation.

The aim was to highlight the ongoing plunder of the commons, including through privatisation, commercialisation, forced austerity and neglect, and to call for:

  • a new Domesday Book to document who owns Britain’s land and identify the commons;
  • a Charter of the Commons, including the development of local community charters.
  • develop a understanding of our social history by displaying a 16-metre timeline of a social history of land rights from 55 BCE.

The events kicked off on September 17 2017, with a barge trip from Windsor to Runnymede where the Magna Carta was agreed by King John and the barons in 1215 Several clauses from the 1215 document were later transferred to the Charter of the Forest. This event focused on land ownership and commons encroachment; the extension of common rights such as the right to roam; and discussion of elements for a commons charter, including the right to subsistence in the form of a basic income, the adoption of Earth jurisprudence, and a commons approach to managing shared resources. Other events included: 

  • 5 November: Folk moot at the Major Oak tree in Sherwood Forest on the issues of fracking and protecting the commons.
  • 7 November: Meeting at the House of Commons, featuring Peter Linebaugh, author of the Magna Carta Manifesto.

To see more visit the 2017 programme.

Going forward New Putney Debates will be developing our timeline of social history and a contemporary charters of the commons.

The first edition of the timeline, spanning 55 BCE to the enshrinement of the Charter of the Forest and Magna Carta into law in 1297, has been displayed at various festivals and events in the last two years.

The new Timeline in development will be accompanied by a series of discussions, debates and performances exploring our  social history and heritage organised around six themes and interrelationships: Commons chronology; Colonialism and Race Culture; Science and Infrastructure; Land, Labour and Human Rights; Law and Constitution ; Women’s History

We will involve community groups and the public in deciding and debating the pivotal historical events and role of citizens in shaping our history, in order to inspire people to take action now.

To find out more about the original Putney Debates (1647) listen to this excellent radio programme.






Rupert Ferguson

A real turn up for the books! All participants in this debate should see if they can get access to Christopher Hill’s ‘Puritanism and Revolution’ (republished by Penguin 1984) for probably the best historical examination of the background of the original Debates, and in order to make a proper comparison with what is happening in out own era!

philip michaelson

A very sensible suggestion.

Is it necessary to book, or are they just turn-up events?

Helps us if you confirm, if there’s an email. If you want to go along to 3rd nov the law event please email: occupylawuk@gmail.com Please spread the word! thanks Melanie


No booking necessary apart from the from the event on Monday 29 October 6 p.m. Socially useful banking? Please register to attend in the link in the programme.
You can also reserve a place on the Occupy Law event on 3 November by sending an email to occupylawuk@gmail.com

Rupert Ferguson

Hi, I’ve just reactivated a dormant blog in an endeavour to make a personal response to the New Putney Debates. You can find it here:

Annie Tunnicliffe

How do I find which events and where and what time? (Bit of a techno idiot and I dont tweet or Facebook)

Hi Henry – if you want to come to the law event on Saturday 3rd November it will be helpful if you can confirm by email: occupylawuk@gmail.com



doug nicholls

Great initiative. The Diggers and Levellers inherited a long tradition of dissent that went back deep into the middle ages and intensified almost a hundred years before 1649 when some of the first really anti capitalist and anti money lending tracts and poems were written.

Rupert Ferguson

Hi, I’ve just reactivated a dormant blog in an endeavour to make a personal response to the New Putney Debates. You can find it here:



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Thanks for your effort -Gina

I used the photo in your post for the Basic Income UK’s event entry on facebook (linked above). Please let me know if that’s not OK, and I will change it.

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