This year marks 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 is organising 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.
We aim 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.
The events kick off on September 17, with a barge trip from Windsor to Runnymede where the Magna Carta was agreed by King John and the barons in 1215 (see the summary programme attached). Several clauses from the 1215 document were later transferred to the Charter of the Forest. This event will focus 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.
Around November 6, the anniversary of the day the Charter was sealed at St Paul’s Cathedral in London, events are planned in Lincoln and in Durham, homes to the only two surviving copies; a folk moot will be held at or near the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest on the issues of fracking and protecting the commons; and there will be a public meeting in the House of Commons centred on issues for a new commons charter.
5 November: Folk moot at or near 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.
Throughout the autumn—conference and workshops at various locations to work on a new Charter of the Commons for London.
A 16-metre timeline of the social history of land rights from 55 BCE to the present will be on display at the events.
The programme for Sunday September 17 follows:
Space on the barge trip is restricted, tickets can be reserved for the boat trip ONLY here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/charter-of-the-forest-boat-trip-tickets-37585388910?utm_term=eventurl_text
(The opening, session on a New Doomsday book, and later events at Runnymede are open access, even if the barge trip sells out)
On the Fordham Gallery barge moored at Eton (for location see here).Fordham Gallery barge is located on the Thames, north east of the Windsor Bridge. It is actually in Eton, close to the High Street. The nearest postcode is SL4 6AA. The map reference is 51.486511, -0.607848. The barge is located a short walk from Windsor & Eton Riverside Station – direct trains from Waterloo and Clapham Junctions.
10.45-11.35: Introduction and the contemporary relevance of the Charter
- Messages of support from John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Caroline Lucas MP, Green Party
- Speaker: Guy Standing, Professorial Research Associate, SOAS University of London (see his article at Open Democracy)
11.35-13.00: Towards a new Domesday Book
- Speaker: Marion Shoard, author of This Land is Our Land
- Dave Wetzel and Carol Wilcox, Labour Land Campaign
- Guy Shrubsole , Who Owns England, and Christian Eriksson, Private Eye journalist behind the offshore property map and investigations
On the barge travelling down the Thames to Runnymede
13.30-13.00: A timeline of The Historical Evolution of the Charter and common rights
- Speakers: Peter Deane, Julie Timbrell and Carl Fraser, New Putney Debates
14.00-15.00: From right to subsistence to basic income
- Speaker: Guy Standing, author of Basic Income: And How We Can Make It Happen
In the Runnymede meadow, at the installation The Jurors artwork (located close to the Runnymede National Trust Tearooms)
15.45-16.45: Latin American social movements for the commons and for Mother Earth to be accorded rights
- Reading of the Cochabamba Declaration of Rights of Mother Earth
- Speakers: Mothiur Rahman, Rights for Mother Earth – the International Rights of Nature Tribunal held concurrently with the climate change Conference of the Parties in Paris
- Amancay Colque, Water rights movements in Bolivia
- Fidel Ernesto Narvaez, First Secretary, Embassy of Ecuador
- Food Sovereignty, Helena Paul, EcoNexus
16.45-17.45: Local charters and commons
- Speakers: Woodland Trust and the Charter for Trees, Woods and People (tbc)
- Mothiur Rahman on Community Chartering Networks
- Tim Flitcroft, Commons Rising
- Julie Timbrell, New Putney Debates, on forging a Charter of the Commons for London.
18:00 – 19:00
Pilgrimage to the 2500-year-old Ankerwycke Yew, witness to the Magna Carta, with readings and music
19.00-20.00: Natasha Langridge, “In Memory of Leaves”, preview performance, on Fordham Gallery barge.
In Memory of Leaves is an uncompromising monologue about love and protest, exploring what happens to communities when they are moved from their homes. It is personal and bracing; a love note to neighbours and a revolutionary call to the world to protect our natural and social commons.
Book Tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/in-memory-of-leaves-tickets-37859550936?utm-medium=discovery&utm-campaign=social&utm-content=attendeeshare&aff=escb&utm-source=cp&utm-term=listing
If you would like more information on the work that we do or to contribute please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
In November 2016 we hosted a a guided walk through central London, marking points on the journey to establish the Charter of the Forest as statute, and how this links to wider peasant struggles for access to the commons. We also exhibited our timeline of the history of democracy and land rights in Britain and celebration of social struggles for Land Rights in song and music.
To find out more about the original Putney Debates (1647) listen to this excellent radio programme.
Highlights from previous events:
in video number 2 of Basic Income, Democratising money and Social Security; Duncan McCann looks at mechanisms which control the creation of money…
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