Many thanks to Dave Downes for this piece:)

“In England, people lived in a society that had been oppressed for so much longer. And so with English folk songs, you have to lift the lid to find out what is going on, and think about what is implied. This is why, for instance, there are so many songs about poaching, after the laws suddenly created criminals out of almost everyone – their way of life became a crime for which they would be hanged or deported.”

Martin Carthy

“Atrocities have been practiced upon the English, not by overseas invaders or by empire builders but by their own governing elite. It was the domestication of its own population that went on to provide the blueprint for England’s later colonial adventures.”

Chris Wood, “Tresspasser”

“A great song speaks universals about specific happenings and is relevant at all times. Sometimes we (Scots and Irish) forget that the first colony of the British Empire was in fact England.”

Dick Gaughan

★29th June 1816. After several gamekeepers have been clubbed to death, five men from Mill Pond, Ely, are hanged for poaching. Soon after, the butcher who owned the gallows cart is found suffocated head first in his own cess-pit and the coffin-maker is found dead in a large water pipe. The citizens of Littleport and Ely, Cambridgeshire, were at the forefront of resistance to property accumulation, enclosure and rural proletarianisation.

The rich had stolen the land that belonged in common ownership – with the continued collusion of corrupt politicians and spineless local authorities, they are still at it. We must take it all back and evict the rich by any means necessary.

★Inside the Battle Over the UK’s Ancient Woodlands. Overlooking the Chilterns in the heart of the English countryside, Jones Hill Wood is an ancient woodland which is due to be felled for the controversial HS2 rail project, the largest infrastructure project in Europe. A diverse community of protestors has formed a resistance camp in a bid to stop the woods being cut down. Can putting their bodies on the line through direct action and ecological surveying save the woods? 17:40mins –

★Stop, thief!: The commons, enclosures, and resistance by Peter Linebaugh. In bold and intelligently written essays, historian Peter Linebaugh takes aim at the thieves of land, the polluters of the seas, the ravagers of the forests, the despoilers of rivers, and the removers of mountaintops –

★A major contribution towards the bitter hatred that fed the English Revolution of 1649 and the righteous removal of the King’s head from his shoulders, was the theft and enclosure of the commons. This clip is from the excellent historical drama:

Cromwell, 1970. Directed by Ken Hughes, with Richard Harris in the lead –