History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again. (Maya Angelou)
Despite the tedium of history lessons at school, I have come to love real history, particularly when presented in an accessible way. Even so I was not sure that I wanted to spend a recent Sunday evening learning about the history of land rights in England (mostly)…. how wrong I was!
The evening entertainment on 13 September at the International Permaculture Convergence was Three Acres and a Cow, which is described on their website as
Part TED talk, part history lecture, part folk club sing-a-long, part poetry slam, part storytelling session
Now, I have to confess, that a ‘folk club sing-along’ is not high on my list of things I want to do, BUT I had heard good things about this performance and so, wrapped up well (but not quite well enough) against the cold (it was being held in a big top) I decided to give it a go…
I don’t think I can really do justice to the performance of Robin Grey, Rachel Rose Reid and Naomi Wilkins. They ran through the history of land rights and protest with humour and insight in a couple of hours, starting with the Norman Conquest (it seems that we have William the Conqueror to blame for taking the land away from the people in the first place), to the land enclosures between 1285 and 1640 (blame the sheep), via the English Civil War (1642-1651) including the Diggers who employed direct action to occupy land, the 1700-1850 Parliamentary Enclosures and the Industrial Revolution, progressing to the 1915 Glasgow rent strikes and the mass trespass on Kinder Scout in 1932 (which inspired Ewan Maccoll’s song The Manchester Rambler).
I would not have believed that a history lesson could get a standing ovation, but it did… plus we all learned a lot. If you want to know more, I highly recommend the Three Acres and a Cow website along with their associated Wiki. From this you can learn about the history of land rights in England, but if you get I chance, go and see the group performing live. Sadly there isn’t a film of the performance, but you can hear a few of the songs on the relevant page of their website, including the title song Three Acres and a Cow. If you live in the UK you may also be interested to discover, on the songs page, the anthem of the Liberal Party (more details here).
And the title? Well, well, according to Wikipedia:
Three acres and a cow was a slogan used by British land reform campaigners of the 1880s… It refers to an ideal land holding for every citizen
All this has rather piqued my interest and I think I’m going to do some more reading around the subject… and, possibly, demand my three acres and a cow, it seems only fair.