The Right to Roam: the right to be you.

The Right to Roam: the right to be you.

Musings from our Creative Director, Sidharth Sharma.

At Kambe, one of the values we hold most dear to our hearts is that of inclusivity. We’re a collective that welcomes all fellow beings to join the fold with respect, love, and kindness. We very much hope and wish that everyone who is part of our community can be comfortable just being themselves and living the life they want to live.

As festival organisers, we’ve always had a high number of crew and artists that live in a nomadic manner. Their homes are on wheels. They move from event to event, festival to festival, contributing creativity and technical skills wherever they go. This way of life for them and thousand others in England is severely under threat, thanks to the new Police Act of 2022, which severely affects the rights to protest as well as the right to alternative lifestyles. The new laws under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill criminalise Gypsy, Traveller and nomadic families who have no place to stop and rest. The chronic lack of safe stopping places means this bill has chosen punishment over provision.

Atchen Tan is a Romany word that simply means ‘stopping place’, a place to rest for a while. The authorities can’t apply these laws without public consent, and we must not consent: everyone’s freedom – not just Travellers’ freedom – is at stake. These laws will brutalise children, the elderly and the disabled. The government isn’t just targeting travelling, but living – having the audacity to be somewhere when you don’t have the deeds to the ground.

Those who want to live a life away from the mainstream, on the margins of society have historically always had to navigate our discriminatory legal systems in how to best fulfil their lifestyles as a minority. Those who want the freedom to roam our beautiful isles need access to land, which in England is more or less impossible since we have access to such a tiny fraction of it – 8% of land and 3% of our rivers. The rest of it is privately owned. The staggering truth is that 0.04% of our population own 92% of land and 97% of waterways!

Land ownership is about power, and the ability to extract wealth from the assets that one holds. Those who hold the ownership rights of land seldomly want to share it.

English property law, from the first Act of Enclosure in 1235 to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act of 2005 is clearly and ultimately in place to preserve and protect the country’s large private estates – and the very notion of such large-scale exclusive land ownership – and maintain the status quo.

“Race, class, gender, health, income are all divisions imposed upon society by the power that operates on it,” writes Nick Hayes in his recent book about land ownership and trespass laws. “If this power is sourced in property, then the fences that divide England are not just symbols of the partition of people, but the very cause of it.” To peer through these palings is to gaze into the country’s dark heart: on the other side, ordinarily hidden from public view, is a scene of vampiric exploitation sustained by a quasi-religious belief in the sanctity of private space.

We know that we all need to feel and experience nature at a deeper level. Our survival is linked to this earth. The more we are disconnected from it, the less we are to come forward and do our best to protect the planet from the destruction it is experiencing. We need to have our feet on the ground, our hands in the mud, our senses filled with the scent of spring blossom. These everyday miracles of life should not be enclosed by barbed wire fences, under lock and key for the select few.

The roots of so many of our current crisis are inextricably linked to land, both city and countryside, locally, nationally and internationally. Housing, food systems, social and mental well-being, biodiversity. the list goes on.. The solution is an equitable and fair land ownership model. One where there is way more public access to privately owned land and more land managed by community interest groups.

Land is owned by all of us but simultaneously by none of us! We are born into this world as stewards of the land, to protect it and take only what we need. Our relationship cannot purely be one of extraction but one of harmony and regeneration. We simply cannot carry on and support a system that allows so few to have such absolute control of the resources we all need to live in a way that gives us security, well-being and meaning.

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