Report from our national gathering

On Sunday 15th April we held our national gathering at the Friends of the Earth offices in London.

This was the day after our buzzing and well-attended tour of London’s housing crisis, organised as part of our Week of Action for Land Justice. Many people at the meeting had organised or taken part in the tour, and celebrated its success long into the evening… I think Nick Hayes summed up the feeling in the room when he said “I’m so happy and tired I think I’m going to cry!”

Praise for the team behind the Week of Action peppered the day as did affirmations from those involved that they worked well together and would like to do so again, so watch this space for next year’s Week of Action!

Nevertheless, energy remained high throughout the day. Faces new and old attended from London, Sheffield and Brighton. Bonnie opened the day beautifully by ensuring everyone understood that their views were equally valued. Consequently, discussion was stimulating, fast-paced and wide-ranging. There were healthy disagreements but also decisions made and actions planned for the coming months, all skilfully facilitated by Kelsey from Sisters Uncut.

The venue was ideal (thanks Guy for arranging for us to be there) with some particularly fetching carpeted seating that got everyone kicking off their shoes. And the food contributed by attendees was superb (special mention to Dee’s rhubarb pudding).

Key updates

Education and outreach

Robin Grey emphasised the proliferation of Land for What? education and outreach sessions since the last meeting and the number of incoming requests for more. His ask for a show of hands for volunteers to get up to speed and take these sessions forward was met enthusiastically.

Throughout the day there were numerous ad hoc discussions about how to do education and outreach in more regions and with more groups. There were some particularly fun and colourful suggestions for adapting the Landlord’s Game and other games for schoolchildren, and another for developing some beautiful promo materials to tell people what we’re all about.

Action

Dedicated time was set aside to plan land occupations and future mischief-making around such pertinent themes as empty homes, property owned in tax havens and property built using revenue from the slave trade. From amidst the giggles and ardent conversations plans for some brilliant potential actions emerged.

Policy

Richard of Just Space drew on his organisation’s experience of developing a Community-led Plan for London to deliver a policy workshop asking important questions about the Land Justice Network’s intentions in this regard. What are our aims? If we want to develop policy around land, how do we engage a broad base of people? Past experience has shown us that participatory policy development work has to be preceded by adequate education and outreach. The Policy group are keen to combine both at their next event.

Those present felt that Just Space’s plan formed a useful basis for any policy we might develop. There are also a number of other existing policies that might be mapped in order to inform development of A People’s Land Policy (similar perhaps in concept and in process to the recent participatory development of A People’s Food Policy). Time has been set aside in the coming months for this policy mapping work.

From the ensuing discussion, two key points stood out:

  • There are debates we can have about policy where we’ll never all agree (e.g. whether or not to abolish private property!) but there are clearly policies we do all agree on and can cohere around (e.g. opening up the Land Registry). Alongside any ongoing policy development, this is the low hanging fruit we should campaign on now.
  • Not to spend too much time crafting the perfect policies but also to consider the framing of solutions, power analysis of why they’ve not been adopted already and how to campaign to get them implemented.

Budgeting

All present had the opportunity to state how they would allocate the Andrew Wainwright Reform Trust funding. This broadly matched the breakdown in the original application and means that a key action emerging from this national gathering is drawing up a job description for a Network Co-ordinator and advertising this.

Next national gathering

This will be in Sheffield in July. Details will be posted to the website when confirmed. We hope to see you there!

For further information on any of the above, just get in touch.

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