November 30, 2020
British artists demand to roam free
by Athena Bryan
Artists in merry old England want more access to their countryside. And to do so, they used the tried-and-true, never-fails method of penning an open letter to the prime minister. It’s activism, folks!
Follow-up questions: Where are the artists currently being enclosed? What benefits will they accrue from roaming free?
Well, lucky for you, I am about to write a blog post that slightly exceeds the word count of the letter itself, littered with tedious, facetious British-isms to explain their concerns and demands just for you, because I know how to give the people what they want!
Twenty years ago, England passed something called the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (or CRoW Act) which gave people the freedom to roam around 8% of the English countryside and 3% of the rivers in England and Wales. Apparently, Scotland has things much better, and the signatories don’t see why they can’t have things the same way on their side of the increasingly confusing and problematic border.
The benefits of exercising in nature are copious, and the artists site a finding that inactivity costs the National Health Service 1 billion pounds per year. In addition, the disparity of access to nature along racial and economic lines make the public access to public land a pressing issue for social justice and equality.
So now a campaign called Right to Roam has been kicked up to extend the CRoW Act to woodlands, rivers and Green Belt land (rings of undeveloped land that were established around cities to prevent urban sprawl).
Ahem, so how does this relate to books and publishing, you’re all asking? Well, a lot of authors signed it! So I’m going to unscientifically draw out the names of a couple of my favorites, and to improve the SEO on this post. Ready? Let’s go!
- Alan Moore
- Ben Myers
- Boff Whalley (not an author, but a member of the anarcho-communist band, Chumbawumba, famous for that one song from the ‘90s that goes “I GET KNOCKED DOWN, BUT I GET UP AGAIN, DUNNA DUNNA DUNNA GET ME DOWN”)
- Brian Eno (okay, another musician. He must have a memoir or something, though, right?)
- Mark Rylance (stage actor and recent Spielberg favorite, but he was in the miniseries adaptation of Hillary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, so he counts as book-related)
- Max Porter
- Stephen Fry
And many more, you can find here!
And goddammit, I’ve held it in long enough, but all the talk about roaming aimlessly in nature and the name of the act being CRoW of all things has forced my hand: I must mention an amazing tie-in. If you hated this blog post and it’s making your eyes itch for prose of meaning and substance, but you love thinking about nature and crows, go ahead and put in a pre-order on Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing! You won’t regret it. Record-breaking, best-selling author, Barack Obama liked it!
Athena Bryan is an editor at Melville House.