T is for Trespass

One of the things that lockdown has brought home to us is how little of the space that most of us live in and share is actually ours to enjoy by law.

One in eight households in the UK has no access at all to outdoor space at home. We have to find space to breathe in parks, on footpaths, on hills, by the sea. When we can get at it.

We have a right to roam on just 8% of England. The other 92% remains off limits.

And the space we do have access to outside our own homes is corralled, constrained. We might think that it’s public, but very often it’s not. 

In England, half the land is in the hands of less than 1% of the population. The rest of us might get to walk across some of it, thanks to many years of campaign and confrontation, but woe betide us if we leave the footpaths. (Although we’d like to point out that it’s not a criminal offence. Yet.)

Or if we choose to share our thoughts about something while we’re there.

And over the last few decades, in the UK, the law has been getting tougher and tougher on protecting private property of the rich and corporations from “trespass” by the rest of us.

But if you ask why so much space ended up under the control of so few, you have to wonder who has really trespassed against whom…

And at the same time, those with power and money feel free to interfere in our lives, to trespass on our room to act and to organise together.

“Sometimes people try to destroy you, precisely because they recognize your power—not because they don’t see it, but because they see it and they don’t want it to exist.” 


There's lots of writing about ownership of land in the UK and struggles over to access to this land. We recommend Brett Christophers's The New Enclosure (2018) and Nick Hayes's The Book of Trespass (2020). There's also some great pieces (including an interview with Nick Hayes) in the ‘Trespass’ issue of Commoners Choir's 'zine Commontary (available here). The final quotation is from bell hooks (from her 1996 book, Reel to Real: Race, class and sex at the movies).