Emily Knight uncovers an unexpectedly radical story, hidden in the Essex countryside. In the 1940s, men and women horrified by the violence of war, disconnected, disillusioned and despondent, began to turn to the land - and each other - for healing. A new way of life was needed, and a new movement sprang up. Part pacifist philosophy, part radical Christianity, part utopian idealism, the Back-to-the-Land movement of the '40s and '50s saw groups of people coming together to take over pockets of farmland, working collectively, sharing the hardships and the joys of communal living.
But this isn't just a farming movement. It's a story in which pacifist philosophy overlaps with new forms of Christianity, where the literature of DH Lawrence and George Orwell meets a working-class intellectualism, fired up by the possibility of real social change. It's a world of big dreams, hard graft, close communities, and a flowering of music, poetry and theatre, all under the arched roof of a crumbling Essex barn.
In a world ravaged by climate change and Covid-19, could we see a similar movement springing up today?
Producer for BBC Audio in Bristol : Emily Knight