I often seek solace at the Brotherhood Church.
This may sound like an odd statement for an anarchist, but — despite its name — I am not referring to some religious cult or new-age retreat. I am talking about a Tolstoy-inspired, anarchist commune which has stood in defiance of authoritarianism, ecological decline and warfare for the best part of 100 years. It is an incredibly diverse ecological paradise, which meets the needs of people and wildlife alike. As an urban farmer, it never fails to inspire and enlighten me.
The Brotherhood Church lies in the pastoral village of Stapleton, North Yorkshire, but its story begins 300 miles away in the Northern Irish market town of Limavady. Inspired by the political views expressed in Henry George’s 1879 treatise Progress and Poverty, the well-formed utopian vision of Edward Bellamy, and the spiritual teachings of Leo Tolstoy, a young Congretionalist minister named J. Bruce Wallace began to produce a weekly publication called The Brotherhood. First published in 1887, a year after Peter Kropotkin and Charlotte Wilson stated Freedom, Wallace’s publication celebrated a range of anarchist, socialist, communist and Christian socio-economic philosophies. The Brotherhood would be the first British publication to serialise Edward Bellamy’s utopian science fiction novel Looking Backwards: 2000-1887; the book which is directly credited with inspiring Sir Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City movement.