Beyond the Dartmoor wild camping ban, Right of Way questions who can access the countryside

The feature-length programme highlights that access and inclusion to the UK countryside has never been granted equally.

19 January 2023


After uproar over the ban of wild camping in Dartmoor, today (19 January) it was announced that landowners will allow people to wild camp without permission, following an agreement between landowners and Dartmoor National Park Authority. News of the ban has sparked widespread conversations around our right to roam, bringing greater attention to a subject, which for many, has always been felt. Right of Way, a touring film programme, questions if everyone has the right to roam equally in the UK countryside. It is presented by the ICO and LUX, supported by the BFI Film Audience Network and Arts Council England, and runs until September 2023. Dan Guthrie, Ufuoma Essi and Arjuna Neuman contribute films.

The feature-length programme blends historical archive films and new artist commissions to “examine who has a right to the great outdoors and who is excluded,” a press release explains. While archive films from the 1930s through to the 1980s show that the countryside has always housed complexity, the new commissions focus on challenging long-held perceptions around the British rural countryside. “What happens when Black, Asian and other ethnically diverse people enter these landscapes?” the release questions. “How can our natural spaces be homes to protest, trespassing, activism and raves?”

The concept of Right of Way came from UK’s National Trails. These protected landscapes were once set up to connect people to nature, but were only accessible by very few during the Covid-19 pandemic, “revealing the disconnect felt by millions of people towards the UK’s rural spaces”, the press release adds.

The new commissions include black strangers by Dan Guthrie, Pastoral Malaise by Ufuoma Essi and Syncopated Green by Arjuna Neuman, looking into everything from outdoor free parties to the absences found in pastoral environments. Having launched in 2022, Right of Way will continue to play in cinemas, film festivals and community screens across the UK until September 2023, alongside talks and panels. Readers can find out more at ICO.

Held at London's BFI on 23 February, there will be a screening and q&a with artists Dan Guthrie, Ufuoma Essi and Arjuna Neuman, hosted by Jonathan Ali.

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Independent Cinema Office / LUX: Right of Way, featuring new commissions by Dan Guthrie, Ufuoma Essi and Arjuna Neuman (Copyright © ICO / LUX / Dan Guthrie/ Ufuoma Essi / Arjuna Neuman)

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Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. In January 2023, they became associate editor, predominantly working on partnership projects and contributing long-form pieces to It’s Nice That. Contact them about potential partnerships or story leads.

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