After the collapse of long-standing branches of Norfolk Young Farmers in Acle and Reepham in recent weeks, East Anglia’s media were on tenterhooks yesterday as the occupation of Attleborough’s market square by protesters entered a second night.
In a tense stand off, literally tens of 14 to 26 year olds are engaged in a struggle to break free from the organisation that they say takes away their basic human rights and freedoms. So far the farming establishment has not mobilised against them but the use of combine harvesters against unarmed civilians, although banned under international law, remains a very real threat.
Warren Green, 17, said that all he wanted was the freedom to hang out with his mates or go drinking in Norwich, but the YF wouldn’t allow it. ‘Apart from school and work, the only time we’re allowed out is to YF functions. OK, they do things like table tennis, discos and quizzes, but it’s all very restrictive. And you’re forced to demonstrate a sense of humour, which usually means laughing loudly at the committee’s jokes or going to fancy dress socials, which is demeaning and inhumane.’
Observers are concerned that a collapse of YF in Attleborough could threaten the peace treaty with nearby Thetford. Although Thetford has stood firm against the tide of Young Farmers that swept through the East from the 1940s onwards, the truce with Attleborough Young Farmers has allowed free movement of sugar beet lorries along the A11 for over two decades and prevented expansion of Thetford into the nearby forest.
It is rumoured that children as young as ten are conscripted into another faction called Countrysiders, but Warren merely shuddered and refused to discuss the subject.
‘Well, it’s 10.30 pm so I suppose we’d best be getting off to bed now,’ said Warren to reporters, ‘but rest assured me and my mates will be out here at first light tomorrow morning. We come from all parts of the community but we’re just like family. In fact, most of us are.’