2019 / September

Won’t you come with me to the liberty of Norton Folgate?

The Liberty of Norton Folgate by Madness

Photo by Anjana Menon on Unsplash

The tale of the Liberty of Norton Folgate is a story of how we can learn to live in a changing society with joy. It’s also a fantastic song by Madness!

Liberties were places outside the city gates where people created their own communities, often established and populated by immigrants. Suggs, the Madness frontman, explains that they were often places not only on the edge of the city, but also on the edge of the law, expressing this in the song with the lyric; Bobbing and weaving an invisible line.

We are reminded in the song of the transient nature of the populations of our communities. People come and go, and whilst we try to create stability, stability is not so much creating static communities, but a consistent and accepting attitude toward change. After all, as the song expresses; We’re all on borrowed ground.

The song goes on to describe someone walking around the area (Shoreditch in East London), with seemingly not a care in the world;

Purposefully walking nowhere … You’re just basking in your own company … The Technicolor worlds going by, but you’re the lead in your own movie.

Yet as we can see this is also with an awareness of what is going on around them, an appreciation of the life and diversity of the area. For me, this describes a perfectly mindful state, being aware of what is happening around you whilst also recognising the control of the internal interaction with that world. We are both individual and communal, independent and interdependent; In this little taste of liberty you’re a part of everything you see.

Yet the song, much like life, reflects the fact that this blissful state is something fragile and easily lost. In the beginning was the fear of the immigrant. And there it is. What is it which takes away our blissful, mindful state? It’s not the situation or our experience, but fear. And fear often grows from our response to change and unfamiliarity. So how do we learn to live in our constantly changing society with joy? I think the wisdom in this song is valid. Let’s recognise our independence and interdependence. We are part of a community, a society, and we need to approach this with optimism not fear. Yet we are also individuals, whatever is going on around us may be outside of our control, but we still have control over our responses.

So, this week let’s embrace the security and joy of mindfulness in the vibrancy of everything we see.

Need more of that mindful experience? Why not consider booking an appointment with the author, Dr Dave Wood.


Exploring and co-creating #wellbeing4all and community theology with individuals, businesses and communities. For the many, not the few.

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