‘You Subjects of England’ - Sam Lee on the song behind the Drive 2 Survive anthem

5 August 2021

The Travellers’ Times caught up with award winning folk-song composer and singer Sam Lee, who wrote and performed You Subjects of England, which has become the anthem of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller led campaign group Drive2Survive.

The words in Sam Lee’s revised version of Subjects of England are about the new laws that the Government are bringing that threaten to destroy the Travelling way of life in England and Wales.

‘You Subjects of England’ sung by Sam Lee, video by Drive 2 Survive:

You Subjects of England is a “revised” version of an old traditional folk song first sung during the early 1800’s about the enclosure of the common lands, says Sam Lee.

“It’s not a particularly well-known song outside of traditional folk music circles. It was collected, recorded and sung by the Romany brothers Jasper and Levi Smith from Kent, now long passed, who were the custodians of many old traditional folk songs.”

Sam Lee explains that centuries old folk songs undergo many revisions along the way and that revising an old song to fit a new context is in keeping with the centuries-old folk tradition.

“The words to folk songs were often changed and revised, maybe to fit in with a new King or Queen, or maybe a new law.”

“The song was originally about a poacher being transported to Australia during the enclosures of the commons, when many rural people lost their land and livelihood, and the new rendition is about the latest attempted next step in that process of dispossession.”

Mike Doherty/TT News

(Photograph courtesy of Sam Lee)