New Age Travellers are groups of people who often espouse New Age (WP) or hippie (WP) beliefs and travel between music festivals and fairs (mainly in the United Kingdom) in order to live in a community with others who hold similar beliefs. Their transport and homes consist of vans, lorries, buses, narrowboats and caravans converted into mobile homes. They also make use of improvised bender tents, tipis and yurts. New Age travellers largely originated in 1980s and early 1990s Britain.[1] As of 2018, a small number continue to travel in the country, and cultural groupings with similar composition have also manifested themselves in other countries, such as New Zealand.

1975 Stonehenge Free Festival

Background Edit

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The movement originated in the free festivals of the 1970s such as the Windsor, the early Glastonburys, Elephant Fayres, and the huge Stonehenge Free Festivals (WP) in Great Britain. These events attracted widespread media coverage; negative coverage and enough negative public opinion allowed the government to squeeze past legislation declaring such festivals illegal. Others, most notably the Stonehenge Festival, had been declared illegal on a case by case basis, but the Castlemorton, a huge free event, was immediately followed by the Wikipedia:Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, a wide-ranging Act which effectively made illegal outdoor parties that played music. More mainstream festivals, the loss of whose patrons would represent a more significant dent in legislators' constituency, such as WOMAD, continue to take place in a variety of countries, including the UK.

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Peace Convoy Edit

Main article: Peace Convoy

In the UK during the 1980s, the Travellers' mobile homes - generally old vans, trucks and buses (including double deckers) - moved in convoys. The movement had faced significant opposition by the British government and mainstream media, epitomised by the authorities' attempts to prevent camps at Stonehenge, and the resultant Battle of the Beanfield (WP) in 1985 – the largest mass civil arrest in English history.

In 1986 and subsequent years, police again blocked the "Peace Convoy" (as they had become identified by the media) from "taking the Stones" on the Summer Solstice (June 21). This led many Travellers to spend summers squatting by the hundreds, on several sites adjacent to the A303 motorway in Wiltshire.

International manifestations Edit

New Zealand Edit

Housetrucks and camping at Nambassa 1981

Housetrucks at the Nambassa (WP) 5-day festival, 1981

Housetruckers (WP) are individuals, families and groups who convert old trucks and school buses into mobile homes and live in them, preferring an unattached and transient gypsy lifestyle to more conventional housing. These unique vehicles began appearing around New Zealand during the mid-1970s and even though there are fewer today they continue to adorn New Zealand roads.

An early manifestation of this culture came with the Wikipedia:Blerta (1970–1973) travelling circus of music, light theatre and art. This involved a well-known New Zealand actor, Wikipedia:Bruno Lawrence, and 30 or 40 hangers-on who travelled around the country in a clapped-out Bedford bus, and sang, wrote and did hippie art. Most of the riders were radicals, hippies, groovers and free thinkers. They attracted a following and had a hit single with "Dance around the world" which was nominated for the Wikipedia:Loxene Golden Disc in 1971, a local musical award at the time. After 1973 the Project ran out of steam, and Lawrence turned his hand back to acting in such movies as Wikipedia:Smash Palace in 1981.[2]

Contemporary British travelling scene Edit

Many people see the Wikipedia:Castlemorton Common Festival in 1992, a week-long festival that attracted up to 30,000 travellers and ravers, as a significant turning point for New Age Travellers in Britain, as it directly resulted in the government granting new powers to police and local authorities under the Wikipedia:Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to prevent such events in the future. The Criminal Justice Act included sections against disruptive trespass, squatting and unauthorised camping which made life increasingly difficult for travellers, and many left Britain for Ireland and Europe, particularly Spain.

However, thousands of people still live a traveller lifestyle in Britain. As of 2018, they are normally known simply as Travellers. Few, if any, travellers live on the local authority sites reserved for Gypsies and Wikipedia:Irish Travellers (although many travellers would qualify for Gypsy status under the current law), so instead stay on unauthorised sites throughout the countryside, particularly in Wales and the south-west of England, and in urban areas. London hosts a large number of traveller sites in places such as disused factory or warehouse yards, and there is often a crossover between travellers and Wikipedia:squatters, with travellers parking up in yards attached to squatted buildings. Typical traveller sites might have anywhere from 5 to 30 vehicles on them, including trailers and caravans as well as buses, vans and Wikipedia:horseboxes converted to live in. Although most travellers in Britain are British, large numbers of Continental Europeans also "travel" in the UK.

As unauthorised sites are evicted and travellers moved on frequently, accessing basic services such as health and dental care, refuse collection, benefits, and education for children can be problematic. Many traveller families Wikipedia:home-school their children.

Although travellers have only taken to the road since the 1960s, 2018 2010, many traveller families have reached their third or fourth generation. Despite widespread popular assumptions about travellers living on state handouts, many do seasonal or temporary work, on farms and building sites or in factories and pubs for example. Others work as self-employed mechanics, electricians and plumbers, or make money selling scrap, or running stalls at markets and Wikipedia:car boot sales. Festivals during the summer also present many opportunities for travellers to make money through offering entertainment, services and goods to festival goers. A high level of mutual aid, the sharing of childcare and vehicle maintenance and "skipping" (collecting food from local supermarket skips) within communities allow travellers to live on very low incomes.

The Traveller and Wikipedia:Free Party scenes often have close links, and many travellers run or are involved with the sound systems of Wikipedia:raves and Wikipedia:squat parties.

See alsoEdit

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  1. Lowe, R & Shaw, W. 1993 Travellers: Voices of the New Age Nomads. London: Fourth Estate. ISBN 978-1-85702-140-0
  2. Nambassa: A New Direction, edited by Colin Broadley and Judith Jones, A. H. & A. W. Reed, 1979.ISBN 0-589-01216-9.


Further reading and external linksEdit

Gardner, Peter. "Medieval Brigands, Pictures in a Year of the Hippy Convoy" Published 1987 by Redcliffe, Bristol. ISBN 0 948265 0 27

fr:Traveller (nomade)pt:New Age Travellers