New Age travellers

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New Age travelers are persons who often espouse New Age and hippie beliefs, and travel between music festivals and fairs, in order to live in a community with others who hold similar beliefs. Their transport and homes consist of vans, lorries, buses, cars, and caravans converted into mobile homes. They also make use of improvised bender tents, tipis and yurts. "New Age" travelers largely originated in 1980s and early 1990s Britain. As of 2014, 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.


The movement originated in the free festivals of the 1970s[1] such as the Windsor Free Festival, the early Glastonbury Festivals, Elephant Fayres, and the huge Stonehenge Free Festivals in Great Britain. However, there were longstanding precedents for travelling cultures in Great Britain, including travelling pilgrims, itinerant journeymen and traders, as well as Romani groups and others.[2] Later events included the Castlemorton Common Festival, a huge free and unlicensed event which attracted widespread media coverage and prompted government action. Some legal festivals, such as WOMAD, continue to take place in a variety of countries, including the UK.

Peace Convoy

In the UK during the 1980s the Travelers' mobile homes—generally old vans, trucks and buses (including double-deckers)—moved in convoys. One group of travellers came to be known as the Peace Convoy after visits to CND protest camps.[1] The movement had faced significant opposition from the British government and from mainstream media, epitomised by the authorities' attempts to prevent free festivals at Stonehenge, and the resultant Battle of the Beanfield in 1985—the largest mass civil arrest in English history.

In 1986 and subsequent years police again blocked travellers from "taking the Stones" on the Summer Solstice (June 21). This led Travelers to spend summers squatting by the hundreds on several sites adjacent to the A303 in Wiltshire.[citation needed]

International manifestations

New Zealand

Housetrucks at the Nambassa 5-day festival, 1981

Housetruckers—whether individuals, families or groups—convert old trucks and school buses into mobile homes and live in them, preferring an unattached and transient gypsy lifestyle to using more conventional housing. These unique vehicles began appearing around New Zealand during the mid-1970s[citation needed] and even though there are fewer as of 2012 they continue to adorn New Zealand roads.

An early manifestation of this culture came with the Blerta (1970–1973) traveling circus of music, light theatre and art. This involved a well-known New Zealand actor, Bruno Lawrence, and 30 or 40 hangers-on who traveled around the country in a clapped-out Bedford bus, 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 Loxene Golden Disc in 1971, a local musical award at the time. After 1973 the Blerta project ran out of steam, and Lawrence turned his hand back to acting in such movies as Smash Palace in 1981.[3]

Contemporary British travelling scene

Many people see the Castlemorton Common Festival in 1992, a weeklong 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 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 mainland Europe, particularly Spain.

However, thousands of people still live a traveller lifestyle in Britain.[citation needed] As of 2010 they are normally known simply as Travellers. Few, if any, travellers live on the local authority sites reserved for Romani/Gypsy, Scottish Gypsies/Travellers and Irish Travellers, 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 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 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 home-school their children.

Although travelers have only taken to the road since the 1960s, as of 2010 many traveller families have reached their third or fourth generation. Despite widespread popular assumptions about travelers 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 car boot sales. Festivals during the summer also present many opportunities for travelers 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 travelers to live on very low incomes.

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

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "New Travellers, Old Story" (PDF). The Childrens Society. Retrieved November 2014. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Ivakhiv, Adrian (2001). Claiming Sacred Ground: Pilgrims and Politics at Glastonbury and Sedona. Indiana University Press. p. 89. ISBN 0-253-33899-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Colin Broadley and Judith Jones, eds., Nambassa: A New Direction, A. H. & A. W. Reed, 1979.ISBN 0-589-01216-9.


  • Pierre Carles, Volem rien foutre al païs, (co-directed with Christophe Coello et Stéphane Goxe), 2006 (a French documentary film about various ways of living on very low income, as many travellers do).
  • Martin Parry [1], (Documentary on the Beanfield and trials and tribulations of the Peace Convoy/New Age Travellers).
  • 23 Teknivals, [2], (directed by Zena Merton MA), 2006, a five-minute video montage of travellers' life on the road, free festivals and warehouse parties in Europe (Teknivals) and of the wake of a teenage English traveller, Sonny, in England that was attacked by riot police.

Further reading and external links