Sometimes I have difficulty with the term 'traveller'.
It's not as if I don't identify as a traveller; whilst I haven't always lived in a bus or a vehicle, I've moved around a heck of a lot as I've worked or studied. I've never had a mortgage as the thought of a commitment that great to one place scares the heebies out of me! Many folk aspire to own their home to provide security for the long term, yet to me those same four walls feel more like a prison. I've never been able to settle anywhere; the one time I tried - when I had the council flat (social housing) and worked as a school teacher for 6 years - I experienced 2 nervous breakdowns and it was almost the death of me. I may have spent a fair bit of time in mainstream society, yet I've always kept one foot on the other side of life, in the alternative or sub cultures or whatever you want to call them. I tried to fit in because I was conditioned to believe that I should fit in, and eventually gave up on trying. We've just had our 4th winter here and despite the fact that this is the closest I've ever felt to 'home', I can't ignore my itchy feet and the want to move on to pastures new.
I identify as a traveller not only because I don't belong in the mainstream, but because I am nomadic by nature.
That's not why I have trouble with the traveller label, though; I have trouble with it because it creates a "them" and "us" situation.
In the last 6 months we've experienced continual inspections from various authorities. We had 3 police inspections in a matter of weeks, and one of those inspections saw the police coming into our homes to take photographs as evidence of how we lived without permission or warning. We've had inspections from other government offices, all trying to determine what and who we are, and whether or not the permissions we've been led to believe we have are actually legal. We've had an increased level of tourists - folk who come to see the wonder of the sculptures and the environment, many of whom are seemingly oblivious to the fact that people live here. We've been interviewed by newspapers and authorities all wanting to hear what we have to say. We've had film crews and journalists wanting to make documentaries about the art work or about the alternative lifestyle, in support of our right to be here.
Whilst we know that the majority of things have happened in support of us and this site and the legal situation we find ourselves in, it sometimes feels like we live in a zoo. This place is different to a lot of sites because we have so many active artists and work on show to see, but still.
Would all of this have happened if there wasn't a "them" and "us" situation at play? I doubt it.
Seriously, we're just a bunch of people who don't live in houses, who want the freedom to move, and who place their values in different things. That's all. We do what we can to live inside the law and keep ourselves to ourselves. I don't like this feeling of victimisation, yet given everything that's happened and continues to happen, it's getting increasingly difficult to rise above it.
The label is irrelevant, really. But when pushed into a corner I will dig my heels in and wear that capital "T" on my forehead.
I get asked a lot of I can share more about the traveller lifestyle, and honestly, I'm not sure if I'm the right person to do it. I can't speak for everyone and New Travellers are very different to Irish Travellers or Romanies or other traveller groups. It's a very wide umbrella. Even amongst the New Travellers, everyone has different reasons to live as they do.
We've all been feeling the glare of the spotlight, and for me that's meant hiding that side of our lives in fear of negative reactions, which in turn doesn't help the "them" and "us" thing, or that feeling of victimisation. So I'm going to try and go back to blogging about life as the normal thing it is, and share how we live that way. When I remember to have my camera with me, that is..
PS/ if anyone wants to read more about New Travellers, I can recommend this book: 'A Time to Travel?'
I have an old well thumbed copy in paperback but it's now out of print. You can however buy a digital copy on CD direct from Enabler Publications.
I'd say a chunk of it is out of date, as legislation has changed and sites have become more settled (mostly due to the changes in legislation) - it's a more a history of how things were at the time. But it does give an insight into why people choose to live on the road, the origins of New Travellers, and how folk go about keeping 'home'.
It also includes a lot of quotes from the media and the government of the time, providing valuable insight. I wasn't really part of the scene then; I was off having other, different adventures, and flirted on the outskirts with the festival culture and such, so for me the book filled some gaps.
"The time has come for Gypsies to be banished into the wilderness. What is needed is more harassment and more discouragement" John Carlisle, Conservative MP