New Age travellers

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New Age travellers or crusties are people in the UK who often espouse New Age beliefs, and the hippie culture of the 1960s, and travel between music festivals and fairs, in order to live in a community with others who hold similar beliefs. A crusty's transport and home may consist of a van, lorry, bus, car, or caravan converted into a mobile home. A crusty may also make use of an improvised bender tent, tipi, or yurt. "New Age" travellers largely originated in 1980s and early 1990s Britain,[1] when they were described as crusties because of the association with "encrusted dirt, dirt as a deliberate embrace of grotesquerie, a statement of resistance against society, proof of nomadic hardship."[2]

New Age travellers
Vehicles used by New Age travellers
Vehicles used by New Age travellers
Regions with significant populations
United Kingdom
New Age



The movement originated in the free festivals of the 1960s and 1970s[3] 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.[4] 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 convoyEdit

In the UK during the 1980s the travellers' 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 Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) protest camps.[3] The movement had faced significant opposition from the British government and from mainstream media, epitomised by the authorities' attempts to prevent the Stonehenge Free Festival, and the resultant Battle of the Beanfield in 1985—the largest mass civil arrest in English history.[citation needed][dubious ]

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.


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] 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.[citation needed] London hosts a large number of traveller sites in places such as disused factories and warehouse yards, and there is often a crossover between travellers and squatters, with travellers parking up in yards attached to squatted buildings.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] Although most travellers in Britain are British, large numbers of Continental Europeans also "travel" in the UK.[citation needed]

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 travellers 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 travellers living on state handouts, many do seasonal or temporary work, on farms and building sites or in factories and pubs for example.[citation needed] Others work as self-employed mechanics, electricians and plumbers, or make money selling scrap (including building materials - often exotic and rare such as parquet flooring, or antique lead and copper fitting stripped illegally from private and public buildings used as illegal squats), or running stalls at markets and 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.[citation needed]

The traveller and free party scenes often have close links, and many travellers run or are involved with the sound systems of raves and squat parties.[citation needed]

New Zealand housetruckersEdit

Housetrucks at the Nambassa 5-day festival, 1981

In New Zealand, individuals, families or groups who convert old trucks and school buses into mobile homes and live in them, preferring an unattached and transient lifestyle to using more conventional housing are termed "housetruckers". These mobile home vehicles began appearing during the mid-1970s and even though there are fewer as of 2012 they continue to exist.[citation needed] 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 an old 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.[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^
  2. ^ Fox, Dan (3 April 2018). "24-Hour Party People: How Britain's New Age Traveler movement defined a zeitgeist". World Policy Journal. 35 (1): 3–9. ISSN 1936-0924.
  3. ^ a b "New Travellers, Old Story" (PDF). The Children's Society. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  4. ^ Ivakhiv, Adrian (2001). Claiming Sacred Ground: Pilgrims and Politics at Glastonbury and Sedona. Indiana University Press. p. 89. ISBN 0-253-33899-9.
  5. ^ Colin Broadley and Judith Jones, eds., Nambassa: A New Direction, A. H. & A. W. Reed, 1979.ISBN 0-589-01216-9.


Further reading and external linksEdit