One morning, Beth, a journalism masters student at the Cardiff University, knocks on our door. She wonders if she could write an article about our way of life.
It seems important right now to contribute to a positive image of travelling people’s lifestyle, when government seems hellbent on criminalising anyone who’s not in a house of bricks and mortar.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (this link will take you to the government web site where you can see the bill and watch its progress through the various stages) has brought people out in protest due to its draconian rules on the right to protest. What not many people know is that it also has sections that will hugely impact on travellers’ rights. If this bill goes through, government will have the power to impound the vehicles of anyone sleeping in them by the roadside, of charging thousands of ££ in fines, and even to put people in prison. Impounding a traveller’s vehicle means removing their home from under them! What for – so they are left living on the streets without shelter?
This is dangerously close to getting apporved. Of course, once it’s approved there is room for interpretaion of it, and may or may not be implemented. I can’t really imagine they would impound a European holiday maker’s Motorhome if they are caught sleeping in a lay-by, and neither a lorry driver who is taking a break. But they will basically have a tool to use, and with the government’s intentions in plain sight, I think the first people to suffer from it will be traditional travelling folk. Here’s a video from someone who can explain this much better than I do, plus some links to follow up and make your voice heard. You will also hear in this video, that the other change in law will be that, once having been told to move on, travellers are banned from that location for 12 months. There is a shortage of dedicated spaces that travellers can move to. The whole situation leaves a lot to be desired already, and it’s about to get much worse.
Back to our trainee journalist. We were in two minds about sticking our heads above the parapet, so to speak, but if not people like us – who are in many ways privileged and, although hugely affected by the impending changes, are much less vulnerable than many other travellers – who else is going to speak out about these changes?
We thought a positive article about the lifestyle of a travelling couple may change people’s attitude and remove some of the fears and prejudices.
Beth wrote a lovely article about us, and a few days later, her Colleague Joseph turned up and complemented the article with a video. First it got published in the Cardiffian, the newspaper connected to the University, but soon it was picked up by Wales Online and from there it went into a national paper whose name I don’t want to sully my blog with.
We sat and waited for the backlash. Is the police or the Council going to move us, are people going to accost us? Nothing of the sort, so far! On the contrary, the one big change it made is, that now lots of people are talking to us when they pass by – somehow the article has broken the ice, or the British Reserve. “It says in the article you’d like us to come and talk with you, so we are here” they say, by way of introduction. Many of them must have previously walked past us, studiously looking the other way, maybe so as not to disturb us.
We love the change – it’s like being elsewhere in Europe now
Thank you to Beth and Joseph
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