There is a gaping grey area between definitions of travellers. Irish travellers or Romany Gypsy travellers is a term that is commonly used as a blanket generalisation for the definition of all travellers. Some people use other terms such as van dwellers or new age travellers to describe the more recent phenomenon of new age families or communities living in fixed up vans and buses. These sweeping generalisations emit a very clear misunderstanding of the very different cultures that these are, highlighting a need to celebrate these cultures and different ways of living, to understand and not to discriminate.
The new age traveller counter culture that was born out of the thatcher years, in the UK at least, seems to have thinned. Either the travellers have gone into hiding elsewhere in the world were they can be left to their own devices with no bother, or they have given up the traveller life either through pressure from ‘the system’ or other feasible reasons. Maybe they just didn’t want to do it any more. Reasons for this can be partly connected to the media’s portrayal of alternative living.
The image constantly portrayed by the media of the travelling community has been damaging and not normally in a positive light. Even though the project I have undertaken on looking at living life ‘On the road’ is mainly focused on the ‘new age traveller’, this mis-representation of these very different cultures has even made its way into terrestrial television regarding all subcultures of travellers through sweeping generalisations.
The popular channel 4 series ‘My big fat gypsy wedding’ made sweeping generalisations about the whole traveller community. The telegraph in 2012 stated that
“The series was supposed to shine a light on a community that is often marginalised and misunderstood, but ended up sparking its anger.”
“The regulator will formally investigate the complaint lodged by ITMB’s law firm, Howe & Co, which said that people from the Traveller and Gypsy communities were “unfairly portrayed in an untrue and damaging racially stereotypical manner”.
Howe & Co cited examples of “unfair negative images” include showing the sexual assault of females as a cultural norm in these communities, depicting highly sexualised behaviour, and showing children as “”wildly behaved, uncontrollable, foul-mouthed, illiterate, uneducated, violent and dangerous”.”
Boys and men were “almost exclusively shown as being feckless, violent, and/or criminal,” according to the complaint.
The Battle of the Beanfield in 1985 was the most public example of the problems travelling communities face today. Police brutality was exposed by the mainstream media at the time in a horrific display of violence.
Touching upon this subject in this way is just a brief glimpse of underlying problems still visible in society today.
Tackling taboo and prejudice against travellers in Bristol specifically became a large part of Bristol City councils work back in 2006. Travellers are a frequent part of communities in the city with many allocated sites mainly on the outskirts of Bristol that are regularly occupied and some more established as static sites. In retaliation to the very visible discrimination against travellers that could be seen more so on signs outside of pub doors across the city, Bristol city council tried help inform other people in communities that share with travellers through flyers and leaflets.
A booklet called Gypsies and Travellers: Frequently asked questions, the myths and the facts was released by Bristol city council on the 13th June 2006.