After a series of low paid, low interest level jobs in and around Manchester I decided that I needed to step off this tedious conveyor belt to explore things that I was actually interested in. So, in 1983 I walked straight out of a shop I’d been working at for the last year, drew my remaining £10 pounds wages out of my account, caught a train to Knutsford and hitch hiked down to Stonehenge Free Festival with a few friends.
For me the sight of Stonehenge circle and the festival site across the road was a real time stopping moment that I will always remember. There was a sense of some sort of belonging from the moment we walked onto the site and strolled through the ever changing sounds of Dub Reggae, Punk Rock and underground Psychedelic music.
Life on the site appealed to me for a few reasons. There was a general unwritten consensus of cooperation amongst most people on the site. There was also a lot people from different musical and cultural backgrounds.
At the Stonehenge festival the following year a few of had decided we wanted out of the Birth-Work-Death scenario that confronted us and we joined the Traveller community and moved to a site in Mid Wales. For the best part of a decade I moved about at various travellers site and festivals, and would often wonder off either on my own of with friends with a tent and a few pans and simply disappear into the mountains of woodlands of where ever I was compelled to for weeks at a time, travelling for me had taken on a broader meaning for me.
As History was to reveal, the new strain of Neo-Liberal thought that was running through British Politics like a virus, could not handle the idea of free festivals and the travellers that hosted these festivals, Travellers were not consumers, they were not home owners, they were not wanted.
The Draconian Criminal Justice Act of 1994 effectively criminalized the lives of most travellers; there were also some internal problems with the newly emerging community that was putting pressure on other travellers and the wider community.
Free festivals all but disappeared, travellers sites were barricaded by local councils, most lay-byes became no-go Zones for Travellers and people were forced into living back in houses, the ones that got away went to Ireland, Portugal and Spain, though a small number remained in the UK on sites that we tolerated and tucked out of the way. When the dust settled I sat back and thought what about what I had learned and what had inspired me about the traveller and free festival days. One of the main things I took from this experience was the idea of moving towards self sufficiency in whatever capacity I was able. I had also picked up on the DIY ethos of punk. This powerful and highly workable combination of ideas and practices has allowed me to reclaim time that would have been spent working for somebody else into a situation where I can now provide some of my own resources in a sustainable manner, without having to be tied to full time work and locked into the monetary system.