From: coganman@ocf.Berkeley.EDU (Andrei Cogan)
Date: Tue, 18 Aug 92 18:05:59 PDT
Subject: British travelers, ravers & hippies

I saw the following article in the current (15-21 August 1992) issue of "The Economist" magazine. It is a discuission of the rave and music scenes in Britain, written in the usual humorous, understanding and still slightly-paternalistic tone of pretty much the rest of the writing in this magazine...

[reprinted _without_ permission]

The Economist
15-21 August 1992
p. 47

"The Travelers' Club"

Britain's well-known love of liberty and tolerance of eccentricity have their limits. People with dirty hair who refuse to buy houses clearly overstep them. These "so-called travellers," said Lord Ferrers, the Home Office minister with responsibility for the police, "are a direct assault on the structure of social life in the country." After big festivals in Herefordshire, Powys and Hampshire, the government is planning to curb their freedom to cruise around the fringes of society by making it harder to collect unemployment benefit and, possibly, by tightening up the already stiff Public Order Act.

Lord Ferrers has failed to notice the useful social functions that travellers perform. They offer ideal newspaper copy in the slow summer months. Their anarchistic vagrancy reignites in discontented mortgage-holders a belief that property is the basis of social order. And they give unheard-of ministers a chance to make silly statements.

Every summer in the past 20 years, a couple of hundred free, open-air music festivals have take place somewhere in the countryside. If the festivals have grown in size, that s partly thanks to the behavious or some police forces. The 20,000-strong festival at Castlemorton in Herefordshire, for instance, was the result of Operation Nomad, conducted by the Wiltshire, Avon & Somerset and Gloucestershire police, all determined that no festival should take place on their beat. They swept up all the travellers they could find and shoved them over the border, leaving the unsuspecting West Mercia police to take care of the problem.

The growing popularity of hippie-dom also swells the festivals. It is not so much that all the country's youth is taking to the road, but that new elements have been turning up at the festivals. These participants now divide into three groups.

In one way, the hippies have benefited from the ravers' invasion. They make a bit of money by selling the tourists vegan curries, nutburgers and bottled water to quench drug-induced thirst. In another way, they are horrified. Having dropped out of urban life to find peace in the countryside, they now find that thousands of city kids are roaring down the motorways to join them. With the kids have come vast mobile sound systems run by outfits called things like Spiral Tribe, Rough Crew and Circus Warp. THeir rave music drowns out the hippies' unamplified bongo drums and tambourines.

Hippies also tend to disapprove of the drugs ravers bring with them: cannabis, of course, is fine, but city kids take Ectasy, or a mixture of acid and speed, which loosens the bowels. Hippies tend to carry shovels with them; ravers do not. On the subject of ravers and the Brew Crew, hippies can sound remarkably blimpish. Of their music Mr Aitken says, "they seem to regard it as their job to keep a very loud noise going."

If tighter laws are introduced, the hippies may suffer as a consequence of the ravers' invasion. It is hard enough already to live on the road and not break the law. A traveller cannot simply rent a weed-covered, set-aside field from a farmer for a couple of weeks: the farmer will be charged with running an unlicensed caravan site. Nor can a farmer rent travellers a field without getting a license; and councils tend to demand prohibitive prices for licenses in order to drive the festivals into somebody else's backyard.

Trying to stop these things happening is pointless as well as illiberal. They will go on, as their persistence over the years has shown; and trying to suppress them means more expensive forms of conflict between the police and already discontented kids. Some sensible policemen are already thinking about other ways of dealing with the business. Leading a delegation to see Lord Ferrers, Ron Hadfield, chief constable of the West Midlands and head of the top police officers' public-order committee, broached the possibility of setting up permanent sites for the festivals.

Andrei Cogan ( ||| "When in doubt, panic."
Hofstadter's Law: It always takes longer than you think it will take, even if you take into account Hofstadter's Law.