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New Age Travellers

This set of activities, produced by Ewelina Beczała, Magda Sosna and Ewa Wiewióra, with the support of Ewa Komorowska, explores some of the issues surrounding people who have chosen an alternative lifestyle.

"I love this bus
That I call my home
I dig this coach
That allows me to roam
My little space
That can take me any place
My sanctuary
No matter where I be
And when I know she's ready to go
And a time to travel's dawning
Reaching, to start her heart
She turns, she breathes, she fires, she vibrates gently
We move into the morning
Wondering whence we do depart
Knowing that there's nothing wrong with where I am
  Some folk simply do not understand."



Read the poem and discuss the following questions. Work in pairs. You have 10 minutes to do this task.

1.       What kind of people is this poem about?

2.       What can you say about their lifestyle?

3.       Where do they live?

4.       How do they feel about living there?

5.       What does the word "she" refer to?

6.       Why do you think the writer has chosen the word "sanctuary" to refer to home?

7.       Can you find ways in which the writer talks about their home as if it was alive?

8.       Who do you think the "some folk" mentioned in the last line might be?

Task 2

Having answered the questions, work in groups of four and prepare a short oral description of the Travellers. You have 5 minutes to do this.

Task 3

Now learn more about the people you have described from the passage below.

The Macmillan Encyclopedia 2001 describes NEW AGE TRAVELLERS as ”young men and women who, with their children, lead a nomadic existence, often professing beliefs in Eastern religion (especially Buddhism), meditation and the occult, astrology, homeopathy, organically grown food, and green issues. The attitudes originated on the West Coast of the USA and can be traced back to the hippie movement of the 1960s. In the UK New Age Travellers move around the country in convoys of dilapidated vehicles, sometimes camping illegally on private land. For many the lifestyle they espouse is an escape from unemployment or homelessness in the inner cities although others come from relatively prosperous middle-class homes or have dropped out of universities. Most claim to be disenchanted with the materialism of modern life. They are usually resented by conventional members of society, who accuse them of accepting the benefits of the welfare state without contributing to them, and of antisocial behaviour, such as drug dealing, and of failing to give their children a proper education”.

Task 4

Now work in pairs and discuss what new information about New Age Travellers you have found in the encyclopedia entry.

Task 5

Read the following opinions on Travellers:

Kate, UK, has been a traveller for several years:
If people could meet travellers with an open mind they would find a lot of creative interesting people. We, like any group, are individuals, not just ‘pagan heathens’ as we have been labelled. We would like to live as we do without causing harm to others, but it seems others are always hassling us.

Małgorzata, Poland:
In my childhood everyone called them gypsies. I remember colourfully dressed women foretelling the future in the park near my home and horse driven carriages going through the main street of my town. Gypsies were a never-ending source of fascination for me as a child.

Francis, UK:
I have a general image of people with matted hair and colourful clothes, lots of studs, piercing, tattoos and jewellery, mainly younger and often of “middle-class” origin. They come from a great variety of backgrounds, travel in “convoys” of old vans, cars, etc. They move around especially in the south west which has more mystical associations, often living in encampments, going on an annual round of open-air festivals. All of them aspire to environmental consciousness and simple community values, but in practice often to a great extent are dependent on financial aid of the state and society they claim to reject. They express their anti-establishment attitudes by adhering to supposedly pagan beliefs and/or rituals which in fact constitute a typical post-industrial romanticism rather than a recreation of an ancient way of life.

Henryka, Poland:
People who rebel against a certain set form of life with no settled homes, moving from place to place most of the time. Their children don’t go to school but learn from adults. They do not have regular jobs, no medical care and hence face several problems when they get older. They are hated by many and treated like gypsies.

Task 6

Work individually. Referring to the above texts, the encyclopedia entry and your own experience complete the table. Compare your notes with your partner.


New Age Travellers

Gypsies in Poland














Task 7

Imagine that a group of New Age Travellers or Gypsies have moved into your village or town. Working as a class, think of possible problems that might have arisen in connection with the six issues in the table since their arrival and make a list of these.

Now imagine you are attending a meeting of representatives of New Age Travellers and local people. Divide into two groups, one representing New Age Travellers and Gypsies, the other local people. Within the groups split into three subgroups and each choose two of the issues mentioned in the table you have filled in. Find arguments you can use when discussing the issues with the other group. When you have prepared your arguments, hold the meeting.  Try to find solutions acceptable to both sides.

If you want to read some background on New Age Travellers, click here.

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