First they came for the squatters…

It must sound like I do hardly any work at all, but — outside the hammock — I’ve been rather busy. Secret signups for Thighs of Steel are going really well. The list is now over two-thirds full so if you’re umming and ahhing, don’t wait too long!

Beth and I have also been working on a new project about vans. We spent yesterday evening at a meeting for van dwellers in Stokes Croft, partially for research, partially because I’m genuinely interested in buying a van in which to dwell.

It turns out that van dwellers are a community under attack.

Campaign group Friends, Families and Travellers explain:

On 5 November 2019, the Government launched a consultation to strengthen police powers against roadside Travellers.

This includes van dwellers of all stripes — yes, even the ones looking great on Instagram.

The governmentour government says:

We would like to consult on measures to criminalise the act of trespassing when setting up an unauthorised encampment in England and Wales.

An ‘unauthorised encampment’ could mean just two vehicles — your car and your trailer or caravan, for example. Criminalise.

The police have already said that they are against any changes to the current law — and that the real problem is the lack of site provision for Travellers.

This ‘consultation’ is driven, once more, by a government eager to stamp out alternative — both desperate and creative — solutions to a housing crisis of their own making, and instead to protect the property investments of their friends.

It’s also worth saying that most Travellers — over 95 percent according to some estimates — live on land they either own or have rights to, like my friend who lives in a yard under the wonderfully named ‘Showman’s License’.

This ugly witch hunt reminds me of the 2011 Conservative anti-squatting ‘consultation’, which received little support from the general public and vehement opposition from those who would have to enforce the unfair, punitive laws: both lawyers and, again, the police.

Despite this, the harshest imaginable anti-squatting laws were passed.

When peoples’ only choice is criminalised, the legality of the law itself is discredited.

— Professor Danny Dorling, Oxford University

If you’d like to have your say on the consultation, Friends, Families and Travellers have an excellent shortcut form that took me less than ten seconds to fill in.

First they came for the squatters, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a squatter.

Then they came for the Gypsies, Travellers and van dwellers…

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David Charles is co-writer of BBC radio sitcom Foiled. He also writes for The Bike Project, Thighs of Steel, and the Elevate Festival. He blogs at

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