Found in the Theatre And Circus field of Glastonbury Festival, The Stopping Place, or ‘Atchin Tan’ in the Romany language, is named after the now virtually non-existent traditional stopping places across the country, where Gypsies and Travellers would stop to rest for a few days. The Atchin Tan is the focal point for a Traveller Awareness Campaign, where you’ll find living examples of Travellers’ moving homes – a horse drawn wagon, Romany caravan, Traveller truck and more – as well as talks, music, storytelling and an information tent. Since its debut in the 2022, the Atchin Tan has brought together artists, activists, academics and those affected by prejudice and anti-nomadic legislation together with interested members of the public in a family-friendly space that pays tribute to Britain’s traditionally nomadic cultures and facilitates creative exchange about the present situation and strategising for the future.
The Atchin Tan was conceived against a backdrop of challenges to traditional Romany, Traveller and nomadic ways of life, including harsh new laws. This would be the first time Glastonbury had a dedicated, inclusive meeting space for all Gypsies, Roma and Travellers and anyone who happened by and wanted to talk and join in. The Atchin Tan seeks to provide a creative and open living space for people of all the backgrounds – ethnic, social and perhaps ‘ethno-social’ or tribal/familial – that are being jointly targeted by part 4 of the new Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Act. The idea, and ‘avant garde-ness’, of the space is fundamentally connected to its not excluding people based on whereabouts on the Gypsy/Roma/Traveller/nomad spectrum they fell. The Atchin Tan invites people to band together because they are seen in the corridors of power as a single problem, and now more than ever this has created a need to find links and common interests whilst acknowledging differences and points of divergence. This speaks of an implicit stance in relation to ideas of cultural rifts: a riposte to ‘divide and rule’, perhaps, along the lines of ‘unite, liberate and create’.
Signposting the Atchin Tan like a beacon elevated on the Glastonbury Festival skyline is a bow-top wagon on a large plinth. This was conceived of by artist Sam Haggarty as a gesture giving prominent visual embodiment to themes including the pride of Romany and Traveller history but equally the difficulty of manoeuvring of as part of these cultures in the present time: of being left high and dry. The wagon is a romanticised object but equally a genuine living space, an essential shelter. Placing it on a pedestal invites comparison to public sculpture, and questions as to why this symbol is not ‘vaunted’. Perhaps the small square on which the wagon stands also works as an invitation to consider the fact, often quoted by Gypsy and Traveler campaigners, that a single square mile of land would suffice to provide stopping places for every marginalised caravan-dweller in the United Kingdom: one square mile, when there are over ninety-three thousand in the country. 0.001% of the UK’s land could resolve one of the press’s and the government’s most trumpeted causes of ‘community tension’: unauthorised Gypsy and Traveler camps.