About Britain's nomadic peoples
The last of the radio ballads that Ewan MacColl, Peggy Seeger, and Charles Parker devised, The Travelling People is also
the most accomplished, both in form and content. An examination of the Romany people in Britain, it serves mostly as a condemnation
of attitudes toward them and their nomadic lifestyle -- which, as reflected in many of the soundbites, were not complimentary.
People simply didn't want them around, calling them "tinkers" and things much worse, as "I Mean, We're Fed Up With Gypsies
Living in Our Area" highlights, with the incident of a woman about to give birth being moved on by the police. The attitudes
were reflected in other ways too, like the boy who spent several years in the same grade without being taught to read or write,
because, the teacher explained, "he's the best message boy I've ever had." But this does more than simply look at the negatives.
It examines the life of the gypsies, the way they'd settle in the winter time, or how traveling was part of their nature.
MacColl's songs are among the finest he wrote for the radio ballad series, and the accompaniment is richer and fuller than
before, and the singers -- people like Belle Stewart, Joe Heaney, and Jane Stewart -- serve the material brilliantly. They
become integrated into a whole program -- which is what each of the radio ballads was, of course -- that's intelligently fashioned
to bring out a whole picture, one which is sympathetic to the travelers, but also allows for opposing views. The listener
comes away educated, and also humbled by the quiet pride of these people. It's nothing less than a remarkable achievement.