One of my most formative experiences at school was in 1976/77. A new teacher arrived at East Borough Primary in Maidstone (Mr Martin). He took the class and an equal number of Gypsy / Traveller kids out on a day trip to a zoo. Mr Martin was a Gyspy himself and was keen that his class got to meet kids from the Traveller community and vice-versa. As I recall, it was a great day out!
Maidstone maintains strong support for Gypsy / Traveller communities and it was pleasing to see that the Borough has the highest number of caravans of any borough in the South East, almost twice as many as its nearest rival. Maidstone is an amazingly welcoming place at times!
Sadly our new ConDem masters are less tolerant. Yesterday's Guardian featured a letter signed by around 20 academics about the descrimanatory policy against Gypsies / Travellers: "Already the government has reversed progressive policies giving incentives for local authorities to develop Gypsy and Traveller sites, by cuts announced in the Housing and Communities Agency budget, cancelling all next year's bids for sites. The Conservatives announced plans to scrap planning and housing circulars which have started to give Gypsies and Travellers a "level playing field" in planning disputes with local authorities and planning inspectors."
Perhaps Eric Pickles needs a lesson on tolerance and equality. Maybe he should spend time with the Gypsy and Traveller communities.