Travellers and rave fans head for illegal festivals

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The Independent Online
Vehicle convoys containing travellers and rave fans were heading for Devon and Lincolnshire last night to try to mount two of the country's largest illegal festivals.

The Anti-Criminal Justice Act festivals have been organised by a loose coalition of rave sound systems, travellers tribes and underground civil rights organisations.

The festivals known under the blanket banner of "Seventh of the Seven" have been the talk of the underground movement for months. For the past fortnight representatives of different groups made the detailed plans for the festivals "to prove the Criminal Justice Act is unworkable".

Two festival sites were selected on Tuesday with a back-up site agreed on Thursday. A site near Corby in Northamptonshire was selected for the north of England and the Midlands, with a back-up site 20 miles away in Lincolnshire. Devon was chosen to host another gathering for the South and West.

Organisers say the festivals are aimed to reassert their right to party. Ulysses, one of the organisers, said: "They think they've taken away our freedom but they can only take it away if we let them."

The Criminal Justice Act is designed to clamp down on outdoor parties and festivals and gives police forces new powers to evict travellers and squatters.

Convoys from across Britain began converging on the Corby site - three miles from the town centre - from Thursday night. Its secluded location was ideal for the organisers. With half a dozen entrances the organisers hoped it would prove difficult to stop people entering the site.

The site, which was originally to be developed as a theme park but is now in the hands of receivers, was "cracked" at 3am yesterday morning by about 200 travellers in a convoy of 40 vehicles. They immediately fanned out across a rolling landscape of light industrial land and fields of grass.

Police arrived almost immediately after the first convoy. They paid several more visits during the early hours and eventually sent in a helicopter to circle slowly overhead.

The plan was for the first convoy to set up the sites and then for its location to be propagated throughout the underground movement via the rave party network's system of telephone trees and answering machines. They would then form into convoys and travel to Corby. A similar system was in operation for the South-west.

Yesterday afternoon the police moved in and cleared the Corby site under the terms of the Criminal Justice Act - which restricts outdoor gatherings to less than 100 people - so the 40-strong convoy which formed the advanced party set off for the alternative site in Lincolnshire and the other convoys were diverted to the new site.

The preparations for the festival in Devon were proceeding as planned last night.