Wednesday, 23 February 2011

More media stuff on BFGW

Update on Friday 25 Feb A more realistic picture of Traveller women? The Guardian

The Guardian This is the opening paragraph of my 2nd BFGW blog dated 7 February

Channel 4’s plans in The Times Oh no not more ... ! (You need to subscribe to access this.) I doubt Romany Gypsies will be taking part.

Surrey Heath Residents Blog This is my recorded interview - gets off to a slow start, but warms up, so stick with it to the end. Excuse the scary photo (who took that?)

Article with Damien le Bas Damien is a Romany, Oxford graduate and was on The One Show.

A Guardian article by David Altheer with 256 comments !
Not to do with BFGW but a lovely positive story from Phoebe Buckley, top level equestrian, Romany Gypsy. 'Against the Grain' R4.

Excellent article I missed earlier on 11 Feb Gypsies: tramps and thieves. I urge all to read. The link was in Travellers Times Newsletter.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Big Fat Gypsy Weddings not so bad?

SINCE WRITING THIS POST I SAW THIS! Jake Bowers speaking for the Romany Gypsy community: on Daybreak.

I may be revising my view of Channel 4 documentary, dubbed ‘mockumentary’. I hope it really does help relations between Gypsies and non-Gypsies, rather than make for more bad feeling. Excellent representation on BBC Breakfast show this week.

For booklovers interested in an easy and entertaining read on Gypsies and Travellers today, and our relationships with them, you may like to take a look at my novels. They are set in the fictitious English village, Appley Green. Many of the issues that are being raised in Channel 4's programme are woven into the stories.

When I began my research 6 or 7 years ago nobody was talking about Gypsies or Travellers very much. From their history to the modern-day shortage of stopping-places, I realised I had found a fascinating subject that few people understood. I visited many Gypsy sites at places close by, including: Chobham, Hartley Wintney, Leatherhead, Ash and, indeed, the famous Irish Traveller site, Westway, in London. I spoke to a lot of Gypsies and Travellers as well as reading books by professors who have done the same thing. I attend Gypsy and Traveller meetings and hear about their problems first-hand. I also did and still do a lot of thinking!

My novels have been described as an ‘easy way in’ for a non-Gypsy. Bridie Page, A Romany Gypsy, with Derbyshire Gypsy Liaison Group said, “Miriam has captured the essence of Romany/Traveller life managing to merge old and new seamlessly. A right riveting read!”

Sue Cook, Broadcaster and Writer, “Wakerly’s books do a wonderful job in helping to promote understanding where there is ignorance and tolerance where there is bigotry. I recommend them heartily.”

Gypsies Stop tHere (2008) and No Gypsies Served (2010). Click on some links to find out more:
Amazon and

Reviews: 2 reviews on (do a search on my name, they come up straight away)

I am now actually looking forward to the next episode - but hope I don't have to do another U-turn. Am going to a Gypsy and Traveller Forum in a week's time and will find out how the community are feeling about the series by then. At the moment, they are not happy. See Travellers Times

Monday, 7 February 2011

Another Grumble on Big Fat Gypsy Weddings

I understand Channel 4’s aim to achieve high ratings. To suck in an audience that might ultimately consider more serious aspects of Gypsy and Traveller life and culture, you need to lighten up first. I get that. But at what cost? By sensationalising, then deliberately selecting and focusing on the more controversial things that ‘make good television’, the producers of this series have compromised on truth a step too far. The interest has brought out truly poisonous comments – yes I have seen them on Twitter too. Referred to in a TV guide as ‘gently mocking’, I find the voice-over so apparently benign as to border on sinister. Mocking and encouraging others to mock is more damaging than people perhaps realise and affects the lives of countless people trying to find accommodation, bring up their children and earn an honest living. Romany Gypsies are outraged and aggrieved that there is no distinction made between them and Irish Travellers. (I hope they do not mind me speaking for them.) Now they have seen the way TV has chosen to display the Irish Travellers, I doubt they will ever open up to reveal some of the truths about their own culture. And who can blame them? Romany Gypsies are, on the whole, proud to be called Gypsy. Irish Travellers are not generally referred to as Gypsies, which makes the title of the programme a nonsense – and harmful too. I did a post on this on 12 February 2010 – it is complicated and mistakes can easily be made. The Race Relations Act helped to bring about this confusion by lumping together the two groups into one ethnic group for purposes of legislation and rights pertaining to travelling people, or sedentary people with a heritage of travelling. Romany Gypsies, who account for a much higher percentage of this overall group than Irish Travellers, are so far removed from this picture we see on our screens, they are appalled and probably despair at the stupidity of non-Gypsies who watch it. I hope Romany Gypsies do not mind me speaking on their behalf; they are certainly speaking up for themselves too. You can see why Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month (June each year) keeps to its title, which it has to be said does not trip easily off the tongue. To reduce it to an umbrella term would be wrong. They are different and distinct groups of people – albeit with some similarities. From giving talks on the subject, I know all too well how difficult it is to get people to listen. People come armed with questions and opinions before even hearing another point of view – I am told the term for this is ‘cognitive dissonance’. Prejudice is another term for it. I do try to comment on this whole debacle in an even tone with facts and references to substantial reports, but underneath I am FURIOUS at the damage that this programme may have done. People are working hard to improve relationships between Gypsies and Travellers and non-gypsies, by fostering more understanding and knowledge. There is a huge wound that needs to be healed, not gouged out and left to fester. The more people are exposed to these negative portrayals, the less tolerance there will be for a people who by and large just want to care for their families and earn a living. Their overriding concern it to secure accommodation. The more others dislike and object, the more unauthorised encampments there will be and the more objections there will be, in an endless vicious circle. If the wider community could just stop a minute, regard Gypsies and Travellers as individual human beings, not object when a local council proposes a small site in their area, then the ‘mess and damage’ so often quoted against them might be consigned to history.