Saturday, 12 October 2013

After the radio interview …

BBC Surrey Breakfast Show, Saturday 12 October 

Thanks to local councillor @PaulDeach who listened to my interview live and reacted immediately, this interview is put into context as a more permanent podcast on the Surrey Heath Residents' Blog.
And on iTunes  

no longer available on BBC website)
Speaking live on an early morning radio programme can be deceptively challenging. Firstly, you have to be awake! Then, for example, before sun-up and in the rain, negotiating the Pirbright bends, where the road is strewn with branches and massive surprise puddles, you strive to get to the Guildford BBC studios in time for your precise slot.
Also there is the sensitive nature of the topic. Travellers. Gypsies. Planning applications and prejudice. Yes, enough to wake anyone up when presented with a list of alleged crimes and anti-social behaviour that are, apparently, solely attributable to Gypsies and Travellers.

Thankfully such sweeping allegations against the travelling community are becoming fewer in the wider population. I think so, anyway, but there are always a few who refuse to see them as human beings, in most ways just the same as anyone else. The key difference is that some GandTs wish to retain aspects of their culture, with regard to moving around for work and social gatherings, and pursuing traditional ways of earning a living: tree surgery, garden maintenance, fencing etc; laying tarmac (less so now); scrap metal. This type of work would not fit easily on your average residential estate or road, and it is entirely right that they should be accorded somewhere for them to fulfil their role and pitch a trailer. This is really all they ask for; somewhere within reasonable reach of schools, shops, doctors and so on.
These people are descendants of those Romany Gypsies who years ago co-existed quite comfortably within the context of rural England, making things like pegs and baskets, virtually out of fresh-air and the hedgerow, or offering a useful service such as knife-grinding. Travelling and stopping has become nearly impossible, with so many laws that make this and doorstep selling difficult; now, even remaining static in their family groups is almost as impossible!
Local authorities are trying to do their bit, I feel, but as ever, once they do their assessments, find a suitable plot of land, which is not easy to say the least, the big hitch in the process is the general public’s resentment. Whilst acknowledging the need for site provision, there is still a strong element of NIMBYISM.
How about we all try and turn things around? Instead of dwelling on possible negatives, perhaps, for the sake of their children and grandchildren especially, we should do our bit to accentuate the positive.
Hey!  I hear some Romany Gypsy or Irish Traveller families are settling in near us! I would so like to know more about them and their fascinating culture first-hand. What you see on TV and read in the papers is probably not a fair representation. I shall make a real effort to make them welcome and help them fit in with our community. I’m dying to find out about what the older members can remember of times gone by!
You can compose your own version of course.

Do some follow-up comments come along from the listening public? (I am still listening to the programme, so watch this space...!)
POST SCRIPT: No, apparently there was little negative response this time, for whatever reason.



  1. Waiting on tenterhooks to hear the comments from listeners! It all sounded entirely reasonable and sensible to me, though. Well done, Miriam!

  2. Hello Miriam, Well spoken out .....'tis not a subject which can be rectified easily due to widening rich/poor gaps, I am in the middle of all this ...regarded as someone with status and money by the "travelers" and looked upon as an eccentric traveler by "the city 9 to 5 ers", The law is the law along with supply and demand and I feel the "living off the land" folk will only be appreciated when the power goes off for many weeks..... land is not being made any more so people with the money WILL be able to buy it which will force more generations of rural craft workers to move about and so cause problems for the land owners. I have always said that every village should adopt a traveler family ....BUT there by lies the problem because most villages are owned by wealthy families who will for years still think people who make and grow things are from a past era .. I must say at this point that if people who are on the road or have a secluded piece of land just kept it as that and did not increase the head fall it could work but a lot of the time one or two travelers get permission to use/stay on a piece of land in the woods and after a few months there are many families there which will rightfully so upset the apple cart. I know of many travelers who have settled in a wooded bit of land very successfully because they have kept it small and just for themselves and I know the council go to them for advice on issues of travelers. Pete the Waggon

  3. Hi Miriam, Listened to your interview via the net. Well done! The issues of prejudice and stereotypes that Travellers are dealing with are very similar to the issues Canada's native populations are experiencing.
    Your efforts to educate and move the debate away from the stereotypical and the community's efforts to include Travellers in the discussion about their future are to be commended. Good luck as the work continues.

  4. Jenny, Ernie, Pete and Donna! Thank you so much for your interesting and positive comments - so good to know that people from all over the place are reading and listening!