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It is understood, however, that hedgehogs are not rationed. Lacking a political voice or a representative body Gypsy Travellers responded to this entrenchment of stereotypes not by challenging them but by working within their parameters. Travellers, equating a right to travel with spurious definitions of blood purity. It was not until the s and the formation of the Gypsy Council that Gypsy Travellers as a community found a collective voice, one which tried to assert that all had a right to travel and that nomadism did have a place in modern Britain.

While it scored some early successes, notably in the Caravan Sites Act, its influence both within and outside the travelling community has declined over recent years and has failed to dislodge the enduring stereotypes surrounding Gypsies.


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We may wonder at the dresses and tut over wedding venues cancelling bookings when they find they are to host a Traveller wedding, but this translates into neither an understanding of the place of Gypsy Travellers in British society nor positive political action. Living in an ex-scrapyard by the side of a busy dual carriageway, the Dale Farm homes are immaculate trailers from which furniture-selling businesses are run.

Katharine’s recommended reads

Vulnerable through their lack of romantic visual appeal and unable to attract political representation, Travellers are facing the active prejudice not just of Basildon Council but of councils across the country, which decide not only that Travellers may not stay on their own land, but are also determined that there is no place for a Traveller community within its district.

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An interview with Katharine Quarmby

They are reviled. For centuries the Roma have wandered Europe; during the Holocaust half a million were killed.


  • Katharine Quarmby.
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  • They found places to settle down—but then, as Occupy was taking over Wall Street and London, the vocal Dale Farm community was evicted from their land. Many did not leave their homes quietly; they put up a legal—and at times physical—fight. Katharine Quarmby, an award-winning journalist who has reported on Gypsies and Travellers in The Economist for the past seven years, takes us into the heat of the battle, following the Sheridan, McCarthy, Burton and Townsley families before and after the eviction, from Dale Farm to Meriden, in the heart of England, and other trouble spots.

    Based on exclusive access and rich historical research, No Place to Call Home is a deeply moving and stunning narrative of long-sought justice. She has been named a finalist for the prestigious Paul Foot Prize for her campaigning reports, and produced documentary films for the BBC.

    Meet the Gypsy entrepreneurs | The Spectator

    The fine April morning suited Essex, particularly this part of the Essex countryside, where the garden centres and the houses start to run out until you turn a corner on a dusty, hole-pocked road and find yourself in view of a Traveller site. The man in the trilby was Grattan Puxon, who had been campaigning for Traveller sites for over forty years before this trip in to visit Dale Farm. Dale Farm, billed by the authorities and the media as the largest encampment of Gypsies and Travellers in Britain, sprawled over several acres and was home to about one thousand people.

    Some of the pitches had barbed wire running along their perimeters. Grattan turned right onto the grandly named Camellia Drive and came to a cream-coloured chalet set in an immaculate pitch, which was decked out with flowers in pots. A low, red brick wall with statues of lions proudly sitting on the gateposts greeted you as you approached the home of Mary Ann McCarthy.


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    • Mary Ann, a softly spoken grandmother of seven with dark, carefully set hair, welcomed us into her spotless chalet. Grattan and I sat down on her cream three-piece suite, covered in plastic to protect the fabric, and were offered cups of strong tea.

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      The chalet was tidy and clearly cherished, with alcoves built to show off statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, alongside Mary Ann's Crown Derby china and lovingly dusted wax flowers and fruit. In she had taken the fateful decision to move to Dale Farm. We bought the scrap-yard, one half of it was already passed for planning permission and our relations were living there.

      She was learning how to read for the first time. She and her grandchildren would pore over the easy readers from school, learning together.

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      We can get education, start to use computers and all. These stories make up the heart of the book, and they show us not only how Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers face the same barriers when it comes to setting up home, but how quickly things always seem to degenerate into a rural ethnic stand-off.

      No Place To Call Home

      I wonder why people are so keen to forget this. None of this changes the fact that only 5, pitches for Travellers have been built since , whereas an average of , homes get built in the UK every month. Katharine Quarmby has done an excellent job in observing the current situation around Gypsies and Travellers on the ground.

      I grew up immersed in the actual grass roots politics of the British countryside, in a time when Parish Councils would still think nothing of posting flyers encouraging people to mobilise in order to get the Gypsies out of the village.