The Stories of the Dale Farm Travellers
In 2009, I first visited the Dale Farm Travellers Site in Essex, South-East England. Travellers are historically a much misunderstood community in the UK and their desire to live in trailers, as a community causes a great deal of prejudice. By the time I arrived, the Dale Farm community had become notorious for the size of their trailer site, which the surrounding settled community saw as a threat. As it was not far from where I grew up I went to see them, hoping to come away with a few photographs. Although it wasn't easy to gain access to the deeply private community who have know a lifetime of prejudice from settled people, I was lucky enough to meet two extraordinary women and their families - Barbara Sheridan who with her husband John was living on the site with their with their three young children, and Jean Sheridan who, as well as bringing up her young daughter Viviana, had just given birth to triplet sons Richard, John Button and David two weeks before I met her. After months of getting to know them, drinking tea, helping out with reading and writing for the largely illiterate families while sharing our lives we gradually developed a deep trust and affection.
Through seven (so far) bleak English winters and hundreds of long, hopeless days, I have documented Barbara and Jean and their family's changing lives. It is a far cry from the famed idea of television's Big Fat Gypsy Weddings where Travellers live are depicted as leading extravagant lives with vast amounts of money and cars. Instead it is a life of prejudice, evictions, hard graft, tradition and a struggle to continue an age-old lifestyle in an increasingly fast moving world.
These photographs are a portrait of the warm family life and complex new world facing my friends, the Sheridans of Dale Farm, proud members of a much derided and little understood community and, for me personally, it is a document of two unexpected friendships that have changed my life.