Saturday, 18 February 2012

An Open Letter to Channel 4

Dear Channel 4,

I am writing to you with the hope that you will stop ruining my life. While your obsession with my ethnicity is flattering, it has become somewhat apparent to me that you might have gotten the wrong end of the stick. This is sort of awkward for me, because I don't want to be the one to break it to you, but your documentary, 'Big Fat Gypsy Weddings', is unfortunately a work of fiction. There is no need to be embarrassed, it can happen to the best of us, and thus I hope my letter will help you establish the facts, after all I'm sure you are passionate about fighting discrimination against ethnic minorities. Don't be modest now, we know you are...right?

It surprised me to discover that 99% of Britain's Gypsy and Traveller population are Irish. Correct me if I'm wrong, as I am sure you have done lots and lots of research on this topic, but just 10% of the Gypsy andTraveller population are actually Irish Travellers. The majority, like myself, are in fact Romany, yet your 'documentary' seems to ignore our existence. While I have nothing but respect for the Irish Traveller community, you seem to be unaware that we are two distinct ethnic groups and thus there are many differences between our cultures. While Irish Travellers originate from Ireland, we can trace our routes back to India, so it was hardly surprising that I was somewhat confused when you use the word Gypsy in the title of your 'documentary' about Irish Travellers. I was even more confused when your 'documentary' about Irish Travellers seemed to feature an alien culture that even most Irish Traveller's didn't recognise.

You correctly identified that many Gypsy and Traveller children leave school at a young age, however you failed to mention that this is not because we are all born to terrible parents, but because our communities suffer from great social exclusion. State education fails to adapt to anything but mainstream culture, thus we have to contend with a curriculum that is totally irrelevant to our way of life. Moreover, both teachers and students seem ignorant of our cultures, thus we are labelled as troublemakers and bullied for being different. The myths that you have been spreading have not helped matters. Indeed, I was subjected to physical attacks during your last series of your 'documentary' which ultimately led to my expulsion from school (long story), whilst my 12 year old cousin was beat up on her way home from school by a gang of girls who were calling her a prostitute.

As you can see, there are many reasons as to why Gypsy and Traveller children are failing to attend school, but you seem to have forgotten to feature those of us that do stay in education. Take myself, for example, I'm currently at college studying a range of subjects such as, History and Sociology. Moreover, my sister trained to be a hairdresser, my aunty went to university and is now a social worker and some of my cousins completed apprenticeships, thus clearly dropping out of education is not a prerequisite of living in a trailer.

Your 'documentary' has an unhealthy obsession with little girls. While I understand that the outfits worn by some of your younger stars could be considered a little risqué, I see only little girls having fun and dressing up for a special occasion. Your 'documentary' appears to be suggesting that we are inappropriately sexualising our children, yet the only people who are sexualising our children are the viewers who watch them and think they are sexy. In reality, our little girls can mostly be found in velour tracksuits and handmade frilly dresses, so I would suggest you should stop filming little girls dancing if you are finding that this is turning on your viewers.

After watching the last series of your 'documentary' it finally hit me why I was so unlucky in love. I would have been married by now, if only I had known that the key to a women's heart was to sexually assault her using a gypsy courting ritual called 'grabbing'. I asked my brother if he had grabbed his wife, but it turned out he had just asked her out on a date instead. It appears that in reality, no one actually knows what grabbing is, in fact Gypsy and Traveller men actually have a lot of respect for their women after all.

Speaking of love, I've been to many Gypsy and Traveller weddings, but I'm yet to attend a wedding where the bride's dress weighs more than my whole family. Don't get me wrong, I've seen some huge dresses but there is something you need to know: Thelma Madine is lying to you, she's not our dressmaker of choice. In fact, I’m kind of embarrassed for her because no one actually knows who she is and everything she says about us is actually untrue. Basically, you've been conned, so I suggest you find a new spokesperson for the Gypsy and Traveller communities, such as an actual Gypsy or Traveller like my Baba (grandma), she makes some right nice clothes you know.

It's hardly surprising that people are watching your 'documentary' purely to laugh at us, because even I laugh at the monstrosities that Thelma Madine creates. It is a shame that you haven’t featured any Gypsy or Traveller designers because the clothing that we were actually more traditionally known for before your 'documentary', is actually far more interesting than amusing. Last year, Leeds University Union thought it would be okay to laugh at the Gypsy and Traveller communities by hosting a Big Fat Gypsy Weddings fancy dress party. While the union holds events throughout the year to celebrate other ethnic minorities, your 'documentary' encouraged them to incite ethnic hatred. You'll be pleased to know that due to complaints from yours truly and friends, the event was shelved.

You seem to have misunderstood what a documentary about Gypsies should entail. Gypsies (as in Romany Gypsies that are completely different to Irish Travellers, that are like totally not Irish Travellers at all, get it?) are Europe's largest and most deprived ethnic minority. The majority of Romani people have never been to Rathkeale, let alone own houses there. In fact, most live in great poverty and I suggest you read my previous blogs. We suffer from discrimination on a daily basis and our human rights have historically been violated, yet you deem it acceptable to broadcast a misleading 'documentary' that has been made not to raise awareness of our plight but for entertainment. We are not a joke, we are human beings and your work of fiction is only strengthening stereotypes and ignorance.

Unlike those who star in your 'documentary' I am not after 5 minutes of fame, but what I am asking for, is for you to put humans above ratings. You can't ignore us forever.

Yours sincerely,

Pip 


Update:
To see Channel 4's reply please click here

152 comments:

  1. Well said, Pip. I have many friends among the Irish traveller community, most are appalled at the totally inaccurate & disrespectful portraya, on the Channel 4 ''Mockumentary''.
    Best wishes for the future to you & your family, you must make them all very proud.
    KATH

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  2. Once again - total respect to you Pip - tell it like it is pal (a career in journalism beckons?)
    :)

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  3. Great read and an eye opener. Dunno if BFGW encourages ethnic hatred (mind you I don't really watch it except in passing) but it definitely seems to encourage ridicule and you're so spot on about the sexualisation of children. Really glad I read your blog now, very informative. Have shared on Twitter and Facebook.

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  4. Dear Pip, thank you for your well thought out piece, I'm sharing it. I'm not a gypsy/traveler but was just mentioning yesterday how offensive I find the posters that seem to be blasted all over London. Very sorry about the problems that you've faced, I wish you all the best, Kate E.

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  5. Pip

    A very interesting perspective on the BFGW series, it is clearly promoting ridicule and that can't but help cause young people problems at school and major issues for those seeking employment.

    I really can't imagine any other minority group being ridiculed in this way and that those issues becoming water cooler moments the next day. It's shameful and disgusting.


    Alan

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  6. Hi,

    I hope you don't mind me commenting, but I stumbled across this letter via twitter. This is such a well written piece about a ridiculous programme which does nothing but ridicule a community which chooses to live out a different culture from the mainstream British culture. It's really interesting to hear a more honest description of your community, and hopefully Channel 4 will rethink their decision to broadcast a programme which is, in essence, bullying.

    Thanks,
    Fiona

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  7. Excellent post Pip.
    The trash-TV that channel four put out could not be of less interest to me (indeed, I don't own a TV any more. I have the internet!), but when it is socially divisive and intrinsically wrong as BFGW, I start to take interest.
    It baffles me how/why Channel Four could equate Romani & Irish Traveller as the same. I truly can't decide if this was done because "tinker" (the somewhat pejorative nickname the Irish Travellers here in Scotland traditionally had) is less "well known" than "gypsy" (another pejorative), or because the morons at C4 don't actually know that Romani are not Irish-travellers. Could be either, to be honest.

    In truth, I have never met any Irish travellers; I had a best pal in college who was a Romany (welsh kale if i remember correctly) and educated me a bit; he was doing sociology as well.
    We had some good discussions on how we could "fix" the world, repeal the caravan acts of the 1960's etc. and if it would make a difference now, given a lot of romani live in settled accommodation, and the traditional routes have fallen by the wayside nowadays. I view the decimation and discrimination of the romani in the last 100 years as similar to the plight of the jews in eastern europe.
    I'd be interested to hear your views on the problems faced with better integrating traveller/romani (not even getting into the new-age travellers who are a whole other story!) communities with us non-travellers…

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  8. For instance, how can we provide better education for a constantly moving community? Hire teachers to travel with the groups (I don't think that would sit well, although maybe if there were Romani teachers…), or have set-places set aside in regular schools for romani kids, so that they go from one-school to the next, with records emailed across so they can re-integrate with the minimum of fuss. Or perhaps just increased support and funding for homeschooling, so they can be taught by someone in each family with appropriate help/resources given…
    And healthcare? Perhaps have all the families registered under a "roving" system, so they can just make a drop-in at any UK GP, and have the records able to be accessed etc. like a regular patient (the technology exists for this, after all).

    And what about the all-important (from the point of view of local residents) matter of criminal justice. It is an undeniable fact that, like any community, the travellers have a fair share of unscrupulous types, and littering of stopping-places is commonly cited as the number one complaint by locals (along with the ever popular "gypsies nicked out stuff" - I'm inclined to give you all the benefit of the doubt every time, as I know some types who will see that a local site is being occupied, and will go one the steal, happy to leave the blame to the travellers - but it does happen, from time to time)? Would anti-social behaviour from travellers be lessened if traditional stopping places were re-opened, and councils were forced to provide more "approved places"?
    Would self-policing be the answer? (I don't know, so excuse my ignorance; would a travelling group "shun" another, if they knew that group are unpleasant and anti-social? Would they report them to the police? (I don't blame them if they wouldn't - the police are rarely friends to any travellers). Would "fast-track" justice, so when wrong-doing is seen, it is dealt with very quickly, be better, so the local settled folks are reassured that every traveller group the see are just thieves & vandals that will scarper before the cops do anything??

    Sorry if any of this offends, and sorry it's such a long post, but I was having a long conversation with someone about a local stopping place that a group of irish-travellers have recently arrived at (traditional - been using it for decades if not longer) and the usual problems the local community seem to have…
    Thought you might have a different perspective on it…

    Cheers

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  9. Pip,

    Well done, mush. Good on ya, as the Ozzies would say. Your writing style is absolutely great and a credit to you. And it does not take a university degree to be a journalist, even though the eggheads may like to say so. I am one - though not as yet as my full time day job - and never went to school.

    Kushti bok...

    Michael (Veshengro)

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    1. Couldn't believe C4's ad "Bigger, fattier, gypsier"! What everybody else said.

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    2. I know... I am glad that the ASA is going to have a look into it. I hope they give C4 a real good wrap over the knuckles.

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  10. I was on about the billboard adverts the other day 'bigger, fatter, gypsier' which really
    f-cked me off. Whilst I am neither an Irish traveller or of a Romany background it just appeared to be out and out racism. (Actually I'm from Sheffield originally and waiting with anticipation 'Dafter, stupider more Northerner' with a fat guy in a pigeon loft masturbating with a ferret down his trousers as the banner advert).

    I cannot be bothered to run through titles for other racial stereotypes but it is fair to say Channel 4 wouldn't even dream of running a stream of adds on that line. I am sure Channel 4 will suggest that I have to see 'Bigger, fatter, gypsier' within context. Simply looking at those words plastered across a billboard is not enough to see the subtlety of what they are really saying which is of course after hundreds of years of pogroms, genocide, marginalisation, bigotry and inhuman treatment we at channel 4 are attempting to reposition this community at the centre of British culture.


    Tell you what let's do a documentary of the producer, directors and commissioning editors of the series where we can see their quite insignificant lives parodied whilst opening up their children to possible sexual abuse, bullying and innuendo and go with the working title:

    Bigger - C-untier even more channel 4ier

    Regards

    Frank

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  11. Well i come from Ukraine and i used to go school with gipsy girl who later become my very good friend . she was from Romania and i know that many gipsy come from Romania .
    and i verno never see such a gipsy wedding . MY friend got married at 15 and it was traditional gipsy wedding but not even close what they showing on Channel 4

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    1. this is bullshit. what do you mean "a lot of gipsies come from romania" ??? in romania are just as many gipsies as anywhere else. romanians have a hard time living with gipsies, as, let's face it, any other nation in europe. just because the name of the two resemble (romanians vs. romany) a lot of uneducated rednecks think they are the same. while romanians are latin people related to the french, italians and spanish, the romany (gipsies) come from india. and they have absolutely nothing in common.

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  12. I'd like to comment on you mentioning the program accusing travelling communities of 'inappropriately sexualising' [sic] little girls. As far as I am aware the documentary does not have any sort of editorial line or narrative on any subject they deal with- as all good documentaries should - leaving the viewer to form their own opinion on what they are seeing. I would suggest that if you find the images of 'younger' girls looking 'risqué' sexual then it's probably an issue you should raise with yourself rather than the documentary makers.

    Lots of love, Mike Ford.

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    1. Well did you actually watch it, Mike? Doesn't seem so as you just make an assumption about C4's editorial policy.

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    2. I don't see why you put the [sic] next to Pip's 'inappropriately sexualising' quote Mike as there is nothing wrong with the spelling, punctuation, or grammar of that sentence, unless you simply meant to ridicule or belittle his accusation in the first place.

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    3. Mike Ford, it's all in the edit, don't be so naive.

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  13. It's sad that people can't see this programme for what it is, a skewed piece of titillation for the masses to mock. I'm sure that the gypsy community is just as diverse as any other community, and that the BFGW people are no more representative of gypsies than the girls on TOWIE are typical Essex girls.

    It is worrying that this is seen as ok, you wouldn't see C4 filming a Jewish/Muslim/Hindu/other minority wedding for the sole purpose of the rest of the world going omg hahaha, look at the state of them. I've seem similarly gaudy weddings from white british non-minority people, as I am sure that many gypsy weddings are much more dignified affairs.

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    1. Absolutely! My feelings exactly! When I first watched BFGW, I was expecting to watch a documentary on real Romany culture - instead I was befuddled by images, events and people bearing no resemblance to any Roma I have seen, met, heard of or read about, in any country! Its dangerous nonsense - and highly offensive. I have always been the first to defend Romany and Gypsy communities against ignorant, bigoted derision, as I am myself of Roma decent . . . however I struggled to find anything to endear me to this tribe of Irish travellers (same faces in every episode you notice) who - whilst they too have their place in society - do nothing to strengthen the cause or improve peoples perception and understanding of gypsy and traveller culture.

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  14. @channel4 & @FirecrackerFilm should hear this sort of protest direct. Channel 4 is getting a bit of flack but the programme is made by Friecracker Films. Get onto it, clictivists!

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  15. Excellent post. When I saw the posters I struggled to find words enough to voice my dismay at such an obvious display of racism, not to mention my disdain for the posters which seem to imply that the sexulisation of children is OK when fuelled by racial mockery in the name of entertainment.

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  16. I agree with most of that except the parts about education.

    It is appallingly hard to teach children anything who are frequently only on the school rolls for a term or so, are frequently absent even then, and frequently fail to register with a new school when they move areas.

    The traveller children I teach at the moment disrupt almost every lesson in the day, declaring they don't need to learn anything because "all travellers leave school at 14, and never need to read or do any maths". We get no support from the parents - they are the ones who gave their children the idea.

    A few years ago, in a previous school, we accepted a large number of traveller children onto our rolls. They all attended exactly one week per half term, because that was what was required to prevent prosecution of the parents. That same rate of attendance triggered a formal HMI review of the school.

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    1. Perhaps HMI should be looking widerthan just atone school and tothe whole issueoftraveller education.

      Schools are outdated childprocessing factories, no wonder kids witha bit of spirit dont want to go to them.

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    2. Hecate - do you have any suggestion as to how the nations children should be educated if schools are just child processing factories?
      I am a teacher and am happy to have lively debate and discussion/drama/presentations/computers all going on in my Geography classes however there is a difference between a child being spirited and a child disrupting their own education and the education of the other children in the class. Every child has the right to an education and every teacher has the right to be able to get on with their job and teach. x

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    3. A friend of mine is a teacher and she dreads having traveller children in her class as they generally , no , always fight andf act disruptively. Much of the prejudice towards travellers is brought on by themselves. Most kids dont beat up other kids to earn some sort of respect for themselves.

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    4. I first heard "Irish Traveller" when Madelyn Toogood was caught on tape beating her child in a parked car. She gave the fear of coming forward as a traveller as the reason she didn't turn herself in sooner. I have been trying to suss out this culture ever since. I get being misunderstood--I`m a Mormon (not the most understood religion and culture) so I am willing to give benefit of doubt. I have come to think that you need to recognize that stereotypes and cliches exist for a reason. Clearly, many people lumped in this culture DO STEREOTYPE BEHAVIOR. People in my culture do it, too.

      I enjoyed this post, but I have to agree that as a whole, education in this culture seems woefully lacking and not stressed at all...especially for girls. I've been scouring the Internet looking for posts and comments from proclaimed gypsies/travellers/etc. and my jaw dropped (gratefully) at the articulation in this post. I myself, make grammatical and editing mistakes all the time but usually the writing, spelling, and grammar is so poor I can think of only two other posts (and even less commentary) that I could even read. It is sad to me, but this young man gives me a lot of hope. Good job!

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    5. Snow flows over a quiet village cheap wow gold; Doves fly across a gloomy sky.Two names are carved deep on a birch; They promised to stay in love all their life.One day war broke out in their homeland.The lad picked up a gun to go to the front.“Don't worry for me,sweetheart.”
      “Wait for me in the birch wood.”he said.Doves are still flying across the same gloomy sky.

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  18. Well said, Pip. Once again you have highlighted many important issues, written with great intelligence and eloquence. I think Chanel 4 is no different from most media outlets - they don't let the truth get in the way of a good story. Unfortunately a great many people don't have the capacity to think for themselves and will believe any rubbish they see on TV or newspapers.

    Yours,

    Alan McGinn

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  19. Thank you for writing this blog Pip, I found it very interesting.
    I already knew that BFGW was total trash tv and reflected in no way on the Romani or indeed most of the Irish travellers.
    I watch it mainly to see the dresses that get made as the designs are just so "out there" it actually inspires some of my jewellery.

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  20. The Canadian government is introducing policies that discriminate against Romani refugees from Hungary /Romania because those countries are "safe", which mean they are also democratically elected governments who oppress inconvenient minorities.

    Nomadic cultures are not well regarded by sedentary governments. In Canada, that is because education and health care are provincial responsibilities that require residency for longer than most nomadic families spend in any one province. Thus children go uneducated, unvaccinated and unaccounted-for.

    We talk a good talk about being inclusive and accepting, but, in fact, the wretched human need to feel superior t someone else expresses itself in e persecution of those more unusual than the mean.

    Good for you for speakinig out.

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    1. Canada has suffered from a loop hole created after the 1957 uprising for Humgarian citizens. Gypsies have been pooring into Canada and once again we return to the same situation of , if they didn't piss peopel off they would be accepted. When will it dawn on travelling people that if they didn't steal. didn't fight and didn't shit the place up , people woudl have no problem with them

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  21. MIKE FORD(?) "As far as I am aware the documentary does not have any sort of editorial line or narrative on any subject they deal with- as all good documentaries should..." Hahahah, YOU WISH. Who is this patsy/stooge kidding? (or working for...? Firecracker or C4?)
    1) this tosh is hardly a 'documentary', as so brilliantly pointed out by Pip.
    2) there is a CLEAR narrative line, and it shouts out mockery and some sort of tawdry, unimaginative, false stereotype, clumsily invented by patently inferior minds, for the vapid amusement of societies lowest elements.

    Unfortunately this kind of crap gets the best ratings. In fact, this turgid little exercise in scatology that passes for TV is almost considered a holy grail in Soho circles; Big Fat Gypsy Wedding is the envy of every shlock producer in London. And while these fetid intellectual dwarves sit around Groucho and congratulate each other, television is losing customers by hour. If we let them continue, pretty soon TV will become extinct, and we will all have to make do by hunting and pecking online.
    Ask these questions - what kind of guttersnipes are running TV in the UK these days? And why are they still employed? All they do by targeting the LCD, is shrink the general audience, and screw up TV for everyone else. In any business, if you are losing customers you fire the people in charge. GET THEM OUT, THE LOT OF THEM! Forget St Pauls, OCCUPY TV!

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  22. Im Irish, I live in England and am not a gypsy, I have nothing against them and the fact most Irish people are accused of being gypsies is a joke, if channel 4 did a documentary about black people, encouraging the stereotypes then it would get many complaints, seems unfair.

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    1. there are lots of documentaries that encourage stereotypes of many cultures including black people... and its all crap! hence the reason I dont have TV anymore... theyve even done a documentary on the colour of our poo! hahaha... you have to laugh with bewilderment to people who subcribe to this trash! Maybe it would be good to set up a 'Real Society' group that makes documentaries on "real' living, it might not have as much "entertainment" value but it would be good to put up against any trashy crap that pops up on TV, to protest or expose the almost sycofantic editorial delivery of these documentaries! I am an artits/film-maker etc.. and im sure between a group of us we could do this :-)

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  23. What an excellent blog post. I no longer live in the UK and am glad to be away from the sort of trash that gets pumped out on mainstream TV (and the subsequent ripples it creates at the shared cultural level), so I've not seen anything of this series. I have seen some of the previous series, and I am very glad to have come across this riposte to C4's appalling programming.

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  24. Completely brilliant. Channel 4 produces some utter crap under the guise of documentaries. Whilst it hasn't lead to me being persecuted or anything like the effects you've mentioned in this post, the programme Supersize V Superskinny is incredibly damaging to those of us fighting eating disorders, and makes an entertainment about our misery. I'm pretty embarrassed now to admit I've seen every episode of BFGW... there needs to be some sort of rebuttal, something showing the other side.

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  25. Well said, well done, your community need more representatives like yourself, good luck

    Pip

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  26. Good piece, Pip; but sadly, it won't change anything.

    If Big Fat Gypsy Weddings continues to get high ratings, then Channel 4 will keep recommissioning it. And even if Channel 4 drop it, the format will be picked up by another channel. If enough people are happy to watch it, then it will continue being shown.

    As it is, I think that the best thing that Channel 4 or Firecracker could do would be to make clear that the communities they show are a minority, and not a true reflection of the vast majority of gypsies' lives. They clearly don't force their subjects to act or dress or think they way they do; but it is wrong to claim that any of it is representative of most gypsies or travellers.

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  27. Well said young man, a spot on analysis. A credit to your culture.

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  29. This was great, I never questioned my thoughts on the travelling community and it seems that until now I've really been under a blanket of social opinion as to what being a gypsy is. Maybe you should try to get your own documentary commissioned? Or find someone with the right power and motive to do it, I'd like to learn more.

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  30. I came across your blog, accidently, via Twitter. I'm in America and have watched the program you're referring to with amazement and sadly, just a little bit of horror. Thank you for setting the record straight and giving me a better understanding of how things really are. Like any reality show, the producers are out to make money by twisting the truth to their benefit. What about those folks they feature in the show? Are they paid for their involvement? Do they not care how they and their culture are portrayed?

    I'll revisit your blog. Your writing is excellent and very informative. Keep up the good work.

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  31. Wonderful blog. I've only seen portions of this show and it just felt wrong to me. I'm so glad you've exposed it for what it is. Reading about the escalation of bullying against you and your family is heartbreaking. :(

    You're a wonderful writer. Keep it up.

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  32. It was so good to read this Pip. I am what they call a 'new' traveller (I lived on a boat for 15 years and I've been in a trailer for 7 or 8). I worked hard for all that time and even managed to train as a teacher 13 years ago. But no-one I worked with or studied with ever believed me at first, because they thought I was so 'normal' and I didn't fit their stereotype of the new-age traveller (stoned and on income support - I never did either...). I always stand up for all groups of travelling people, Romani, Irish, Showmans and New but still I see racist and hateful stuff even from my 'friends'. And it makes me so mad.
    The media are so biased. Recently I took part in a TV show, also C4 and guess what? Yes, all the stereotypes were all over the TV guides and the papers. Not one mentioned the fact that I've worked and paid tax for my whole adult life, or that I'm respected and known in my field for some really specialist expertise. Even the editors of the programme cut out all mention of my respectable background. No, it was all the same old rubbish.
    So I hope you don't mind, but I've shared your blog on FB, and I'll look forward to reading more of your thoughtful and desperately needed wisdom. Because unless we quiet ones make some noise, no-one will know we are here!

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  33. Good thing someone has finally told it like it is. I wonder if Channel 4 will take note. It's clearly exaggerated. It gets the rating but at what cost? Good luck at college Pip

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  34. Really well said! You are obviously an intelligent guy. Your writing is informative and coherent. I would be interested to know if you got a response from channel 4.
    Keep up the good work!

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  35. I'm really glad I stumbled upon you blog, via twitter, because it has really opened my eyes. I have watched every episode of BFGW and I never really questioned the reality of what I was being shown. I'm ashamed now to realise that the show doesn't reflect the real lives of the traveller community and has made me question a lot of preconceived ideas I had.

    I've grown up in a very closed community & have never had any connection with travellers. The first time I saw any travellers was when I went to university and then I absorbed the opinions of my friends, who had had some contact with them, and were very derogatory towards the travellers. This was also around the time the first series of BFGW was released and, unfortunately, this has formed the basis of my beliefs about travellers. I feel that I am not alone in this regard, as I'm sure most viewers will believe that what they are watching is the truth. This will only continue the racism and injustice and will just fuel tv channels to produce more programmes like this.

    After reading your blog, and realising how naive I've been, I'm not going to watch any more BFGW. I know it's only one more person turning off, but I also plan to point my friends towards this blog. I look forward to reading more in the future.

    Good luck!

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  36. Thank you Pip - it is only through communicatin like this that ignorance can be changed - keep up the writing, you have talent :) Pip x

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  37. Brilliant, brilliant. I will Tweet this to everyone I can till the whole world has read it!!

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  38. It is an odious programme, and the billboards are shocking. In Leeds, someone has amended them so they now read "Bigger, Fatter, Gypsier. More racist". Spot on post, well said.

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  39. Verey well written Pip.I just wish that Ch4 gave a damn. Maybe you will wake them up, I do hope so.

    Best of luck with your own future Pip

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  40. I can appreciate that you don't live your life in the way that the programme makers make out, but some travellers do. The show is called my big fat gypsy wedding for a reason. They want to see big weddings done in the gypsy/traveller style. They don't want to see 'My small RomanyGypsy Wedding' If it is the Irish traveller community that offer the best chance for a tv programme, then that is who they will follow.

    I can understand that you feel victimised by this programme as you feel it is far removed from your life. But you have at many times showed the distinction between Romany and Irish Travellers. This programme is not about you. The Irish travellers are called Gypsy as well so they do deserve to use the title in a show, primarily, about them.

    As for the school argument, what would you do bout it? The law of the land is that you go to school till 16. If your family moves around a lot then how can you blame the education system for failing you? It is clear that it is then the traveller community that basically fail the education system. Kids are moved into new schools and classes and because of that fact the traveller children are unsettled in new schools. This then leads to disruptive behaviour (using your troublemaker label here) and actually causes the rest of the pupils to suffer.

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    1. I'm sad to see people blaming travellers outright for their bad experience of the education system. As a Traveller myself, and a teacher in state education (primary, secondary and further education) for the last 13 years I think I have a pretty good overview of the situation. Yes, there are difficult Traveller pupils in school, but there are far more who don't come from that background that make life in the classroom a misery for others. I have taught Romany, Showman's Guild, Irish and New Traveller children and very few of them were ever disruptive or badly behaved despite some of the appalling things provocation by non-traveller bullies. (And it isn't just the pupils - I have put up with really inappropriate comments from colleagues on several occasions, even in staff meetings about Travellers in general). Perhaps I had no problems with teaching them because I understood them and they found they could respect me? But getting qualified as a teacher if you come from this background is pretty impossible when people with your attitude abound in Britain.
      You clearly have NO idea how difficult it is to get continuity in healthcare, education and social service when you are moved from pillar to post by unwelcoming councils. In the past, Travelling families had circuits which took them from one place of work to the next (harvesting, farm work, building, you name it), Now all that work is done by cheap immigrant labour and the Travelling people of this land are marginalised and no longer useful. By the time the school have sorted out the paperwork to admit the child, the council are evicting. So no wonder they find it difficult to integrate.
      And FYI there is no law requiring any child to attend school until 16. Though education is compulsory in the UK for children between the ages of five and sixteen, school is not. Perhaps if there was more support and encouragement for Travellers by people like you, this vicious cycle could be broken and itinerant teachers from within the Travelling community could be recruited, trained and employed.

      Delete
    2. I think you hit the nail on the head gerrymcc, its always someone elses fought and of course, could never be the fault of travellers.

      Delete
  41. Fab post! I was once a believer of all things channel 4 fed me, but then I became wise. I blogged about it too. Give it a read :-)

    http://marieclaireneaves.wordpress.com/2011/09/10/everyone-loves-an-underdog/

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  42. A very well structured, well articulated piece. I felt I learned something very useful and in some parts, quite profound.

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  43. I never thought Big Fat Gypsy Wedding was any more real than TOWIE - just a bit of a laugh at some inappropriately dressed people. I never thought it was representative and it always struck me as odd that none of the participants were actually Gypsy (despite the title).

    I had no idea that people thought it really was representative of your community, or worse, that you experienced racist abuse because of it. That's terrible!

    Thank you for explaining so eloquently why this show is so wrong (I can't believe you're only 17. Perhaps you should be a writer?).

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  44. I also found the title "Bigger, fattier, gypsier"! offensive and I am a fan of many C4 docs, so was completely taken aback by this. I have never watched an episode as I just thought it all looked a bit 'sad'. I think this is one of the main gripes isn't it.. that channel 4 are basically making 'gypsies' out to be daft. It is thoroughly demeaning. I hope the show gets pulled and a more accurate and aware programme replaces it. Saw this photo and thought it summed it up frankly. https://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.php?fbid=10100469382826829&set=a.798920870989.2507838.197800060&type=1&theater

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  45. Great post, good for you for speaking out. I hate the billboards in particular. Hope Channel Four takes note.

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  46. I shouldn't worry, most of 'us people' don't believe all of what comes onto our television screens; even when it comes to documentaries that are so called factual.

    Unfortunately there are those in society, living on planet earth, uneducated haters, stuck in the dark ages; that make it their destiny to make the lives of others an uncomfortable one, full of conflict and non integration.

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  47. Hi Pip,

    A brilliant, thought-provoking, insightful, intelligent and caring letter. I think you will certainly raise the profile of the discrimination, although (cynically?) I doubt Channel 4 will do anything.

    Best wishes,

    Barry

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  48. Good post, I ve worked with Travellers from multiple backgrounds and traditions for a decade and agree that this is bs tv, sadly thats what most of it is. Since your studying sociology you ll find Pierre Bourdieu's book "On Television" useful. We ll need to stand up and resist
    PIPA, SOPA and ACTA or the internet will go the same way - a space of corporate censorship and sensationalist bs.

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  49. Well said and many very valid points made. I strongly hope that more people continue to raise these points and that Channel 4 are held to account for instigating hatred.

    I have worked a lot in Romania in the last few years and I have seen first hand the social exclusion of gypsies there - in Bucharest it is like they are ghosts or invisible, much of the time. Out towards the coast though, you do see huge gypsy houses, though still on the outskirts of towns it seems.

    Given how much the EU bang on about racism/equality, it shocks me that the Romany racial group is treated so badly all the way across Europe. Channel 4 had an excellent opportunity here to raise questions about this and draw attention to it, but alas, they went for sensationalism and the promotion of unhelpful stereotypes.

    rich

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  50. Well said, Pip. Good article. Channel 4 continues to evolve away from its origins as a public service broadcaster meant to broaden minds. It has long been a populist channel largely showing the worst kind of crap. With nothing like your eloquence, I've gone for a simple sight gag - juxtaposing a description of the stated Channel 4 mission with the poor taste of the poster used to promote this bloody awful programme:

    http://thisismyengland.blogspot.com/2012/02/stay-classy.html

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  51. Well done,it just sums it all up,but will they listen,lets hope so,keep fighting....

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  52. Hi Pip I have shared and tweeted your excellent blog which I hope will be read by many. Are you sending it to newspapers such as Guardian? I do think you should. This needs to be seen nationally sooner rather than later

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  53. You are an excellent example of an honest young man and some day will be a great husband and father. Then you can pass down the truth about your culture and traditions. Unfortunately the truth does not sell. Regardless of what it is the media will always add their own opinions and perceptions. I understand that you are in the UK and since I am across the pond in the USA I am not sure if there is the same infatuation or obsession with beauty pageants over there but here parents are allowed to dress their 4 year old little girls up in sexy revealing cloths make up and parade them around in front of cameras and adults. To me this is child abuse but the law does not see it that way. I applaud you Pip and wish you the best and the strength to keep true to yourself. Blessed Be.

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  54. Great post, Pip. Thank you for getting me thinking and reflecting on my own biases and lack of knowledge.

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  55. First class Pip. It's time for us to stand up on this issue. I come from a "settled" community. That "settled" community appear to watch this particular programme to either gloat or reinforce their narrow minded prejudices. It's always easy to look down on other groups and in some way helps makes them feel superior. Foolish notions. I concvur with you on so many points. Who am I to judge anyone or group on their behaviour, especially on the basis of cleverly constructed footage designed to demean or ridicule others. Congratulations on a well constructed piece. I am certainly behind you in your campaign to expose a production company and a TV network's manipulation and deception.

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  56. Have C4 really set out to maliciously stereotype the Traveller community? Or have they just produced an entertaining documentary on the cultural practices of a small minority of this community? After all, the show is fundementally about WEDDINGS - it's not meant to be profound social commentary. It's unfair to call it fiction. There's no actors. No stooges. These events happened, and just because the majority of the travelling community doesn't relate, it's unfair to suggest that the show's producers have therefore set out to manipulate or deceive viewers. Does racial stereotyping increase after the airing of a documentary on, say, a miniscule minority of extremist Muslims? Probably. Doesn't mean the broadcaster should be crucified for putting it out. The purpose of BFGW was surely never to educate the public on the social and political persecution of Irish Traveller or Gypsy communities, so it can't be judged by those criteria. It's an entertainment show: that's it's remit. Granted, it is tainted by sensationalism, as almost all documentaries are (whether in the form of fear-mongering or in this case 'ridicule' as you put it). If the general public is ignorant enough to view this programme as a typical cross-section of Traveller life then the answer is MAKE MORE DOCUMENTARIES.

    Having said that, maybe C4 should consider a disclaimer at the start of each episode that says something along the lines of "C4 does not intend to suggest that the cultural practices portrayed in this film are typical of the Travelling community at large, but are instead specific to certain minorities within this community.". Bullying and victimization is a problem. I grew up with very close family friends who were of Romany Gypsy descent. Although their family was settled, they were still bullied at school as a result.... the real problem is the inherent mistrust within the general population of the travelling community and anyone who doesn't adhere to the 'normal' social structures. Again, the answer has to be education. Documentaries that focus on what it's actually like to be a Traveller living in the UK today. BFGW didn't fail to do this, because it never set out to. More knowledge = less fear = less persecution.

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    Replies
    1. Nobody is, as you put it, being "crucified" for broadcasting this documentary.

      Nobody is saying it's wrong, immoral, illegal.

      Merely that it's an unfair portrayal.

      Re your point about the documentary not being "fiction", of course you are right to say the events happened and there are no actors or stooges. But this completely misses the point of Pip's words. Everything we watch on the television is a *representation*, whether it's true or not.

      It is this representation which is divisive and unfair, not the actual *truth* of the documentary.

      Sure, I could make a documentary about how all women are manipulative, weak, and pathetic. I could choose women to star in this documentary who were manipulative, weak, and pathetic. My documentary wouldn't be "lying", but it would be "misrepresentation".

      In fact I'm sure my documentary would even be entertaining. Would you argue that, because it's entertaining, that makes it okay?

      Or what about your point that if people are stupid enough to believe it, we should make more documentaries?

      Of course, nobody clever does believe these things - but the people watching it are not clever, they are stupid, and such programmes live to serve their prejudices.

      Whatsmore it stirs up hatred. As Pip mentioned, his family have taken a lot of abuse as a result of these kinds of prejudice.

      The issue in question here is "representation".

      Channel 4 have got it wrong. Very wrong.

      Delete
  57. I arrived here through Facebook.

    This such a well written piece...I really do hope you have sent it to Channel 4. BFGW is not a documentary in any sense that I understand the word. It is a cheap maagazine piece designed to give viewers a shocked laugh at the expense of the participants. Well, that is OK, the participants made their choice, but the rest of the gypsy communities didn't get a choice about it...and they are the ones who suffer for it.

    Have you considered trying to find someone who would make a documentary, a proper one, I mean. It would be a really interesting programme, whether it took form of, say, something like My Transsexual Summer (which was very well received within the trans community of which I part), or as a kind history lesson, tracing back to the roots, looking at different types of gypsies, distinguishing them from other kinds of travellers, and looking at how they are treated across the world (thinking here about Sarkhozy's occasional rants) and how much it hurts. And dealing with the inevitable bad apples in the gypsy communities.

    We have to fight persecution until "they" either get the message that it is bad thing or until "they" run out of whipping boys.

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    Replies
    1. East Sussex Traveller Education produced a short dvd, "My big fat gypsy stereotype". It s low budget but useful corrective.

      Delete
  58. thank you for putting another perspective, I feel better informed and hope Channel Four follow up in some way - trouble is your story is just a bit too positive to pull in the voyeurs who keep the viewing figures up

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  59. Hi Pip,

    Read your blog, it's a great read! I agree with the points you raise and recently attended an Editorial Ethics workshop at channel 4. I think if the general public actually knew how much T.V. fakery there was behind this new wave of 'Reality' T.V. then their viewing would be much smaller.

    It's surprising they are getting away with calling these shows documentaries, they are no more factual than your average soap opera.

    I thought you should at least know that there are people out there trying to banish these stereotypes, here is a film made by a company in London that tries to raise awareness about how false those stereotypes are http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jce8UnyaZpU

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A brilliant piece, thank you. I did some research into your community for a book I wrote a couple of years ago, and found nothing that remotely related to the Channel Four "documentary". More power to your elbow.

      Delete
  60. Hi Pip,

    Thankyou. My family is Romany descent, though we settled several generations ago, we're still immensely proud of our heritage and of our family. I've been ranting since the series started and hope Channel 4 have the common sense to respond appropriately.

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  61. Just read this after someone tweeted a link to it ... superb mate, all the best.

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  62. Well done Pip, an excellently written piece that any responsible broadcaster would feel shamed by.

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  63. Great blog. I can't wait to have the time to do some more back reading. Almost a year ago I wrote up an article about the series from my point of view, an American living in France. http://www.5sizes2small.com/wristflick/france/my-big-fat-gypsy-wedding-an-eyeopener/

    It's good to read that things aren't just as they are presented in the series.

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  64. Thank you for drawing extra, and wonderfully eloquent attention to channel fours COMPLETE lack of social responsibility! Very well said x

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  65. You are an articulate, intelligent young man and brave to put this out there. I always found BFGW perplexing at best, offensive at worst. Unfortunately, Channel 4 has a habit of somewhat disturbing 'documentaries' and reality tv shows. Only the other day I was wondering whether the series 'Playing it straight' might have been a step too far yet again, this time into an odd, homophobic game show.

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  66. Just wanted to say well done. For not pandering to their view that persons within your ethnic group are just a band of juvenile heathens and nothing more. A brilliantly written piece of writing that exposes all the loop holes with ease and effectiveness. It was a joy to read, thanks for contributing your views to the public sphere, I think many people would benefit from reading this.

    Sam

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  67. wow soo damn right you should do a documentary yourself on the true facts of this matter as what you have written was very refreshing and eye opening, maybe people will realize now that it is all a farce I actually live in ireland in dublin and have not come across anything of the sort of thing which has been shown on tv.

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  68. What an interesting post. Thanks for sharing.

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  69. Hi Pip,

    I just wanted to take the time to comment your Blog post. It has really made me think and to me that means really good writing skills. You are very talented I feel and the way you get your points across is very proffessional. You should be very proud that you are getting the words and message across to lots of web users.
    I hope you don't mind but I have re-blogged your post on my own (Obviously all credited back to you and your blog - So hopefully a few more people will read it)
    You can read my blog post that related to your own here:
    www.jessicaeharper.blogspot.com

    I hope you enjoy it and find that I have tried to be fair. I did not want to claim this as my own so I have made my own opiniosn on this issue very brief and have let your post do the talking. I wanted to check with you that this is okay to have done!?

    I will continue to read your blog from now on as have very much enjoyed what I have read so far.

    Many thanks

    Jessica
    www.jessicaeharper.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  70. Love this and will be reading the rest of your blog when I have the chance.

    Lisa

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  71. Pip-

    This Channel 4 so-called documentary is precisely the reason I don't have a television, I find the whole British portrayal of class and ethnicity in the entertainment industry really divisive and horrible.

    For what it's worth I'm a normal middle class white guy (not that that this makes any difference to my point), but I'd like to say that there are a lot of people out there like me who stand with you against this mainstream, watered-down, insipid kind of prejudice, and find the programme really offensive.

    There is a fine line between sensitive / educative documentaries about communities within our society and documentaries that are mean-spirited and ratings-grabbing.

    This particular Channel 4 documentary is NOWHERE NEAR that fine line... the producers crossed it ages ago, and the whole sorry joke of a programme should be pulled off-air.

    Keep writing - and I hope this open letter gets the airing it deserves. It's already doing the rounds on Twitter.

    Regards,

    Mat

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  72. This is a great article, it has been duly shared to my network and has been re-shared from there outwards, i hope it gains viral traction befitting its quality. I am neither a Gypsey or a Traveller however i frequently end up in conversations with people who will trip over each-other to prove that they are culturally inclusive while in the next breath accuse all travelers of thievery and benefit fraud.

    Such hypocrisy is further evidence exposing the culture of the intellectual fashionista which has replaced the educated left of yesteryear.

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  73. Very well said and excellent points made. I'm not a traveller and have only met a small number in my life, but I loathe the channel 4 programme for all the reasons you've stated. Replace the word 'gypsy' in the show's title with "black", "gay" etc and there would be outrage. I fail to see how C4 could think it appropriate to broadcast something so woefully misinformed about an entire ethnic group and which promotes ridicule of that group.

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  74. What makes me really laugh is that the same people that kiss pikey arse and jump to the defence of this group of people will be on any demo that opposes racism, misoginy, violence, anmial abuse and child cruelty.
    The travellers are highly xenophobic and exclusionist. THey dont let their women work or socialise outside the clan when they get married.
    All problems seem to be sorted out through fighting and physical violence is glorified.
    Dog and cock fighting are endemic in the traveller community as is hare coursing.
    Male kids are encouraged to fight to prove themselves and if they loose the get a good hiding from their fathers that woudl attact the attention of social workers if it happened in the normal community.
    I have had friends who are teachers and they dread getting trveller children in their class as the bullying goes through the roof. I have had 2 jobs in which I have had dealings with the traveller community and I have found them the most selfish , ignorant, problematic collection of people I have ever had to deal with. If Travellers are fustrated at being treated liek they say they are them maybe they should do something about their attitude and behavoiur towars the rest of society.
    If they are pissed off with the way they are portrayed on the TV , then dont get involved in making the programme. You have no one to blame but yourselves.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Stereotyping at its very best! The people you have had dealings with in the past must be part of the 'minority' (like the ones gagging to show their faces on the show). It doesn't mean that every Romany or Irish Gypsy for that matter is selfish, ignorant and problematic like you said.

      My advice to you is stop watching the show and watch cartoon network instead :p

      Delete
    2. Adam? Do you know ALL the gypsies? No? Oh.

      Delete
    3. Adam, ignorance and meeting one or two families has lead you to stick us under the one umbrella and that is dangerous. You need to change your attitude.
      I believe that the Programme although a representation of a very small group within a larger one has accidentally opened us up to society as a proud and culturally rich people. Pip has written his feelings to the world, if channel 4 had not televised the show, we would not have read this young man's genius. And he is not the only one; we are many! So when governments decide to keep up the gypsy bashing, perhaps this 'one voice' will bring about changes. We needed something to waken us up.
      'Eastenders' when it first came out had people from the area up in arms and said it stereotyped them. Coronation street had a similar affect. There are more film companies looking at our culture and are considering portraying the 'good' 'intelligent' 'historical' side. For instance where do the words gypsy, pikey,tinker,traveller,vagabond,roma originate. who was it who showed the American settlers how to build a wagon and how to train a horse? I feel that from the seeds of BFGW will flourish the unspoken history that both church and state did not want anyone finding out about. Keep shouting Pip and add other young voices, share with the world, now that opportunities are here through internet. Erase the long cloaked ignorance.

      Delete
    4. I have not just known a couple of traveller families, I have known and dealt with many both as a countryside ranger and a prison officer. You say I am basing my view on a few that I have met, well if that seems to be an over riding view then it is highly unlikely I have had the misfortune to meet just the bad 10% of so.
      Does it occur to all of you who have labled me as a racist that stereotypes emerge due to the repeated behavoiur of a group that re-inforces that image?

      Delete
  75. Pip, what is your view on the film 'Knuckle"?
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1606259/

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  76. Wow, a fantastic article Pip.
    An article that has genuinely made me think very carefully about racism and how easy it is to sit back and watch these types of programs and not question it. Thankyou.
    Maybe we all need to begin to question the things that we allow into our lives more vigorously! As an expectant Mum and would like to hope that I can bring my baby into a world where this type of vile, unchecked ignorance is declining and it is men like yourself that are going to help make that happen... again thank you and good luck.

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  77. Well said! I think that Big Fat Gypsy Wedding is degrading to other gypsies/travellers like yourself. My friend is a traveller, and, like you is at college! He told me that they got the gypsy/traveler community wrong. All the things said in the 'documentary' could be about the Irish gypsies, but not others.

    Did you send this? If so, did you get a reply?!

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  78. Well written, insightful, intelligent ♥ Thank you.

    From a proud British Romany Gypsy who now lives in New Zealand.

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  79. Well written, to the point and i think everyone who watches the show should read this.

    I hope Channel 4 get a link to this and sort their lives out.

    Keep fighting. xx

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  80. Absolutely brilliant: well said.

    http://wwwbrokenbarnet.blogspot.com/2012/02/channel-fours-big-fat-racist-advert.html

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  81. This is a really important letter. However, I am aware that often what illicits a response can often be anger with the reality of some of the more negative aspects contained within the subject. Media often takes the piss and when do they ever actually take domestic abuse and illiterate children seriously; since when does intertwining the cuts between puff-ball wedding gowns count as appropriate context? Hand this boy a camera and let him tell his own story. It may inspire him to continue to highlight the problems of stigmatization, bullying and institutionalized racism in our schools. x

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  82. Channel Four. Give this man a camera and some help, and let him make a documentary. It will undoubtedly be very interesting.

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  83. Hi Pip,

    I am a researcher for an award winning social history documentary company called Testimony Films (makers of ‘A Century of Fatherhood’, BBC4; ‘Secrets of the Blitz’, Channel 5; ‘7/7: The Angels of Edgware Road’).

    At the moment we are in contact with Channel 5 about making a documentary about Gypsies in the Holocaust.

    I am very sorry for getting in touch with you about this highly sensitive subject matter via your blog post. I wasn’t able to find a private way to contact you. I really appreciate the sensitivity of the project, as well as the hesitancy of the gypsy community in talking to people from the media, especially in light of recent portrayals. We aim to fully challenge these portrayals. I am very much hoping that the project will be seen in a positive light because it will pay tribute to and remember the terrible suffering and persecution of the Gypsy community in WW2 and remember a time in history so forgotten.

    For the project we are hoping to contact Gypsies who survived the Holocaust, British Gypsies who fought in WW2 and Gypsies who fled Mainland Europe to the UK just in time to escape persecution. We would also be very interested in talking to the children of gypsies who were victims of the Holocaust, who now live in the UK. I would stress this documentary will focus on the terrible prosecution of gypsies during WW2 and the depth of history the gypsy community have. The documentary would rely on speaking to Gypsies with connections to the Holocaust and finding such people who live in the UK and who are willing to tell their stories.

    If you, your family, or Romany Gypsies you know would be interested in sharing their experience of the Holocaust I would be so grateful to hear back from you. Or if you would like more information about the project, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

    With all my best wishes,

    Kate Lewis
    Kate.lewis@testimonyfilms.com

    ReplyDelete
  84. Well said!!
    I have to say I do watch and I watch it with the proverbial pinch of salt as with all reality shows its greatly exaggerated and picks the people that fit the stereotype the most!!

    I can guarantee you if you all came to the north east of england you would see that the fools on geordie shore are few and far between

    These shows are just for entertainment purposes and the makers dont cae about the people they upset and annoy as long as they hit the ratings high they want!!!

    xxx

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  85. Hi Pip
    Great piece, very well written

    Sadly though, all the wile C4 are getting viewing figures in the millions and column inches in the rags, it wont go away.

    I wrote a piece myself last year, (http://20somethingmum.blogspot.com/2011/01/comment-big-fat-gypsy-weddings.html)my partner is of Irish traveller stock (a cousin of Paddy) and he was appalled.
    It speaks for itself that an old lady was shown last week who questioned why the girls feel they need to flash the flesh, and she was the Gran of one of the girl's they filmed.
    As for the backlash over the 16 year old who questioned sunbeds link to cancer- that's not a traveller issue, that's more of an education in schools about the subject of cancer and beauty treatments issue!
    Good luck with your courses Pip

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  86. Great article,well done for pointing this out.Just like us (Africans),we face racism a lot and we are regarded as an un educated 'nation',who drop out of school young to make babies but in reality if we had free education system and probably social welfare back home maybe we would get educated and we wouldn't even leave our countries to be in places where we get treated sub human.Unfortunately ignorant people ignore to find out why things are the way they are,because they are lazy to find out!

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  87. The writing was executed so well because Pip understands the issues so very, very profoundly. Thats just him thinkin about stuff.

    I been tryin to spit something like that out for the last year. Miserably.

    At any rate, if this has peaked your attention, there is a petition started where you can sign on to a POTENTIAL class action lawsuit against Firecracker as well as the networks which broadcast this puke.
    A link to it is here:

    http://www.romanichal.net

    I'm sorry but you must be either Irish Traveller or Romani to qualify to sign the petition. Not because we hate everyone but because it is only we who legally make up the "class". Those are who are most directly being harmed.

    Speaking of which, If you have an incident to report where you or your's have been harmed directly as a result of this show, it will help the potential suit. You MAY stand to share in a POTENTIAL settlement.
    I don't really know. I'm not a lawyer.

    If so, you can also report the incedent at that same website (or here, if Pip permits).

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  88. Racism is indefensible.

    The two episodes of this gaudy programme I have seen featured solely, correct me if I'm wrong, Irish Travellers who, as is my understanding, are not Gypsies.

    It would be monumentally naive to assuyme any programme isn't biased; they are all subject to an agenda on the cutting room floor. But I have one question: was the horse racing sequence shown last night real or staged?

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  89. I came across a link to your blog on Twitter last night and found it really interesting. It seems a real shame that Channel 4 have once again chosen to go for populist and sensational programming far removed from the initial Cutting Edge documentary. Some of the comments I saw on Twitter last night were sickening and horrifying, talk of gassing traveller communities that would have been more suited to 1940s Germany than 21st Century Britain.

    I have a lot of dealings with the traveller/gypsy communities (I'm ashamed to admit that I don't actually know what branch of the ethnic group they fall within) as an auctioneer/surveyor. It seems abundantly clear that like any community there are bad apples, but when it comes to paying the bill I know that the traveller clients are the ones I would trust with my life and will be in the office with cash the next day whilst the clients who are rolling in money are the ones who delay paying the invoice!

    I look forward to reading more of your blog. Best of luck with the studies and your future career plans.

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  90. Fantastic! What a well written, engaging and witty blog. Great reading and as thought provoking as the documentary was sensationalist.

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  91. there are lots of documentaries that encourage stereotypes of many cultures including black people... and its all crap! hence the reason I dont have TV anymore... theyve even done a documentary on the colour of our poo! hahaha... you have to laugh with bewilderment to people who subcribe to this trash! Maybe it would be good to set up a 'Real Society' group that makes documentaries on "real' living, it might not have as much "entertainment" value but it would be good to put up against any trashy crap that pops up on TV, to protest or expose the almost sycofantic editorial delivery of these documentaries! I am an artits/film-maker etc.. and im sure between a group of us we could do this :-)

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  92. Nice one, Pip! Brilliantly written..

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  93. "theyve even done a documentary on the colour of our poo! hahaha."

    Good old Gillian McKeith!!!

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  94. Disrespectful comedy and negative insinuation is all in the edit, which is tough to argue about with a media that decides when and where to respect the intuition of it's entire audience, i.e. the human race.

    People identify what they're being ASKED to see & hear before they know what they're ACTUALLY seeing & hearing, if they ever even take the time to do that. This is known by anyone who fabricates media. That's also the cornerstone of polite, passive communication; television to fill your time, not to challenge or in turn to invite challenge.

    As well as e.g. the ridiculous title, tone of voiceover on episodic trailers or the connotations of it's scheduled timeslot, it is indeed the edit that suggests what kind of conversation one has with the telly, there's enough clues to subtle mockery and sensational spectacle. Devices such as silly music and comic timing of an unfortunate selection of every day speech excerpts. Real yes, responsibly in context, no. This is media's (and in turn, any establishment's) oldest and most evil trick, employed casually enough to slip beneath the viewer's radar.

    I believe the title and the edit should be targeted as irresponsible at best, inciting of hatred at worst, and I don't think Channel 4's response is enough. In the same way many viewers are seduced into receiving a second-hand opinion on what they've seen, they can be lead towards a just argument against it. What could you do with those two letters side by side? Could they be published in a sympathetic mainstream magazine? What would the next step be?

    Hope things improve, great letter, brightened my day.

    Roger

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  95. This is the best letter i've read for a long time!

    Real gypsy life needs to be shown, rather than watching young girls prance around on my screen wearing next to nothing.

    My grandad would be so ashamed with this programme as we all are.

    Either change it to 'MY BIG FAT IRISH TRAVELER WEDDING' or put some real Romany culture on there!

    They didn't try their hardest to survive in trailers and hunt to put food on the table for their families with little to no money to be made a fool of!

    It's so important to get the word out!

    Pip your a big inspiration to all Romany Gypsies out there and I personally have the up most respect for you!

    VikkiLou

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  96. Hi. What an intelligent and well argued blog. I hope C4 take notice. I am a teacher and work with a lot of traveller children. The vast majority are nice enough kids who are no better or worse than any of the others.

    I think it should be born in mind, however, that children (especially teenagers in my experience) are simply afraid of what seems very different to them. In fact, most teenagers spend the vast majority of their time trying to be the same as everyone else ("What are you wearing tonight? A dress. OK I will too then" and so on). It's not too much of a stretch to see why minority communities become segregated from so-called mainstream through lack of understanding. Add to this that traveller children tend to have a lot of absences from school and we can forgive children for finding it hard to interact and intergrate.

    As a teacher, I take great care to be inclusive of all cultures and beliefs in my classroom. I'm sorry that you feel the curriculum isn't relevant to the traveller and/or gypsy way of living, but large parts of the curriculum are also not relevant to non-travellers either. However, the rejection of the education system on that basis is not the answer. Clearly you found some relevance in what you were learning since you are now at college continuing your studies. I teach in a school on the edge of a rural area and we have many children from non-traveller farming backgrounds who intend to run the farm when they leave school; little they learn in the classroom will prepare them for this. However, education does give them choices later in life, should they wish for them.

    And....I really don't mean to sound rude....but it's the law that all children are educated under the curriculum, whether at school or at home. Whilst I believe there is a LOT of room for improvement, it is not for the traveller or any other community to opt out in the meantime. It's a slight contradiction to say that you want to be accepted as equals but to reject the institutions of Britain at the same time.

    That said, I must finish by reiterating that the majority of travellers I have met in an educational capacity have been very nice people. But there must be give and take on both sides if we want true equality.

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  97. I couldn't agree more with Charlie. If a culture wants to be accepted it cannot insist that all its values be accommodated. The Amish in America are a good example. They do not believe in education after the age of thirteen, so they run their own schools. They eschew government programs. Schools cannot be expected to teach that education is irrelevant. It is insulting to working-class people to assume that none of them have bookshelves or that their interests stop at the boundaries of their vocational needs. How "culturally sensitive" does government need to be? Should it accommodate such deeply-held cultural values as female genital mutilation?

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  98. What an incredibly persuasive differing point of view you give Pip.I do not think that people view the program as representative of Gypsy culture, yet the recent news coverage of dishonest and criminal gypsy families stealing from the elderly now perhaps have more prominence (i.e. the repayment of £1.3 million back to conned clients.) As does the HMRC investigation now under way against 5 participants of the program for tax evasion.Alas through your own communities actions suspicion and dislike has been fostered , not because of the program.

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  99. ...and this is why I follow you on Twitter. Sterling work Pip! In parts I was shouting in solidarity, in other parts cringing for C4 and elsewhere, really chuckling. Thank you!

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  100. nice opinion.. thanks for sharing...

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  101. Thank you for writing what I have wanted to write for so long. That this ridiculous show is promoting more of what we don't need, stereotypes.

    I was particularly interested in what you said here:

    "Both teachers and students seem ignorant of our cultures, thus we are labelled as troublemakers and bullied for being different. The myths that you have been spreading have not helped matters. Indeed, I was subjected to physical attacks during your last series of your 'documentary' which ultimately led to my expulsion from school (long story), whilst my 12 year old cousin was beat up on her way home from school by a gang of girls who were calling her a prostitutes."

    I would like to invite you to be a guest on my blog, "Label me Different." I am a writer of young adult fiction from Puerto Rico. The focus of my writing is on young people who feel isolated, marginalized, or persecuted because they have been labeled "different." I've just started this blog, but am in the process of shifting content from my old blog, "A Different Kind of Weird," which has stories posted of Puerto Rican young people who have suffered for who they are (or because of what other people think they are).

    You are an excellent writer. I would love to have contact with you. Sadly, MBFGW is creating some buzz on this side of the world as well. Your voice is important in dispelling what this show is promoting. Wishing you all the best,

    Susan

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  102. Very well said. I get a lot of information with your post regarding Gypsy Weddings. I don't have an idea before if what it is, Now I know. I am impressed with your thoughts. You did a great job. Hope things will fall in its proper places soon. Thanks and keep sharing.


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  103. Your article is very informative. You have written it very well. I have bookmarked you website. Thanks for sharing.


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  104. Pip, as a trainee anthropologist, I would like to commend you for your articulate and intelligent blog.
    I wish I had come across this when I did an essay on Dale Farm.
    Keep up the good work Pip, you do your Roma proud.

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  105. Pip,

    Good article - tells me I was right in my suspicions about the show.

    Even its title is designed to indicate the show is nothing but a mockery. Channel 4's response completely misses the point which is the context of years of abuse of all traveling communities.

    This so permeates our culture that people who would be shocked to be considered antisemitic or racist will casually throw around anti-traveler rhetoric.

    The makers of the program will be unconsciously swayed by this deep rooted culture and the complete lack of understanding non-travelers actually have of traveling communities.
    The filming and editing will be biased towards this society's views of travelers, even if they wish to present the subject in a positive light or wish to cover serious issues.

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  106. Pip,
    was linked this on the internet, very well written, i will pass this on.
    about the State education system having a totally irrelevant curriculum for your way of life... having wasted 15 years of my life learning things about the world completely out of context within state education, i believe that you are more equipped to deal with the world by living and learning in it.
    i wish i had had the chance to see that earlier.

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  107. Another reader from the US, picked up through social media. As a past viewer of MBFGW, I will admit openly that it absolutely gives the ignorant viewer the belief that all Gypsys are utterly bizarre, and out to sexualize young girls. I am so glad I read this post, because I'm going to make sure no one in our household tunes in to the show (or the recently released American version, which does feature Romani gypsies) ever again. Thank you for writing this, and I'm sorry that I let myself fall into the trap of a racist show like this. You have changed something--you've changed a few minds, and that can have tremendous effects.

    Be well.

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  108. Hi Pip,

    Well done, well written, well thought out, you will go far.

    I didn't even know this show existed, but I am not surprised to find it airs on TLC in America. TLC used to stand for "The Learning Channel".

    That hasn't been true in at least a decade.

    Please continue the advocacy work that you have started here. Strive, also, to bring about change in the Romany culture. Prejudice can be overcome by an entire group of people, by an entire culture, but someone must first show the way. I think that someone could be you.

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  109. I agree with jaguwar, above, TLC has completely gone to the birds. I am not Roma or a Traveller but, I am of French Canadian and Native North American heritage. The French Canadians were expelled from the colonies and sent to the US. (Why there is a Cajun culture, another culture shamefully totally exploited by reality TV i.e. Swamp People) The Native Americans were subjected to cultural genocide and forced into horrible, abusive Residential Schools that were open in Canada till about 1996. Canadian Aboriginals are still fighting poverty, prejudice and lack of basic civil rights. While the stories of our cultures are not completely the same, there are definite parallels. I applaud this amazing open letter you have written and hope that someday that more of the youth from my cultures will stand up like you have. Good on ya! Well done!

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  110. Brilliant article! So happy to have found your blog -- you are more wise and eloquent than most people twice your age! Keep up the great work, Pip.

    Jennifer :)

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  111. Good job,mo Romano pral!

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  112. Great post. I found it when I was googling the show...my friends know about my Roma heritage, so they've been asking me ridiculous questions (related to stuff on the show), as if they haven't know me for 20 years. Just like when white people (I'm in the US) rely on their one black friend to verify all manner of mythologies about black people. It's especially "enlightening" when people inform me about MY culture, from the perspective of a "reality show"...I usually dead-pan, "Yeah, all true...and we'll steal your kids, too". Keep up the activism; we are a unique and wonderful culture and our true stories need to be heard.

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  113. Personally, I never considered the show a documentary. I watched it as entertainment.

    I'd no sooner watch that show to understand the real-life struggles of the gypsy/traveler community than I would watch "Jersey Shore" to understand what it would be like to live in New Jersey.

    But I certainly understand where you're coming from...

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  114. Hi Pip,
    Your essay was fantastic. I am a British born African American or as we call ourselves JAmericans. I watched the first season but since I have a degree in media studies, I never too this twaddle as real representation of anyone. The American channel TLC has premiered My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding I have nor watched a whole episodes because British reality shows are like Masterpiece Theatre compared to it is done in the States. The shows with racial minorities are a thousand times worse. Although the website makes claims about breaking stereotypes, the film clips tell a different story.
    You can check them out at: http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/tv/my-big-fat-american-gypsy-wedding.
    Try not to gag and I would love to hear your opinion.

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  115. Outstanding line. I saved it when I was googling the exhibit...my friends experience virtually my Roma heritage, so they've been asking me ridiculous questions (concomitant to poppycock on the pretence), as if they haven't hump me for 20 life. Meet equal when light people (I'm in the US) rely on their one unfortunate somebody to test all deportment of mythologies about coloured group. It's especially "instructive" when people inform me near MY society, from the appearance of a "realness present"...I society and our aline stories condition to be heard.

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  116. Would you mind if I used most of this State-side for our "Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding"? SO many of my friends watch this show and ask me why my house isn't more gaudy, or why I don't own a trailer or if my sisters dress was covered with lights or something.

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  119. Well said Pip...I have a lot of respect for the Romany and Travellers, having led somewhat of a similar lifestyle for the last several years (travelling from place to place, never really settling in one place for too long, despite being American, and yes, Ive spent my fair share of time living in caravans, though here we call them trailers...) And honestly? I wouldnt be caught dead in those gaudy eyesores Thelma Madine creates. Im much more at home in a corsetted gothic gown.

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  121. Everything you wrote is 100%. This "programme" is nothing but utter trash, I wasn't fooled by it for a second. But frustratingly, this crap is still hugely popular... And now there are all sorts of terrible follow-ups including one called My Big Fat Gypsy Christening!??

    Again, a very well written article!

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