Search

Orpington Travellers abused after Big Fat Gypsy Wedding

James Bellsham-Revell

James Bellsham-Revell

Archant

Having suffered centuries of abuse, the borough’s Traveller community is experiencing a venomous new backlash after a programme about Gypsy weddings became cult viewing.

Josie and Swanley getting married in Big Fat Gypsy Wedding

Channel 4’s Big Fat Gyspy Wedding, which mainly focuses on a wealthy Irish contingent, shows extravagant ceremonies, skimpily-clad teenagers and so-called courting rituals in which young Traveller girls are violently attacked - a technique known as ‘grabbing’.

The five-part show, which peaked at 7.5 million viewers and beat the Brit Awards by two million, claims it gained access to the notoriously private Gypsy community, exposing how Traveller children stop schooling aged 12 and the secrecy around gaining and spending money.

But Bromley’s settled Gypsy population, amongst the largest in the UK, say the ‘cringe-worthy’ show is inaccurate and has led to bullying, their homes being vandalised and Facebook hate-groups.

One Gypsy mother from Orpington, said: “I cringed. The grabbing thing has caused a big problem for my kids at school. They said it’s a ritual, it’s not. I had never heard of it.

“The programme made a big thing about money. It’s embarrassing to talk about money in any walk of life- nobody likes a bragger. It implies we’re dishonest. Travellers love a bargain it doesn’t cost much to look fresh. Caravans depreciate quickly.

“I have been to big weddings and small weddings- they are not all like that. It’s a joke.

“Not all Travellers take their kids out of school. If they do, they do it properly. We get tutors for them. The programme has affected parents very badly.” Another 35-year-old Gypsy from Orpington, said: “It’s caused bullying for kids. The girls are being targeted by boys. I had never heard of grabbing until the programme. We don’t do it- it’s not right, the girls are attacked.

“I don’t work but my sisters do - they have to keep the fact they are Gypsies a secret because they have good jobs. People have set hate groups up on Facebook.”

Bromley has about 1,500 Gypsy and Traveller families – mainly living in houses around the Orpington and Cray areas.

There are two sites- Star Lane in Orpington which has 22 plots and Old Maidstone Road, of the A20, with 17 plots.

Last summer, Travellers set up in Kings Hall Road, Beckenham for around 10 weeks. They left piles of rubbish when they were evicted.

Beckenham MP Bob Stewart stayed with a Traveller group for four days in Essex as part of a Channel 5 series The Negotiator in 2005.

Last week, he put a written question to Parliament asking for trespassing laws to be tightened up.

He said: “I have a little bit of sympathy for them but not when they break the law.

I have to ask myself, where do they get their money from? That question was never satisfactorily answered for me.

“They are illegal squatters and they need to be got rid of. There are some good Gyspies but they have to blend in with the community better.

“The law in regards to Travellers moves at the speed of a striking slug.

“They move onto Green Belt land where nobody else is allowed to live and they leave a frightful mess.”

Bromley Gypsy Traveller Project spokesperson James Belsham-Revell, said prejudice is rife.

He said: “I know young women who work in shops and have to keep their background a secret. They listen to other members of staff talking about Gypsies and say nothing. If they find out there’s a possibility they’ll lose their jobs.”

Speaking about Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, he said: “All it seems to have done is spread a lot of nastiness.

“One house in St Mary Cray has had ‘pikeys get out’ graffiti sprayed on it- we haven’t seen that for ages.

“There’s so much that they could have done like show how much discrimination there is but they focused on one aspect which was sad.”

The Times contacted Channel 4 but a spokesman was unavailable for comment.

0 comments

Latest news

Yesterday, 17:00

Bromley and Croydon Women’s Aid (BCWA) are organising a fundraising event this Friday (April 20).

Yesterday, 12:09

Police would like to speak to this man in connection with an assault at Bromley South Station against a disabled boy.

Wed, 17:05

A man has been charged in connection with an incident at Princess Royal University Hospital in Orpington, where it was reported that a man had been brandishing a large blade in the early hours of Thursday morning (April 12).

Wed, 12:44

A cancer specialist is urging people in Bromley to be watchful for the symptoms of bowel cancer as part of the awareness month for the disease.

Wed, 09:55

Residents are warned to be wary about lending their vehicles to others following prosecution for a fly-tipping offence.

Most read

Competitions

Having a brand new kitchen is something that lots of people want but can only dream of. Sadly keeping up to date and making our living spaces as nice as they can be is a costly and incredibly stressful business. Even a fresh coat of paint makes all the difference but isn’t easy or quick.

Who wouldn’t love the chance to go on a shopping spree. Imagine being able to walk into a shop and choose whatever your heart desires without having to worry about how much it costs.

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Bromley Times e-edition today
E-edition

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Show Job Lists

Family Notices 24

Local business directory

Our trusted business finder