Big Fat Gypsy Weddings: Life on the Run
For generations they have been considered by many to be the scourge of society - groups of Travellers who spend their lives on the move no longer are free to park up where they like. Reduced to invading public parks and illegally squatting at the end of your road, they have been branded a public menace. But do Travellers have the right to travel? Or is this the end of the road for their traditional way of life?
This unique episode follows one travelling clan over the course of a tumultuous year – witnessing the highs of a summer wedding and the frequent lows of 21st century life on the road. It is a world of constant battles with the local council – of daring ‘land grabs’ in the dead of night and the hardships of long winters in freezing caravans.
Helen is a 19-year-old Irish Traveller who is marrying David, a fellow traveller that she met on BBM just 3 months earlier. But the excitement of the wedding preparations must be juggled with the relative chaos of her lifestyle.
Travelling from place to place was once legal –the commons of England providing lawful stopping places for Gypsies and Travellers for centuries. But decades of legislation have sought to put an end to the practice and groups like Helen’s must now operate within and endless cycle of invasion and eviction.
Helen moves with a group of around seven families, a group that includes her sister Marie and her brother in Law Jimmy. Together they slip onto public parks in long convoys, hoping they all get in before the police arrive. They have to move every two to three days – around 20 moves a month - in what Helen describes as “the story of my life”.
The practice isn’t popular – we hear from local residents who believe that the Travellers leave a mess behind them and that their attitude to authority is “we do what we like”.
Meanwhile Jimmy is having doubts about his life on the move. Having to uproot his young family in the middle of the night isn’t ideal in summer, but in the cold winter months, the freezing caravans can become unbearable. Jimmy and his wife Marie consider giving up centuries of tradition for a stable family life and attempt to find a house to live in. But for Travellers finding a place to rent can be difficult.
Jimmy also has bigger issues to consider. We follow him as he undergoes surgery to have a gastric band which he hopes will cure his ballooning weight problems.
Helen’s wedding provides brief respite from the game of cat and mouse with the council, but soon she is back on the road as a married woman. Her discovery that she is expecting twins, causes her to reassess everything.
Will the family continue their life on the road? Or have the constant battles with the council have made a traditional travelling life impossible?