Big Fat Gyspy Weddings
Episode 7/7: We Are Family, Tue 27th March, 9pm, Channel 4
Though the traditional way of life is evolving, the large extended tight-knit family unit remains at the heart of the Traveller community. Celebrations are always a family affair and in the final episode of the series we follow one large Irish Traveller family - The Mcfadyens - as they celebrate key life events over a series of months.
We catch up with Josie Mcfadyen and her husband Swanley who first appeared in the last series, when Josie waded down the aisle in her enormous front-split wedding dress. Recently convicted Josie is planning the Christening of her 6 month old daughter, but still finds the time to decorate her electronic tag with bling. The family is also excited about the release of the family patriarch Chris from prison, who they plan to pick up in a stretch limousine.
We also catch up with Cheyenne who we last saw aged 15 at Josie and Swanley's wedding being ‘grabbed' by Josie's brother John. Now 16 and in true Traveller style, Cheyenne and cage-fighter John are now engaged to be married. Cheyenne has the daunting task of organizing her wedding as she deals with the recent death of her mother.
Episode 6/7 Integration - Tue 20 Mar, 9pm, Channel 4
In this episode we witness a community at a cross roads as the battle to preserve the gypsy and traveller way of life intensifies. Will modern life and laws tear their culture apart, or is there a place for the travelling community in the modern world?
Seventeen year old Irish traveller Freda is planning her hen-do and wedding. Having moved from a site when she was just two years old, she has grown up happily alongside non-travellers. But now, about to be married, she feels strongly about returning to her traveller roots and once married intends to go traveling in the caravan that is waiting in the front garden.
Romany gypsy elder - or Shera Rom - Billy Welch, 50, is determined to protect his people's right to hold a horse fair each year in Appleby, a right which he feels is under threat from a prejudiced society. After making it clear to the police that his people will not stand for any trouble, Billy is given a police-escort to his granddaughter's first Holy Communion.
Billy's seventeen year old son, Johnson, is going on what he calls ‘the spring break for travellers' - a weekend at the Ebor festival at York races, which attracts gypsies and travellers from around the country. We witness the tension between gypsies and non-travellers, which often occurs when large groups go out together, and culminates in a bloody fight in a York night club.
At Dale farm, after 10 years of court battles, eviction approaches for 80 families. The inhabitants remain defiant, insisting they will receive hate mail if forced to mix with mainstream society but are ultimately forced back onto the road having lose their homes.
We return to the traveller haven of Rathkeale which erupts into multi colours as Irish traveller Chantelle returns from traveling abroad with her parents to celebrate her wedding to first cousin Jim. Meanwhile Irish traveller Noreen makes her first visit to Rathkeale and is amazed to find so many travellers in one place, ‘like Dale Farm with houses.'
Episode 5/7: Reputation is Everything 13/03/2012, 9pm, C4
Seventeen-year-old Irish Traveller Rosanne became known as a runaway bride, when she deliberately spent time alone with her boyfriend as a way of forcing her parents to bring her marriage forward by a year-and-a-half. But it was a strategy not without its risks, as some traveller girls runaway with their boyfriends only to find themselves dumped and ‘scandalised' meaning few boys within the community will go near them.
Divorced Pricilla also caused a scandal when, aged 16, she ran off with a boy because she wanted the freedom to be able to go to discos. She immediately regretted her actions but to avoid scandal the couple were married on the quiet in a registry office. Stuck in a loveless relationship and with two kids she left her marriage aged 22, forsaking her ties with her family in the process.
Mikey explains what it is like growing up and coming out as a gay Traveller. Attending Gay Pride with his friends he speaks about his family and what they really think. His sisters fully support him, but asked if they would come out if they were gay, they say they definitely wouldn't, they'd rather 'live a lie'.
Paddy Doherty's son Simey trains to fight for the family's honour whilst Paddy and wife Rosanne throw a spectacular New Year's Eve party celebrating what has been a life-changing year.
Episode 4/7: Love Conquers All, 06/03/2012, 9pm, C4
In gypsy and traveller culture marrying outside of the community can be frowned upon and there is a concern that the younger generation are being influenced by popular culture and losing their identity. This episode explores the cultural divide between gypsies and non-gypsies and looks at what happens when the two worlds are thrust together in marriage.
Romany Gypsy cage fighter Tony Giles, 27, is a red-blooded gypsy man who is expecting a child with a non-traveller (or ‘gorja'). But will Tony's family accept his choice? To make matters worse, his fiancée Danielle is a glamour model, a career choice that many in the gypsy community consider dirty.
Romany gypsy George Webb, 27, restores caravans for a living. Now separated from his non-traveller wife of 7 years George is concerned that his two children will become more like gorjas. In a bid to keep their gypsy identity alive, he dresses them in traditional clothes, and takes them hedgehog hunting.
Romany gypsy Tracey and non-traveller Phil have been married for 10 years. Their first wedding was a low key affair and so Phil has been saving for years to give Tracey the wedding of her dreams, including 14 bridesmaids, 3 stretch hummers and a four-horse drawn carriage.
In the last series we met non-traveller Sam, 18, who had decided to leap head first into traveller culture by marrying English gypsy Pat, 21, and moving onto Pat's site. When she wed Sam wore a dress made by Thelma Madine which included robotic butterflies and a built in light show. But now the wedding is over we catch up with the couple as they are expecting their first child to find out how Sam is coping with the prospect of bringing up her baby in a small caravan.
Episode 3/7: School of Hard Knocks, 28/02/2012, 9pm, C4
As the eldest granddaughter of a family with both Romany gypsy and Irish traveller heritage 15 year old Santana is expected to follow strict rules for girls and set a good example for her younger family members. No longer at school she spends a lot of her time cleaning the family chalet with the occasional visit from a teacher for home schooling. About to turn 16 she is planning a lavish sweet 16th birthday party - complete with a dress made by Thelma and a fifteen tier cake decorated with fireworks. Santana has got a lot to celebrate. Proud Grandma Bridie - the current family matriarch - explains that turning 16 means Santana will be allowed a bit more freedom and is trusted to be let off her cleaning duties for a few more hours a week.
Sixteen year old Cassa bucks the trend of many gypsy teens and still attends school. Her dreams for the future include driving an Audi and having whiter teeth but she still finds time to attend her textiles exam. Is her motivation for staying at school the qualifications she could gain or just the opportunity to attend prom in a giant Barbie inspired prom dress?
Romany Gypsies Alice and Angel are best friends. Alice is 12 and left school at the end of Primary school. She now works at her Dad's horse fair learning "how to earn a living" while her 7 year old brother Mikey drives a JCB digger "better than some twenty year olds". Best friend Angel has decided to stay on at school and plans to take her GCSE's. Teased by Alice for being a 'school girl' eloquent Angel's decision to continue her education has been made harder due to facing racial abuse at school and finding some lessons uncomfortable to attend.
Episode 2/7: I Fought the Law, 21/02/2012, 9pm, C4
This episode follows Romany gypsies and travellers whose attempts to live a traditional life sometimes get them in trouble with the law.
Romany Gypsy Ambrose Snr is a Gypsy man through and through. Proud of his roots and his gypsy traditions, one of the most important things in his life are his horses. He often takes part in the Gypsy custom of road racing, and regularly meets up with other Gypsy men on a Sunday morning with their horses and traps ready to race. Each racer has his entourage, betting takes place, and everyone travels along for 2 miles at hair-raising speed as the horses charge side by side towards the finish line. The problem is that road racing is illegal and the police are a common feature, but when they catch up with the racers, Ambrose has no qualms making his feelings clear - he doesn't think he is doing anything wrong. Will Ambrose be able make it to the finish line this time, or will his fun be scuppered by the local constabulary?
Irish Traveller Danielle who is determined to live her life in a traditional way, so at just 15 years old, she is planning a lavish black pink and bling hen party. The only problem is her intended groom, 20-year-old Brendan, is up in court on the same day; if he gets sent to prison both the hen night and the wedding will have to be put off.
Irish Traveller Mary, 22 has been moved on from illegal site to illegal site almost 50 times in the last year. Married to husband Jon Jon and with one-year-old son Jimmy, Mary is beginning to have doubts that this traditional way of life is good for her baby. Threatened with eviction again from their illegal site in Leeds, the cameras follow them as they prepare to leave under the cover of darkness and race to a new site before the police can stop them.
The cameras also follow 8-year-old Chloe as she prepares for a very special day - her First Holy Communion. Unfortunately her dad can't be there, but to make sure he does not completely miss out, Chloe's Mum has arranged for her to pay him a visit at Strangeways prison in her remarkable ‘sticky out' communion dress made by dressmaker Thelma Madine. But when Chloe arrives late, will the prison authorities will still let her in?
Episode 1/7: Diamantes are Forever, 14/02/2012
The first episode in this brand new series explores the now infamous 'gypsy look' - the motivations behind it, and the time, effort and money it takes to get it right.
From the outrageous tans, elaborate hairstyles, intricate make up and love of all things sparkly, gypsy girls are known to pull out all the stops when it comes to their image. And a party or special occasion will often mean the look gets even bigger and more glamorous than normal.
21 year old Delores is an Irish traveler who lives the high life. From driving a Porsche along the beaches of the Spanish on a coast to heading back to the ultra-wealthy traveller town of Rathkeale in County Limerick, we see her as she prepares for the biggest day of her life - her wedding day.
For the event she has commissioned two dresses from Thelma. The first is an exotic palm tree themed outfit for the all-important ‘night-before' party. Her sister is also dressed for the occasion in a dress resembling a pineapple. But to ensure it is the wedding that people actually remember Delores's second dress is an extravagant ‘cat' dress made to especially for the day of her nuptials. The dresses are so outlandish that even Thelma, a dress maker well used to unusual ideas, describes them as "the most outrageous request" she has ever had.
Sammy Jo is an Irish traveller whose ‘look' is a constant preoccupation. As she prepares to compete in a beauty contest for travellers, she tops up her all-important tan and reveals the how, for her, the inherent risk of cancer is far less important than maintaining her look. "If I get cancer, I get cancer .... but at least I'll still look good"
Nangirl, Margaret, Rosemary and Bridget are four cousins all taking their first Holy Communion together. But they make no bones about the fact that they are competing to be the most beautiful on the day. For these girls the service is all about the need to "look good for god" but as their day unfolds we see that when it comes to looking your best "beauty is pain".
With never-before-seen access to this fiercely private community, we'll get a glimpse at what it really takes to be a modern gypsy girl - sequins and all.
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