On 19 October 2011, 86 families of Irish Traveller heritage were evicted from their homes on a former scrapyard known as Dale Farm in Essex, southeastern England. Although the Travellers owned the land, the surrounding community would not tolerate their presence and after a long legal battle they were eventually refused government permission to stay.
In 1994, Gypsies' and Travellers' nomadic lifestyle was made illegal in the UK, and the communities were forced to look for places to stay on sites where they could pull in their trailers more permanently. However, public resistance to having Gypsies and Travellers as neighbours means that there is a great shortage of legal sites, and Travellers routinely move onto land illegally or without planning permission, from which they are subsequently evicted. By 2009, when this photo project was begun, the Travellers living at Dale Farm had become notorious for the size of their site, which the surrounding community saw as a threat. In fact, it offered these deeply private and much maligned families a place of safety and one where their extended families could live close together, supporting each other and living according to their traditional and cultural heritage.
Working intimately with two women, Barbara and Jean Sheridan, who have trusted me to tell their story, this work has become a document of their lives and that of their childrens as they grow up in a fast changing world that seems to have little place for them. It aims to highlight not just the challenges they face but what we have in common and not what separates us. Along the way, these photographs have become an extensive archive of the lives of this much derided community and, for me personally, a document of friendships that has changed my life.