Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Dale Farm: We stood because ye stood

Mary Sheridan talks to Elly Robson about resisting the eviction of her family and the Traveller community at Dale Farm in Essex

May 6, 2012
4 min read

Photo: Rehmat Rayatt

Mary Sheridan is a 37-year-old mother of four who has lived at Dale Farm in Essex – the UK’s largest Traveller community – for the past 12 years. Along with other Dale Farm families and their supporters, she was involved in resisting the action by Basildon Council to forcibly evict them from the land that they own. With nowhere else to go since the eviction in October 2011, the displaced families have been living in precarious, crowded and unsanitary conditions next door to their former homes. They now face the threat of another round of evictions.

Why did you first come to Dale Farm?

I came to Dale Farm when my first child was born 12 years ago. Growing up there was ten of us but there’s only four of us can write. I really wanted my children to read because of that. And the only way to get them to read and write is to have them settled. You can’t travel any more anyway – the police don’t allow you to travel, the government don’t allow you to travel.

I never thought ever that we’d be removed from Dale Farm because it wasn’t a green belt – that’s just a lie covering up prejudice. It was a scrapyard, and how can they call a scrapyard greenbelt land? I thought I’d be there forever and so would my kids. A lot of people used to say ‘why do you want to stay together?’ But that’s what a community is: it’s one big group of people who love and trust each other and don’t want to be parted. It really was the perfect world to bring your children up.

What was it like during the two months leading up to the eviction?

When the activists came to Dale Farm, it was the first time settled people actually took our side. And I think that was the best thing that came out of what we went through; though we lost where we live, we made good friends. The reason why we stood is because ye stood.

I definitely have no trust in the law, police or judges. There wasn’t one judge that said to Basildon council, ‘After all this length of time, did you help any family?’ Tony Ball said there were too many Travellers in Essex. If he said that about any other culture, he would be thrown out of government but if you say it about Travellers you can get away with it.

What was the day of the eviction like?

When I think back to the day of the eviction, I says how did they get away with that? I look at Hitler and I think: oh God, how come there was no one to stand up and say no one could do that? But I know our kids and other people in 20 or 30 years’ time, they’re going to say how did England let that happen? That was the worst thing I’ve ever been through. The fear I had in my heart was something I’d never in my life felt. The morning of it I was running with my baby. I will never forget it. I think the police were an absolute disgrace.

I think it will make history though. We don’t have a place to live – but I think other councils will look at things differently when they’re trying to evict people and try to find a solution. We did it for all Travellers.

What do you think should happen for Travellers?

The law needs to recognise the rights of Travellers. Any Traveller trying to find planning permission can’t get it. Everyone is pushing you aside, pushing you onto the next place. Once you’re not stopping on their doorstep, it’s alright. And that’s not a human way to be living or to treat people. They’d rather evict us, instead of sitting down and saying, ‘This is a problem and we need to sort it. If they can’t live there, then they need to live somewhere.’

I think that’s where Basildon council went horribly wrong – instead of trying to help travelling people, they just tried to get rid of them.

The Traveller Solidarity Network is involved in ongoing work with Travellers, Roma and Gypsies to fight discrimination and resist unjust evictions. For more information and to get involved, visit www.travellersolidarity.org

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics

Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.

Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making

Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show

The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services

With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas

Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world

A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle

Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune

Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali

To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi

Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun

Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh

With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament

Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair

A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook

‘We remembered that convictions can inspire and motivate people’: interview with Lisa Nandy MP
The general election changed the rules, but there are still tricky issues for Labour to face, Lisa Nandy tells Ashish Ghadiali

Everything you know about Ebola is wrong
Vicky Crowcroft reviews Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, by Paul Richards

Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for an online editor
Closing date for applications: 1 September.

Theresa May’s new porn law is ridiculous – but dangerous
The law is almost impossible to enforce, argues Lily Sheehan, but it could still set a bad precedent

Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art

Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs

Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox

Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole

Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part

Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper

Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s

Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach

Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.

Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite


118