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  

An ‘obscure’ party? I’m amazed at how little people in Britain know about the DUP
After the Tories' deal with the Democratic Unionists, Denis Burke asks why people in Britain weren't a bit more curious about Northern Ireland before now

The Tories’ deal with the DUP is outright bribery – but this government won’t last
Theresa May’s £1.5 billion bung to the DUP is the last nail in the coffin of the austerity myth, writes Louis Mendee

Brexit, Corbyn and beyond
Clarity of analysis can help the left avoid practical traps, argues Paul O'Connell

Paul Mason vs Progress: ‘Decide whether you want to be part of this party’ – full report
Broadcaster and Corbyn supporter Paul Mason tells the Blairites' annual conference some home truths

Contagion: how the crisis spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe

How empire struck back
Walden Bello dissects the failure of Barack Obama's 'technocratic Keynesianism' and explains why this led to Donald Trump winning the US presidency

Empire en vogue
Nadine El-Enany examines the imperial pretensions of Britain's post-Brexit foreign affairs and trade strategy

Grenfell Tower residents evicted from hotel with just hours’ notice
An urgent call for support from the Radical Housing Network

Jeremy Corbyn is no longer the leader of the opposition – he has become the People’s Prime Minister
While Theresa May hides away, Corbyn stands with the people in our hours of need, writes Tom Walker

In the aftermath of this disaster, we must fight to restore respect and democracy for council tenants
Glyn Robbins says it's time to put residents, not private firms, back at the centre of decision-making over their housing

After Grenfell: ending the murderous war on our protections
Under cover of 'cutting red tape', the government has been slashing safety standards. It's time for it to stop, writes Christine Berry

Why the Grenfell Tower fire means everything must change
The fire was a man-made atrocity, says Faiza Shaheen – we must redesign our economic system so it can never happen again

Forcing MPs to take an oath of allegiance to the monarchy undermines democracy
As long as being an MP means pledging loyalty to an unelected head of state, our parliamentary system will remain undemocratic, writes Kate Flood

7 reasons why Labour can win the next election
From the rise of Grime for Corbyn to the reduced power of the tabloids, Will Murray looks at the reasons to be optimistic for Labour's chances next time

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 25 June
On June 25th, the fourth of Red Pepper Race Section's Open Editorial Meetings will celebrate the launch of our new black writers' issue - Empire Will Eat Itself.

After two years of attacks on Corbyn supporters, where are the apologies?
In the aftermath of this spectacular election result, some issues in the Labour Party need addressing, argues Seema Chandwani

If Corbyn’s Labour wins, it will be Attlee v Churchill all over again
Jack Witek argues that a Labour victory is no longer unthinkable – and it would mean the biggest shake-up since 1945

On the life of Robin Murray, visionary economist
Hilary Wainwright pays tribute to the life and legacy of Robin Murray, one of the key figures of the New Left whose vision of a modern socialism lies at the heart of the Labour manifesto.

Letter from the US: Dear rest of the world, I’m just as confused as you are
Kate Harveston apologises for the rise of Trump, but promises to make it up to us somehow

The myth of ‘stability’ with Theresa May
Settit Beyene looks at the truth behind the prime minister's favourite soundbite

Civic strike paralyses Colombia’s principle pacific port
An alliance of community organisations are fighting ’to live with dignity’ in the face of military repression. Patrick Kane and Seb Ordoñez report.

Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports

On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.

Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns

Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for a political organiser
Closing date for applications: postponed, see below

The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections

In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines

Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.


118