Page last updated at 17:20 GMT, Tuesday, 1 February 2011
Big fat gypsy reaction: Warwickshire travellers' views
Woodside traveller site
There are travellers from different backgrounds on the authority site near Ryton

Last week's episode of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding had over 7 million viewers, Channel 4's highest ratings since Big Brother in 2008.

So, how do Warwickshire gypsies and travellers feel about the programme and its representation of their lives?

Residents on the authorised Gypsy and Traveller Site near Rugby have been giving their reactions to BBC Coventry & Warwickshire.

You can hear their views by clicking this link to traveller interviews .

My wedding

Mary-Kate with horses
Mary-Kate hopes to get married in the next year or two

Mary-Kate, aged 15, wants a wedding just like those in the My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding programme: "I like the dresses and everything. I want the lot at my wedding: a massive dress, a Cinderella coach, a big limo, big bridesmaids dresses and everything. I don't care if it's difficult to walk because the dress is so big, I want the biggest ever anyway."

She's been following the programme reactions on the internet and is surprised by the negative comments: "People on there say they hate travellers. Most of it I can't repeat, it's that horrible. I love being a traveller though, I don't care if they call me names. I'm proud to be a traveller."

"Disgusted"

Romany Gypsy
Roman lives alongside three generations of her family at Woodside

Not all the residents feels the same way. Roman, a Romany Gypsy in her 60s, is critical of the programme: "It disgusted me to be honest, the way they were carrying on, showing themselves off. Their brothers there wouldn't really allow that, you know, they put it on [for the cameras]."

Roman didn't have a 'big fat' wedding. She was married the traditional way, simply jumping over a broom with her husband.

Steven Smith, a traveller married for 17 years, agrees that flamboyant weddings are a recent phenomena: "What do people think? They must think the circus is in town. They wear next to nothing. Now tell me where that's traditional.

"They just go overboard. My wedding in 1991, to get married, with the dress, engagement ring, wedding ring, everything probably cost about £400."

Avid viewers

One of Donna's caravans
In Donna's tradition the bride's family pays for the wedding

Donna, mother of three, is glued to each episode: "It's because we're travellers we watch it, the same as ever other traveller, to see what the other people do.

"But it's too far fetched for me, to be honest. People who live in houses think that because we're gypsy people, we're bad people, but there's good and bad in everybody."

Steven-Lee, aged 16, is not interested in a big wedding, but admits the decision is more likely to be made by his bride: "What she wants, she'll get! But a big wedding don't guarentee a successful marriage."

Wider reaction

Gypsy child inside a caravan
OFCOM received 32 complaints the morning after the first programme

In balancing sensational weddings and wider issues, the programme has received mixed responses.

Some viewers have complimented the programme for getting across messages about strict morals in the traveller communities and depicting some of their hardships, while others have aired angry responses on internet chatrooms and formal complaints to OFCOM.

The Travellers' Times summarises the strength of feeling online: "Thousands more Gypsies and Travellers have joined face book protest sites like "My Big Fat Gypsy Protest". One page called "My Big Fat Gyp Wedding ain't about proper travellers" currently has almost 1400 members."

Jackie Boyd, the National Leader of the Gypsy Mission, told BBC Coventry & Warwickshire he feels the programme is not representative: "It's a very small slice of a very small part of the gypsy traveller community. For example, I'm a gypsy and I'm 50 years old but I've never known anyone who has had a 5 stone dress for their wedding."

Channel 4 response

Channel 4 has issued the following statement in response to the programme debate:

"The series features a mix of Irish travellers and Romany gypsies and the programme makes a clear distinction between these different groups. Whenever a person is introduced, we are careful to identify who they are and what community they come from.

"The series is an observational documentary and made predominantly from the perspective of gypsies and travellers talking about their own experiences.

"We have intentionally avoided many commonly held stereotypes and attempted to provide a balanced view of all featured communities across the series.

"We've received many messages of support from viewers who feel they have gained a better understanding of traveller and gypsy communities after watching the programme."




SEE ALSO
My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding views
03 Feb 11 |  Coventry
My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding dresses
25 Jan 11 |  People & Places
Gypsies: Going back to school?
27 Aug 10 |  Religion & Ethics
Born Again Christian Gypsies
24 Aug 10 |  Religion & Ethics


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