On October 19th 2011, 86 families of Irish Traveller heritage were evicted from their homes on a former scrapyard known as DaleFarm in South-East 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, through sections of the Criminal Justice Bill, and communities were forced to look for sites to pull in their trailers more permanently. However public resistance to them means that there is a shortage of legal sites, and Travellers routinely move onto land from which they are subsequently evicted.
By 2009, when I first visited the Dale Farm Travellers, they had become notorious for the size of their site, which the surrounding community saw as a threat. As it was not far from where I grew up I went to see them, hoping to come away with a few photographs. Although it wasn't easy to gain access to the deeply private community who have know a lifetime of prejudice from settled people, I was lucky enough to become friends with Barbara and Jean, two extraordinary women who have allowed me to document their lives. After months of drinking tea, helping out with reading and writing for the largely illiterate community and sharing our lives we developed a deep trust and affection.
It was also where I met my great friend Susan, a native of Oklahoma living in this peculiar part of Essex. Through seven (so far) bleak English winters, and hundreds of long, hopeless days she and I have been drawn back time and again to our friends the Dale Farm Travellers. When we ourselves have felt like outsiders in our own worlds, the routinely ostracised families there have shown us friendship. Our photographs have become an extensive archive of the lives of this much derided community and, for me personally, a document of friendships that have changed my life.