Working with Vulnerable Communities – Travellers.

Despite my specialism being in Science and Nature programming I decided to do my 3 Minute Wonder on the subject of the life of New Travellers.

Although I have personal experiences, as well as extensive knowledge and understand of Traveller histories, cultures and concerns, this project has been the first time I have worked with Travellers from a professional point of view.

I had to overcome a number of obstacles: due to widespread persecution some Travellers, even New Travellers, have become secretive and suspicious of the intentions of others. For most people having a film crew poking around your house and life poses a risk to personal privacy, people maybe uncomfortable sharing certain aspects of their lives, this is mainly due to fear of embarrassment however for Travellers, there is a very real fear for personal safety. Broadcasting of location (even for a legal site such as the one I was filming at), publication of names etc etc. as well as the potential misuse, or misinterpretation of footage leaves the group open to persecution and harassment.

To make matters worse the recent media obsession with Travellers has damaged relationships, not only is there a fear of personal harm and the misuse of footage but there is also a feeling of disillusion with photographers and film-makers,  to be frank Travellers, especially those who own horse-drawn wagons, are a little fed-up of people poking cameras in their face, most of the time without permission. This is the feedback I received from my shoot.

 

Culture also plays an important role. There are certain everyday activities that are not shared with outsiders, the preparation and eating of food for example, as well as the discussion of any, to use a Romani word, marime (un-clean: bathroom) activities. Topics that my audience ask questions about but were difficult to negotiate the filming of.

I had to develop a professional and trusting working relationship, I did this being friendly and genuinely respectful but most importantly by trying to prove myself as someone who is responsible.

When working with Vulnerable Communities, be them Travellers or otherwise I believe it is very important to be responsibility, to take the impacts (both short- and long-term) of your presence and product on the community into consideration. As film-maker we want to produce a product full of drama and interest however this should not be done at the expense of the community.

I believe I have learnt a lot from this shoot, about responsibility and gaining trust.

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