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EXHIBITION: IN SITE

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In 2007 On Site Arts resumed work with Clays Lane in Newham. In close consultation with the families, this small project aimed at enabling the children and their parents to photographically record their final months on their site, and the move to their new site in October 2007. After twelve different moving dates and enormous stress and uncertainty, the families were finally moved to nearby Parkway Crescent, a plot of land previously used as the local children’s park which the Gypsy families had shared amicably with other local families. Here the role of On Site Arts shifted to one of supporting the families through listening and witness both to their actual experiences and through the photographs the families took. In Site was an exhibition inside the caravan and on the pitch of one of the families who had participated in the photography since the 2005 project. It was opened up to the local primary school attended by the children. Commenting on the exhibition in a local Newham newspaper, the mother, Lisa Smith, said:

‘When I heard about Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month I thought it would be good to invite the children’s schools to our site, so they can see how we live and learn about our way of life. We live on the council Travellers’ site in Newham, London and our community has had a very stressful time in the past few years, as our site was needed for the Olympics. They pulled down a playground to build us a new site but local people were unhappy with this. So were we, but even though we went to court about it, we lost.
‘When we were waiting to move, the children were given cameras by photographers ‘ON SITE ARTS’ and they took photos of what happened. There was an exhibition and I thought it would be good to repeat it on our new site and invite our children’s classes. When they came they visited the pitches where their friends live. They couldn’t believe how lovely it all is. One of the boys said, “I always wanted to see John’s trailer and I wish I could live here.’ Even the teachers were surprised. They said they thought Travellers were dirty but it made them realise how ignorant they were about us.
‘Next year I think we should have a bigger party and invite the local settled community, so they learn about our culture and get to know us better.’