A TRAVELLER says a cult documentary series about the life of “gypsies” could not be any further from a true portrayal of her culture.
Like millions of other viewers, Maria Smith has been avidly watching Channel 4’s Big Fat Gypsy Weddings, which looks at the life of gypsies and travellers.
The colourful show features over-the-top weddings, with brides in huge 10-stone meringue dresses, children as young as six getting spray tans for their holy communions, youngsters dancing provocatively and the “grabbing” ritual, which sees traveller boys forcefully dragging girls off for a kiss.
Mother-of-four Maria said the series so far has left her “gobsmacked”.
Maria, 42, who has lived with her family in two caravans on a site off Wingate Road, in Trimdon Station, on and off for the past two years, is a Romany gypsy and says the values of her people are different to the Irish travellers who predominantly appear in the show.
She said the show is doing nothing for relations between travellers and the non-travelling community.
Maria, who is married to James, 41, and has four children, James, 22, Shaun, 20, Nathan, 18 and Natalie, 14, added: “The show is really causing an uproar among Romany gypsies.
“The first episode really disgusted me. The lifestyle on there is just something we don’t do.
“This is more the Irish travellers’ way of life.
“Gypsies tend to have big weddings and funerals, but in a more elegant way.
“It is portraying all gypsies as being the same and it’s not true.”
Maria is concerned at the “grabbing” tradition.
She added: “It upset me so much, I have got a daughter and nieces and wouldn’t like to think of one of them going to the shop and getting approached like that. It doesn’t need to be a gypsy boy to get the idea that they can just grab them like that.”
Maria’s children went to school for a basic education up to the age of 12 or 13 and after that they have learned about the gypsy culture.
The boys will follow in their father’s footsteps and sell horses.
Natalie may learn how to cook and clean although the option is there for her to get a job.
Maria said a lot of the girls on the show look “cheap” in their heavy make-up and have been influenced by what they see on TV and in magazines.
She added that she had been approached by show producers and interviewed at the Appleby Horse Fair, in Cumbria, but it is not clear whether her interview made the final cut.
She said in her interview she told how hard it is for the “gypsy” culture to thrive and how it is harder to travel these days, especially with police moving them on.
Maria, who is awaiting the outcome of an appeal with Durham County Council’s planning department over whether her family can stay at the Trimdon site, added: “I do think the gypsy culture is a very good culture.
“There is good and bad among everybody, but that programme is upsetting a lot of people.
“Everybody wants people to live in houses, but it’s not the gypsy way of life.
“I’ve tried it and can’t do it.”
A Channel 4 spokeswoman said: “The series is an observational documentary and made predominantly from the perspective of both gypsies and travellers talking about their own experiences.
“The whole series features a mix of Irish travellers and Romany gypsies and the programme makes a clear distinction between these different groups.”
l The show appears at 10pm on