The actress Vanessa Redgrave has offered to live with an Irish traveler community facing eviction from an English campsite.
Up to 86 Irish Traveler families are fighting their removal from the Dale Farm camp in Essex, near London.
Redgrave, the former mother-in-law of Irish actor Liam Neeson, has joined the campaign to stop the eviction of the families.
She broke away from her filming schedule to spend time at the Dale Farm site, the largest unauthorized encampment of travelers in Britain.
“I’d be happy to live here with them, that’s for sure,” declared the Oscar winner outside Mary Ann McCarthy’s chalet.
“Dale Farm is a strong, wise, warm, gentle community. The whole situation is really about planning. There’s no crime being committed.
“We used to live in communities. We had a post office and we had our little local shops, which would help elderly people. Our communities up and down the country have been decimated and destroyed. Dale Farm hasn’t.”
The Dale Farm camp, home to these Irish families for over 10 years on land they own, faces a near $30million demolition job if the current appeals fail.
Redgrave’s involvement is personal. Her late brother Corin supported the Travelers and actually suffered a cardiac arrest as he addressed the local Basildon council on their behalf.
“A big society is a human society where everybody takes care of each other. Corin wouldn’t be disappointed coming here. Here is a warm place,” said Redgrave.
Residents took warmly to Redgrave who arrived at the campsite just hours after two local bishops who are also campaigning on behalf of the Travelers.
“If everybody was like her the world would be a better place. She was such a lovely person,” mother of two Tina told reporters.
“Our children have been reared up here, they went to preschool and then primary school and my little girl is booked into secondary school for the new term and now we’re getting kicked off. They want to crush this community, destroy our culture and put us into houses.”
Basildon council claims its opposition to the Dale Farm camp is the same as its opposition to any unauthorized development on greenbelt.
Redgrave told reporters that she had supported Gypsy communities across Europe since she became conscious of how ‘minorities were destroyed’ under Hitler.
Veteran Gypsy campaigner Grattan Puxon joined Redgrave at the site. He said: “This shouldn’t happen. This is not broken Britain. This is Britain strong and healthy and we want to save a small part of it if we can.”
The majority of local people living in the area support the eviction however according to radio station phone-ins.
Before she left, Redgrave was treated to a slap-up meal of bacon and cabbage by Mary Ann McCarthy.
“What they can learn from us is how to be more friendly to one another,” said McCarthy. “Our doors are open 24/7. We welcome everybody with open hearts.”
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