By Tina McInerney, women’s officer at the Traveller Movement
It’s been a busy and exciting time for the Traveller Movement team this month after one of our projects hit new, dizzying heights! It’s also very timely for us to share this exciting news and part of our contribution to the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, which is an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls. The campaign runs every year from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day.
TM have a long-standing partnership agreement with Solace Women’s Aid, a leading domestic abuse charity based in London. As part of that project we decided to do something different to capacity build and raise awareness about domestic violence. We decided to write a play and run a drama project. The play was co-written and produced by ourselves at the Traveller Movement involving eighteen women and the wonderful Jennie Buckman, director of the Giant’s Theatre Company.
The storyline is about a woman called Moira, who fell in love with and married a man who turned out to be a violent, domestic abuser. The play documents her life from when she met him: from the good, to the bad, to the ugly. It threads together aspects of all the women’s lives or experiences of loved ones and friends. Some of the women supported by two professional actors performed the play to a packed house twice at the Blue Elephant Theatre London 2016. The reviews were fantastic and it generated a lot of interest.
“An important, poignant piece of theatre. It brought me to tears. This script telling stories from the community, is incredibly powerful.”
Domestic abuse happens in all communities, and like in many communities, domestic violence is a taboo topic for many Travellers. At the Traveller Movement, we wanted to bring it to light so that no Gypsy, Roma or Traveller woman felt ashamed if they experienced domestic violence.
The play is particularly close to my heart as it was co-written by myself and other Traveller women. The storyline is made up of real life events that happened to Traveller survivors involved in the project. It was terrifying reliving what happened to me but it made it so easy to act out as I knew what was going to happen next. Living past memories by acting them out was draining and took a toll on all of us involved.
However, the outcomes of it was so positive that it was worth it. One woman who got involved was a long suffering victim of extreme domestic violence and gained the courage to leave her violent husband and divorce him, despite being from a highly traditional Traveller family who would rather that she had stayed with her husband because of the importance of marriage.
Obviously, domestic violence affects women in all walks of life not just Gypsy, Roma and Irish Traveller women, but I felt it was important to bring up this individual experience of it. That way if anyone, anywhere was experiencing something similar, they might see this and get the courage to speak out and get out… Before it’s too late.
I’ve been part of this project from the beginning and as the Traveller Movement’s women’s officer, and an Irish Traveller I am passionate about making a difference in this area. It’s so, so important that people suffering from domestic abuse are aware that they are not alone.
The play back in 2016 was so well received that people were recommending that we do road shows. With the majority of the cast not being professional actors and having other life commitments, this just wasn’t going to happen. But we still had a dream to get the message out. So, we worked hard to secure some seed funding in order to make that dream a reality and turn the play into a film instead.
The shooting of the film has been the most exciting bit so far. We partnered with Jennie Buckman who wrote and directed the film. Jennie is an amazing woman and the director of Giant’s Theatre. She was head of acting at Rada and gave us some inspiring acting lessons beforehand. She has also written for theatre, TV and BBC radio shows. We also partnered with Crispy Biscuit run by the brilliant Michael Buckman, who was very generous with his time and most of the filming crew volunteered their time to help out this important cause. Crispy Biscuit have also worked with huge names in the past – shooting adverts for Nissan, Oral B, Master Card, Disney and Dunlop to name but a few. Both of these organisations are creatively brilliant and we cannot thank them enough for their time, support and skill! They are also very dear friends to the Traveller Movement.
The highlight of filming was that everyone felt like one big happy family and Michael was so supportive, making sure the cast were all ok along the way. I had a few bad flashbacks – I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t going to get hurt, but it didn’t stop me shivering and shaking and I think everyone could see this. But with the lovely kindness and support from everyone I sailed through. I honestly couldn’t fault a single person.
During this time of the UN’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, it is important to take time to reflect on all the different ways that women from all walks of life are affected by violence. It’s about getting Her Story out in the open.
The film will be released early next year! Watch this space.