Dale Farm is a territory of contradiction, where a legal border divides a community. Two adjoining sites, 30-min-train away from London, used to be scrapyards that were turned into living quarters. The first estate was self-established as a nomad settlement for Irish Travellers and Gypsy and Roma families some sixty years ago (45 plots). The other one is an extension that dates back to 2000 and is composed of 52 plots. The former is authorised, but the latter is not. These ethnic minorities purchased both sites and legally own them. Prefab-houses and caravans are scattered along the lanes. However, after many applications, the most recent one still lacks any building permission, whereas the neighbouring one was built in a formal way in past decades.
Consequently, conservative-run Basildon District Council decided to carry out the demolition of the second settlement, the largest eviction in UK history, with a total cost of £18 million for the clearance and without providing any other site for the resident families. Today, the Court should have decided the final fate for the settlement. Activists had already started a protest camp inside (“Camp Constant”), and built several barricades across the inner lanes of this community together with the residents by applying the wittiest military resistance tactics. But the verdict has been postponed till Monday, so dwellers are returning some of the caravans that were brought to the legal site in case of eviction back to the illegal one.
Irish Travellers minority used to share with gypsies a nomad lifestyle. Today what remains is still their seasonal working schedule. Activists have referred to the eviction as “ethnic cleansing”. But personally, I do not think it is a matter of cultural identities, but aporophobia and fear to the unstable. The contemporary spatial habits of Irish Travellers are just a direct result of social exclusion. Their cultural identity is very much influenced by the fact of being “out of established society”. That’s what joins them and makes them configure a strongly tied community. Unfortunately, it is the society that they cannot belong to what eventually gives meaning to their identity.
Dale Farm is located in the middle of the countryside, about 10 km away from the nearest village. One can only wonder why it is so important for authorities to evict the settlers living in that remote site lacking building permission.
Why did the Council even provide the needy families on-site with tax benefits if their dwellings were not legal?
If their mere existence makes villagers feel so uncomfortable, why not directly promote the eviction of both sites?
Why has their application for allowance to build on the site they legally own been constantly denied?
Authorities argument that the illegal site lies on a green belt land, but at the same time, there used to be a scrapyard in the same area only 10 years ago.
The only way for us to reach Dale Farm from the nearby railway station was by taxi. And maybe the only explanation to these questions, as absurd as coherent, was revealed to us in a conversation with the extremely prejudiced driver, who took us to the nearest crossroads to the site from the station (he refused to drop us off at the very entrance):
You will understand it when you grow older.
[1-8>Dale Farm Protests by deconcrete2011][9> Dale Farm_aerial view via bbc]