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Travellers criticise 'My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding'

Misleading portrayal of gypsy life in the Channel 4 series is damaging, says traveller community.

The traveller community has said that it is "extremely disappointed and angry" with My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding's narrow portrayal of their way of life.

The programme has been very successful, reaching around 8.7 million viewers. However, the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain said:

"We are hearing every day distressing accounts from parents whose children are being bullied and called names. Venue bookings are being cancelled. We are hearing about the deep sense of embarrassment and shame many have been left with by such a narrow, misrepresentative and unjust portrayal of their community and culture".

Britain's Gypsy and Traveller communities called on Channel 4 to give them the opportunity to explain their culture and beliefs and provide context that they believe is lacking in the selective examples used in the series.

Romany Gypsies object to the programme because it implies that the only Gypsies in Britain are Irish Travellers when in fact the Travellers' Times website says that Irish Travellers make up only 10 per cent of the Gypsy and Traveller community in the UK.

There has also been a complaint from the website Travellers' Times, who have reported the programme to broadcast watchdog Ofcom.

Travellers' Times have told Ofcom that the programme "misleads the audience and leads to harm and offence".

Channel 4 have defended themselves, issuing a statement that says:

"The series features a mix of Irish Travellers and Romany Gypsies and the programme makes a clear distinction between these different groups. Whenever a person is introduced, we are careful to identify who they are and what community they come from.

The series is an observational documentary and made predominantly from the perspective of Gypsies and Travellers talking about their own experiences.We have intentionally avoided many commonly held stereotypes and attempted to provide a balanced view."

One person with experience of living as a gypsy does not agree with the criticism.

Shanye Ward, who won the X Factor in 2005 and was born into an Irish Traveller family is a fan of the programme.

Ward believes the programme is an improvement on traditional portrayals of the Traveller community.