Urban Gypsies Paul Wenham-Clarke
Photograph: Paul Wenham-Clarke

In pictures: the Travellers who live under the Westway

Photographer Paul Wenham-Clarke set out to document London’s Traveller community after noticing their caravans on his commute

Rosie Hewitson

For most Londoners, the Westway is just a drab stretch of dual carriageway leapfrogging west London. But for one tiny group of people, it’s much more than that: it’s home.

Situated directly underneath the A40 near Latimer Road tube station in North Kensington, Stable Way has been a designated Traveller site since 1976, and now houses around 20 Irish Traveller families.

Photographer Paul Wenham-Clarke set out to document the community here after noticing their caravans on his daily commute. Wary of wider society’s hostility towards Travellers, he spent months gaining their trust before he was invited to photograph them as they came together to celebrate christenings, birthdays and anniversaries.

The resulting photographs are an intimate portrait of a close-knit community, whose cultural identity and way of life seem precarious in a rapidly gentrifying city. But the Travellers photographed by Wenham-Clarke are determined to stay put and preserve their culture on this little strip of London.

⬆ The Westway Traveller community lives directly underneath the flyover, on an area of land that was worth next to nothing when it was designated an official Traveller site by the local council over 40 years ago.

⬆ Photographer Wenham-Clarke says the children in the community have ‘an old-fashioned kind of childhood’: they often play outside in the streets for hours per day.

⬆ Paul was invited to photograph the community by long-standing resident Pat O’Donnell. His first opportunity to do so was at the christening celebrations of Pat’s nephew Terry, pictured here being held by his older cousins.

⬆ As devout Catholics, the Travellers often marry young and have large families.

⬆ Paul was invited to photograph the fiftieth wedding anniversary party for Pat’s parents, with four generations celebrating together. Parties often take place in local pubs, but only certain places will allow Travellers to book.

⬆ The community here keeps horses and ran a horse-riding school for many years, but this has now closed and the land that it stood on is due to be redeveloped soon.

Photography by Paul Wenham-Clarke.

‘Urban Gypsies’ by Paul Wenham-Clarke is published by Hoxton Mini Press.

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