Damian Le Bas grew up surrounded by Gypsy history. His great-grandmother would tell him stories of her childhood in the ancient Romani language; the places her family stopped and worked, the ways they lived, the superstitions and lores of their people. But his own experience of life on the road was limited to Ford Transit journeys from West Sussex to Hampshire to sell flowers.
In a bid to better understand his Gypsy heritage, the history of the Britain’s Romanies and the rhythms of their life today, Damian set out on a journey to discover the atchin tans, or stopping places – the old encampment sites known only to Travellers. Through winter frosts and summer dawns, from horse fairs to Gypsy churches, neon-lit lay-bys to fern-covered banks, Damian lived on the road, somewhere between the romanticised Gypsies of old, and their much-maligned descendants of today.
In his powerful and soulful debut The Stopping Places, a Radio 4 Book of the Week, Damian le Bas tells the story of his journey, and what we can all learn about this hidden side of British life.
“Tender and intensely lyrical … the prose is pure delight. The author breathes life into everything he sees … To read The Stopping Places is to better understand the curious history of the Roma and how they have survived into 21st-century Britain” Jackie Annesley in The Sunday Times