Kilroy’s Week With The Gypsies, Channel 4

by | Apr 4, 2005 | All, Reviews

What to say if you liked it

The Great British champion of free speech and liberty shows his caring side as he spends a week getting to grips and experiencing one of the minorities so persecuted by our iniquitous government – the gypsies.

What to say if you didn’t like it

Robert Kilroy-Silk adopts a disguise of a concerned champion of the people not assumed with such dexterity since Satan slithered into the Garden of Eden as a serpent and coerced Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. However, we would trust Satan to run the country with less hatred and discrimination than the vermin of Veritas.

What was good about it?

• The documentary ensured confrontation as Kilroy was to stay with a family of gypsies who actually owned the land on which they resided but who were being evicted at the end of the week by the local council after “eight years of harassment”.

• As gypsies rarely attend public school or achieve entry into Oxbridge, the media ignores their plight. This was remedied here as we followed the exasperated Cliff as

he tried to get his eviction order overturned at the High Court without success (“These places are no good for gypsies at all. There’s no justice.”)

• As much as our fingers have seized up in arthritic horror at what we are about to type it must be noted that: Robert Kilroy-Silk came across as compassionate, charming, humorous and sympathetic to the plight of gypsy clans like Cliff and Janey’s. Now we’re off to dull the pain of composing that last sentence by numbing our contrite burning hands in the glare of Tanya Turner’s icy stare.

• Kilroy’s compassion – whether genuine or false – enabled him to elicit intriguing insights into the gypsy lifestyle such as their reluctance to be tethered to a permanent home (Cliff had rejected a council house) and he also impressed most of the gypsies he met. Cliff even remarked: “He is a very open-minded man.”

• Assuming the persona of Kilroy the journalist rather than Kilroy the man, enabled him to skilfully convey the distrust and derision of “settled” people towards gypsies. Early on, as Cliff showed Kilroy the unkempt state of his land, the pair encountered a local man and, just like on his defunct TV show, Kilroy articulated the man’s disgust at how messy and rubbish-strewn the land was without it ever appearing he was expressing his own opinion (“People say to me: if they cleared up their mess we wouldn’t have a problem”).

• And later, Kilroy chaired a meeting between disgruntled residents and gypsies where he adroitly managed to achieve a widespread consensus that it was the fault of the government (although the ire was not directed at the Tory government who introduced the discriminatory legislation that exacerbated the problem in 1994).

• And even when scrutinizing the caravan he was allotted, Kilroy inspected the premises in a jovial manner with each apparent criticism accompanied by an incredulous laugh. (“The windows don’t actually close, but they’ve done their best.”)

• Remarkably, Kilroy even succeeded in making the gypsies seem more intolerant than him when he questioned Cliff’s anachronistic belief about homosexuals (“If someone decides they’re gay, they have to leave.”)

• When Kilroy had to pull out the bed in the caravan and turn on the taps, he became a hapless Stan Laurel-like figure.

• The dramatic conclusion when the council arrives to escort Cliff and his family from their land and Cliff understandably goes “on the warpath” ranting at the officials about the unfairness of their plight, while Janey moaned: “I do feel like my life has ended.”

What was bad about it?

• The initial premise for the documentary was for Robert Kilroy-Silk to clash violently with a group of people whom he is supposed to despise, but he is far too media-savvy to be exploited in such a way so we couldn’t rage at Kilroy’s ignorance and bigotry – either he is far more kind-hearted than he seems or it was all a very convincing act.

• The title of Kilroy’s Week With The Gypsies was something of a misnomer as he twice bailed out of staying the night – because the caravan was too cold and he offended

his hosts’ sensibilities over their traditions.

• When Kilroy was sat in his hotel whispering about the warning Cliff had given him over contesting gypsy perceptions on homosexuality and abortion, he intimated the consequences could be violent (“well, I can’t tell you what would happen to me”) which was another instance of the subtle way in which he aspired to paint himself as the victim of the episode.

• Because Kilroy is so versed in the vagaries of the media, we aren’t going to be fooled by his act of altruism and his assertion that his prejudices “have been dispelled” unless he speaks in such a way during the General Election campaign.

• The only real opposition to Kilroy came from Cliff’s obstinate wife Janey, but much of her vitriol was based on what she believed Kilroy would say rather than what he actually did communicate to her.

• Kilroy assuming he can act as a interpretive conduit for the relatively jumbled sentiments of the gypsies when he states, with no explicit evidence, that many gypsies would prefer to live in settled communities rather than be forever on the road but feel forced into their traditional way of life by peer pressure.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles

04/04/2005

Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!

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