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'We feel persecuted' - Travelling showmen family on their struggle to find a home

PUBLISHED: 10:03 25 August 2019 | UPDATED: 08:54 26 August 2019

Robert Edwards with family Ocean, Indi, Keely and Robert Jnr.

Robert Edwards with family Ocean, Indi, Keely and Robert Jnr.

Archant

Robert and Keely Edwards are no different to any married couple - they work hard to provide for their children and live together as a family.

Robert Edwards is the seventh generation of his family to work in funfairs.Robert Edwards is the seventh generation of his family to work in funfairs.

However, their shared profession - passed to them through the generations - has left them faced with persecution and prejudice as they search for a new family home.

Mr and Mrs Edwards are travelling showmen, and dedicate their lives to providing entertainment at fairs, carnivals and other events across the country.

It is a career and a lifestyle that has been in Mr Edwards' family for seven generations, since the late 1800s.

The family spend around 10 months of the year travelling all over the land, providing fairground rides to events such as the Cromer Carnival - including a helter skelter which has been in his family for half a century.

Robert Edwards one on of the funfair rides they operate across East AngliaRobert Edwards one on of the funfair rides they operate across East Anglia

But with this, the couple juggles making sure their three children, Indi, 12, Ocean, five, and 20-month-old Bobby receive the education they need and have somewhere to live when they are not on the road.

Currently, they live with family in King's Lynn, but as their small family has grown the site has felt smaller, leaving them needing to hunt for a new base.

The lifestyle calls for a very specific type of home, which has to fit with a criteria set by The Showmen's Guild of Great Britain requiring them to be close to education facilities and other amenities, without imposing on existing settlements.

After months of searching, Mr Edwards believed he had found the perfect location, a small plot of land on the edge of the village of Narborough, which he purchased for £15,000.

Robert Edwards is at the fair in Eaton Park in Norwich for the rest of this week.Robert Edwards is at the fair in Eaton Park in Norwich for the rest of this week.

There, the family had hoped to build a life and a home together, where they can base themselves in a static caravan and store the two rides they own while they are not in use.

Mr Edwards, 47, said: "I have lived in Norfolk for the best part of 20 years, in King's Lynn for the last 16 years and Swaffham before that.

"The reason I picked Narborough is that it is the perfect location for us, we still have family in both Swaffham and King's Lynn so we'd be an ideal distance between the two."

Mrs Edwards said having a permanent base would allow her and the children to return home during the weeks, even when the family are on the road, to get Ocean, who attends conventional school, as much time in school as possible.

One of the rides operated by Robert Edwards and his family.One of the rides operated by Robert Edwards and his family.

But their proposal has proved contentious in the village, with a number of neighbours already objecting to their plans to live on the plot and store equipment there, which have been lodged with Breckland Council.

Concerns have been raised over vehicles carrying the large rides through the village, and it being out of character with the rest of the area.

But Mr Edwards said that copies of the planning notice had been placed elsewhere around the village calling on others to object as well.

He said: "I have read some of the comments people have been making and it honestly makes me feel like we are a family of aliens.

Robert Edwards on one of the attractions his family have run for generations.Robert Edwards on one of the attractions his family have run for generations.

"People just have such a fear of the unknown and see the word 'travelling' and assume we are something we are not.

"For lack of a better word we feel persecuted. We are not Gypsies, we are travelling showmen who just want to make an honest living and give our children a home and an education.

"We also do not want to make the land an industrial site, we want to make it our home and only our home."

The family's lineage is in Swindon, but they now have deep set roots in Norfolk, with Mr Edwards' great-great grandfather purchasing a carousel from the Savage family of King's Lynn back in the Victorian age.

Robert Edwards comes from a long tine of travelling showmen.Robert Edwards comes from a long tine of travelling showmen.

Mr Edwards said: "People are worrying about accepting something unknown into their community, but we are already a part of the community and have been for years.

"Being a showman is our way of life, but we are no different to any other human being and just want to find a home."

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