The Truth about having Two Heads

6 May 2020
Helen Jones

Big thanks to Helen Jones for letting us share this blog

Let’s be honest, like millions of us in the UK, the last few years I’ve been scrolling social media and bingeing box sets, sort of zoomed out of mainstream telly.  Since Covid-19 however, I’ve been watching BBC news. It’s weirdly quite good actually. Lots more women on than last time I looked.  

I suspect that I sound like that young adult who goes back to their parents for comfort and help when s**t gets real. You know that you called them bad names but, actually, you sense that they do love you. And, you aren’t sure if anyone else does right now.

Week four of lockdown has been really tough.  Or is it week five? I seem to have lost interest in counting.  In my role as CEO of Leeds GATE, a members’ organisation for Gypsy and Traveller people, we’ve had even more to deal with than usual. Things were bad enough with Covid-19 response.  But that didn’t stop our other public service broadcaster, Channel Four, screening The Truth about Traveller Crime. A nightmare hatchet job whose purpose in demonising whole communities of people remains hard to fathom. Shocking lies damn lies and statistics.  

My phone didn’t stop ringing, whatsapping, messaging last night.  So many people in shock, telling me again about hate crimes that resulted from the last hate fuelled broadcast against our communities.  I’m wondering if we should be grateful for lockdown? No arson attack on the office as a result this time. So far.

I finally turned my laptop and mobile off this evening; got off my unsuitable chair; and tuned into the daily Coronavirus update.  You know I said it was weird? I can tell you with no embarrassment at all that I felt deeply comforted to see Wills and Kate on the screen looking slightly zoomed like the rest of us.  Tough week eh guys?

And rightly so.  The Queen must surely be cocooned, like all our vulnerable, and venerated, elders. Notwithstanding this however, for me, the role of the royal family is to reflect our experiences back to us; to encourage us and to help us to feel that we are not alone. Even if the public broadcasters should fail.  Our Royals are always there, ours.

Oh I know. You can fill in your own thoughts here about status and privilege. But that’s not the point of what I want to say.  

So there is me, on the settee at last, Friday evening prosecco in hand, and gearing up for the zoom pub quiz.  And there they were, folks like me and thee, in my sitting room and talking to me about the importance of our mental health. 

Daring to soften the stiff upper lip to talk about our parents and grandparents and how worried we are. They think we need to look after our vulnerable people so much, nothing else matters does it?  This is tough for all of us. Do talk to someone about it if something’s feeling really difficult, won’t you? Share your pain with someone.

What I wanted to see; what would have reflected my experience; what would have been really, really nice?  Was that moment, which I’m sure happened but got cut in editing, when Wills looked directly into the camera and said…

“I want to speak to our Gypsy and Traveller people.  I know, of all our people (subjects, if you like), you are suffering with mental health.  I saw this in my role as a frontline helicopter pilot. Kate and I were already so worried about you before Covid-19. We were, weren’t we?” He looks at Kate. “Yes, we all were”.

“So I want to let you know – that programme on Channel 4 last night was an absolute disgrace.  I am so sorry for what you must have felt today when your neighbours looked at you in the shop.  I know that feeling, it’s absolutely awful. You feel they are thinking that you have finally revealed that second head, or cloven foot, that they always knew you had. The media needs demons, I know, but I have seen the way that they pick on you.  It could be even more than they pick on me”.  

“Things are already hard, you are bereaved, people around you are bereaved, you are unwell and can’t get healthcare, you don’t have a really safe place to live, and then this, the Channel 4 Dispatches programme happens. You shouldn’t have to put up with this. I know you aren’t like that programme made out because we keep having to give your lot OBE’s and stuff like that.”

“So I’m going to get their heads chopped off.  It’s okay. I just get really tired of this crap, don’t you?”

Anyway.  Kate and Wills, it was fine.  You looked great. Your ceiling was clean and no finger marks on the door behind you. Thanks for being there.

First published April 17th 2020 on and republished with kind permission from Helen Jones