Essex & son in local director’s film
We’ll be screening Traveller, the feature film debut of director and University of Northampton lecturer Benjamin Johns, at 9pm on Friday 31 January.
The film stars David Essex as Blackberry, a Gypsy patriarch who takes Owen, a young half-Gypsy boy played by Essex’s son, Billy Cook, under his wing. With both the police and a gang of vicious gangsters on his trail, Owen finds refuge in his late father’s Gypsy camp, where he explores his roots under the guidance of the charismatic Blackberry.
Johns’ tense, gritty crime thriller challenges some of the stereotypes and misconceptions promoted by the recent rash of sensationalist television shows, giving a more subtle and rounded insight into the Traveller life. He commented, “We’ve captured a world that has much interest, yet is rarely seen on the big screen. All our extras are real Travellers. This is a story about a young man’s journey of self-discovery, and my lead does the role proud in his first film.”
“It was great to work with my son Billy, a privilege to watch him and see how truthful he is as an actor” said David Essex. The musician and actor, most recently seen on television as EastEnders’ Eddie Moon, also composed Traveller’s Celtic-influenced soundtrack. A former Patron of Britain’s National Gypsy Council, Essex is himself descended from Irish Travellers: “My grandfather was a travelling tinker man”, he said. “He came over to England and they had my mother, and they’d settled by then but they’d always had these ties. One of the lines from my mum which I’ve put into the film is the one where Blackberry says ‘A land without Gypsies is a land without freedom’.”