We need to talk about Tom

We recently did a photoshoot for a magazine cover. A standard request… usually, but this one was different.

The cover for Travellers Times, winter 2020 supports an important story. A story that is largely overlooked even by the most liberal-minded of us. We rightly, kneel for Black Lives Matter and proudly march for Pride and gender equality, but honestly, who really thinks positively about the Gypsy, Roma, and Travelling (GRT) community?

This huge ethnic group, is largely unsupported and isolated, suffering rates of suicide 11 times higher than the national average. It is a huge problem.

Travellers Times is the national magazine for the community, a project enabled by Rural Media who offer a bi- annual magazine and daily website which gives a voice to the GRT community  to tell their stories, educate others and advocate.

The latest issue showcases the story of Tom Jones. Tom was well known among the Travelling community for his singing performances at Traveller weddings up and down the country. Tom was also popular among his local community, for his charitable work and his “larger than life” character.  Tom raised enormous amounts of money for Chase Hospice and Macmillan Cancer, putting on comedy and entertainment nights at his local social club.

Tom appeared to have everything to live for. He was a popular, talented, and generous man with a loving wife, four children and three grandchildren . He was also a hero,  who received a top award for bravery from Hampshire’s Chief Constable when he intervened in an armed bank robbery. 

Tom was shot in the face whilst wrestling one robber to the ground and then he was stabbed in the chest by the other robber. After his heroic bravery Tom was left with a shotgun pellet lodged near his brain. On medication, and with post-traumatic stress symptoms. Tom was already dealing with the loss of three brothers in shockingly quick succession and he suffered  mental health issues which eventually lead to his tragic suicide early in 2020.

Tom’s son, also called Tom Jones, devasted by the loss of his father wanted to do something to raise funds for The Samaritans and raise awareness of the disproportionately high rate of suicide in the Travelling community.   Himself a father of three and 34 years old, Tom walked 100 miles in six days, from Winchester over the South Downs to Eastbourne Pier arriving on 30th August this year.

Tom reached his fundraising target of £3,000 before he even set off.

When we met Tom for the photoshoot, he was humble, proud, and very generous. He was pleased to be featured in Travellers Times to help spread the word, not just about his father’s tragic story, but to help prevent more instances of suicide in his community. Click the cover image to read the full issue.

Traveller Times featured article ‘We need to talk’