'I needed to get to the stopping places, so I needed to get on the road. It was the road where I might at last find out where I belonged.'
Damian Le Bas grew up surrounded by Gypsy history. His great-grandmother would tell him stories of her childhood in the ancient Romani language; the places they worked, the ways they lived, the superstitions and lores of their people.
In a bid to better understand his heritage, Damian sets out on a journey to discover the stopping places – the old encampment sites known only to Travellers. Through winter frosts and summer dawns, from horse fairs to Gypsy churches, Damian lives on the road, somewhere between the romanticised Gypsies of old, and their much-maligned descendants of today.
Damian Le Bas was born in 1985 into a long line of Gypsies and Travellers. He was raised within a network of relations who taught him how to ride and drive ponies, tractors and trucks, sing melancholy cowboy ballads and speak the thousand-year-old Romani tongue. He was awarded scholarships to study at Christ's Hospital and the University of Oxford. Between 2011 and 2015 he was the editor of Travellers' Times, Britain's only national magazine for Gypsies and Travellers. The Stopping Places is his first book. Damian lives and works mostly in Kent, with his wife (the actor Candis Nergaard); and Sussex, where he grew up and where his nan – who taught him the old Romany Travellers' little-known routes and ways – both still live.
– Shortlisted for the Somerset Maugham Award, the Wainwright Prize and the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Award
"Tender and intensely lyrical [...] the prose is pure delight. The author breathes life into everything he sees [...] To read The Stopping Places is to better understand the curious history of the Roma and how they have survived into 21st-century Britain"
– Jackie Annesley, The Sunday Times
"A beautiful writer who seems born to tell this fascinating story. It's brilliantly researched, avoiding stereotype and explaining misconceptions, while showing what is vital and special about modern traveller culture"
– Amy Liptrot
"A fine prose style, vividly conjuring the smell of a hop pillow, the whinnying of a horse fair and the 'wet-look hairstyles' of the men, as well as the dead cold of a wagon in winter [...] An element of memoir clings to this excellent account of folk most of us don't understand [...] The end of the book hints at redemption, as Le Bas comes to terms with the conflicts of his dual world. But he is too good a writer to make a meal of it"
– Sara Wheeler, The Spectator
"An insight into the hidden world and culture of travelling people, written with delicacy and affection"
– Ken Loach
"Beautifully written and deeply affecting [...] While this is a beautiful, important book about Gypsy culture, it's also a moving exploration of what it means to belong"
– Clover Stroud, Daily Telegraph