One of Britain’s wealthiest commuter cities was in a state of partial blockade yesterday for the funeral of two of the stars of the reality TV show My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.
Sevenoak’s pubs close the shop when hundreds of people from the traveling community arrive to pay tribute to their twin brothers Billy and Joe Smith, who died in a suicide pact in December.
An elaborate procession led by two white horse-drawn carriages stopped the streets before a church service to remember the two men, who starred together in the Channel 4 show
Each of the six pubs in the city center was closed to customers throughout the afternoon and evening. A notice posted in a window said: “We will be closed from 15:00 today for our Christmas party.”
A worker, however, revealed that companies feared that the arrival of hundreds of travelers could end in drunkenness and disruption.
“We have nothing against them,” said the worker, who did not wish to be named.
“But before we had bad experiences and it’s about people’s livelihood.”
The businesses that closed for the day were accused of racism by family members and Gypsy leaders.
Billy Welch, a spokesman for the British Gypsy community, said he intends to address the matter with the National Gypsy Council.
“This behavior is just pure racism,” he said.
“Imagine if companies closed their doors during a funeral for a member of the black community, a Muslim or a Jew. There would be a great hype.
“Prejudice towards travelers and gypsies is only an accepted form of racism in this country, for some reason.
“And people wonder why people on the go separate themselves from the rest of society.
“These two guys have lived most of their lives in Sevenoaks. Closing the shop on the day of their funeral is simply disrespectful. “
Phoebe Charleen Smith, the cousin of the Smith twins, added: “None of Billy’s or Joe’s family would ever cause problems. We don’t want to drink in the pub, we’re too sad.”
A source from the Sevenoaks District Council said that the companies’ decision to close was made “exclusively by the owners”.
It comes after a series of raids traveling families on private and public land in Sevenoaks. In recent months, residents have complained about the arrival of budding caravans and parking lots of supermarkets before being transferred by the police.
The bodies of Billy and Joe Smith, both 32 years old, were found together in a tree on the outskirts of Sevenoaks on December 28th.
Just a few days before their death, the couple was filmed dancing and singing together at a wedding.
Family members, however, later revealed that Joe had been diagnosed with cancer, which was a serious blow to his brother.
The couple left a suicide note explaining that “they could not live without the other” and had decided to kill each other together in the woods where they played as children.
They were placed in Sevenoaks cemetery after a procession through the city. The mourners brought Jack Daniels’ bottle-shaped floral tributes, Jose Cuervo tequila and a Rolex watch, while the heart-shaped roses were filled with Ferrero Rocher chocolates.
The funeral was welcomed in the church of San Giovanni Battista with the song “He Ain’t Heavy, It’s My Brother” by the Hollies, while during the service the young son of Joe sang “You got got a friend in me” in the film Toy Storia .
Holy water was sprayed over the two white coffins before the twin brothers were buried together at the Greatness Park Cemetery.
One of the tributes read: “To the two greatest legends of Kent. I will both miss you very much. Until we meet again guys. “