What does celebrating Gypsy, Roma, Traveller History Month look like for you? Is it learning about parts of your heritage you don’t know, is it speaking with your elders, or getting together to celebrate at a site or town hall? Or is it throwing a kid’s party that gives space to speak out your heritage? This June, Moving for Change was delighted to support 19 projects celebrating Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month.
Celebrations took place across Britain, from Montrose in Scotland down to Cornwall. Three people created mini-documentaries about journeys to fairs and festivals. 16 individuals and community groups created celebrations at sites, village halls, gardens and museums. These spanned from art installations to sifting through archives, and from a pizza van to gardening projects.
Here are just some of the celebrations we were able to support this summer:
Southwark Traveller Action Group
“Everyone enjoyed the day so well from young people to old, this is something we never had in Essex before and the traveller community was so excited to be part of it.”
The horses joined in as part of Southwark Traveller Action Group’s (STAG) celebrations. The day brought children, elders and community members together for food, music and raising the Romani flag. Alison Blackwood, STAG manager said: “Now they ask when’s the next one!”
“We all know the old saying, ‘if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all’. Well, that doesn’t quite apply to Appleby Fair. It is an exception, or so they tell me. It’s taken me 40, (and the rest), years to finally go see it for my own eyes and to of course, form my own opinion.”
Serena Farrow went on her own pilgrimage to Appleby Fair for the very first time. She shares her experiences via a soon-to-released film and blog, where she talks with other fairgoers as well as her father about the fair in days gone by.
Elim Housing at Chubbards Cross
“It was so nice to feel valued and appreciated, and to have some social time to focus on us and our culture. It was such a good day -the kids absolutely loved it and have wanted to make things all the time since.” K and D, residents of Chubbards Cross, a site in South Somerset.
The residents celebrated with crafts, pony trap rides and documented stories from people across the site. A pizza van made an opportunity for residents at the different sides of the site to come together, exchange histories and talk. K and D added:
“We felt we celebrated ‘us’ and built some trust with the officials. Lace [the horse] loved being the centre of attention -we would love to do it again next year.”
Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange
The University of Leeds found and shared documents and photos of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people in days gone by. A group of women and another group of young people went to look and reflect on shared histories. Some saw photos of family members, whilst others got to see photos of bow top tents for the first time.
As part of the science and technology departments at the University of Glasgow, Marie Bowers is hosting a day just for Gypsy and Traveller scientists! The day will include learning about Gypsy and Traveller scientists both past and present, busting stereotypes about ‘what a scientist really looks like’ as well as fun goodie bags to take home.
Founder of LGBTQ+ organisation Traveller Pride, Tyler Hatwell, said:
“Many of our group members feel a distance from more “traditional” Gypsy, Roma, Traveller spaces. People we work with often feel that they are “not Traveller enough”, which can lead to a sense of shame and a reluctance to engage. The purpose of our day was to allow a space for people to become curious about their own heritage, or to learn about a heritage very close to theirs to make it seem far more accessible.”
Traveller Pride held a film screening of ‘The Deathless Woman’, a Romani-focused film about the Holocaust and the Roma experience today. This was followed by a Roma language workshop. Tyler added:
“Our sense is that by building these spaces for this contact to take place, people will re-link with their heritage or will find a greater depth with it.”
How we celebrated #GRTHM22: Traveller Space and Leah Best had a Fairy Garden Party! 🧚♂️
🍓Young people helped to create a fruit garden, decorating fairy houses and caravans. Family members and teachers then came for a tea party in the new garden. pic.twitter.com/NYqfR2DjXT
— Moving for Change (@Moving4ChangeUK) September 2, 2022
Leah Best took the opportunity this summer to make a magical experience for the children at her local site by creating a garden out of an unused corner. She planted flowers, strawberry and tomato plants, and a rockery that was to become home to a new fairy enclave. They then celebrated with a tea party where the young people helped make and decorate their own fairy houses as well as wagons and bow tops.
One young person said: “Did the real fairies make it?”
Another said: “I love the caravans, where can I get one?”
Whilst a parent said: “Thank you for a lovely day, the children loved it.”
Thank you also to Dee Gregory at Surrey Gypsy and Traveller Community Forum, Emma Nuttall at Friends, Families and Travellers, David Pullar, Charmaine Abdul Karim at Pride of Romani, Kate Marshall, Jane Dyer at Brendan’s Bridge, Ann O’Driscoll, Betty Billington at Kushti Bok, Ruby and Scarlett Smith and Katrina Edington for working with us to help celebrate Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Pride this summer.