The month of July offers us at the Traveller Movement a perfect time to stop and reflect on the experiences of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month which takes place in June each year. Below we have compiled some of the highlights of the work our education team has been undertaking in June, as well as showcasing some amazing work and contributions from across the country.
For this year’s history month theme, the Traveller Movement wanted to bring to the forefront a significant Gypsy, Roma and Traveller artist each day. From the incredibly talented Elijah Vardo, the creator of the art used on the Traveller Movement’s Education Website, to the stunning creations of Robert Czibi, and even the performance successes of big names like Michael Caine and Charlie Chaplin.
Remembering that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities have made invaluable and unique contributions to the culture here in the UK and around the world is exceptionally important. As our movement grows to secure greater rights and fairer treatment for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, the place of art in collective activism cannot be ignored and is undeniably powerful.
Our education team is regularly asked for educational resources to support teachers and schools in delivering good quality and accurate information about Gypsy, Roma and Traveller cultures, especially during Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month. As an organisation we focus on national and local policy as well as advocacy support for those who find themselves in complex situations and need support.
However, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month gives us a welcome opportunity to focus on celebrating our identities and heritage, rather than focusing in the difficulties and prejudice the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities face. So, this year, with help from staff at Portsmouth City Council, we collated a list of Roma and Gypsy role models with linked resources to demonstrate the incredible successes of individuals in our communities.
June is not just Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month, famously it is also Pride month where members and allies of the LGBTQ+ communities come together in a variety of ways to celebrate their communities, increase their representation and campaign for the important work still to be done to progress LGBTQ+ rights at home and internationally.
In many ways there are significant shared experiences between the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities and the LGBTQ+ communities, as both sets of communities still struggle for mainstream representation that is proportionate, fair and representative. At the Traveller Movement we strongly believe that standing together and supporting our mutual calls for equal treatment and protections in the form of human rights for LGBTQ+ people is the right thing to do, because together we are stronger.
June was also an important time to reflect on those Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people who are also LGBTQ+ and to celebrate their identities and promote greater acceptance of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller LGBTQ+ community members. As Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people, we know the hurt and dehumanisation that comes with experiencing racism. We are therefore in an ideal place to recognise and challenge the prejudice and shaming that some of those in our communities still display when interacting with LGBTQ+ people, particularly intersectional Gypsy, Roma and Traveller LGBTQ+ people. Once again, the Traveller Movement stands proudly as an ally to LGBTQ+ communities and welcomes all.
For support and guidance for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller LGBTQ+ people, please visit our website.
On 23rd June individuals and charities from across London came together to celebrate Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month together with live music, refreshments and venue provided by Mayor of London at London City Hall. Speaking at the event Dr Debbie Weekes-Bernard, the Deputy London Mayor, remarked about the rich culture, contributions and belonging of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities in London.
After contributions from the leaders of London’s Gypsy, Roma and Traveller organisations we enjoyed performances from members of the communities, with Tina from the Traveller Movement singing both traditional and more well-known Irish songs, and a superb performance by a Roma band.
We want to thank the Mayor of London and all those at London City Hall for welcoming us again. For more information about this event, please visit the City Hall blog about this amazing event.
In 2021, the Traveller Movement launched its first recipe book. The recipe book idea was born out of a community Facebook group which saw over 100,000 people join to share traditional and family recipes from their Gypsy, Roma and Traveller backgrounds. Recipes include Colcannon, Herby Dumpling Stew and Gypsy Tart as well as many others. We saw a significant rise in sales in the lead up to and during Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month as people across the country celebrated the rich traditions, culture and importantly food, of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.
Amongst those purchasing recipe books were schools, who used the recipes to make delicious food in class, learning about the history of the food and the culture of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people who eat this food, or at least grew up eating this food. We are delighted that this community born project can now impact on new generations of Travelling and non-Travelling alike.
You can order your own cookbook by visiting our website.
Each year we continue to use Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month to continue to raise awareness of the adversities faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities by offering free training to a limited selection of organisations. This year the Traveller Movement provided education focused training to the teachers’ union NASUWT as part of the Equalities Day, as well as NALDIC, a national subject association for English as an additional language. It was a pleasure to work with these organisations who, amongst others, are working to ensure the inclusion of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities in their work.
Towards the end of June, we visited the University of Portsmouth Library to see the displays put together to mark Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month. Near the entrance a collection of books by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller authors had been displayed. Displays of work and art created by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller individuals was being shown. The purpose of this work was to show the impact of negative stereotyping on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities and to provide a much-needed realistic view of who Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people are. The work challenged those attributes of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people which are commonly misunderstood, providing witty answers to assumptions of criminality by offering over simplistic and truthful answers, demonstrating the unconscious bias of those who view Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people through a false and narrow lens.
We would like to thank Annabel Tremlett, a social care lecturer at the University of Portsmouth for the tour and for organising much of the work on display. It was also a pleasure to see some of the background of Annabel’s work following the lives of Roma families in Hungary. The work offered a simple but centrally important theme demonstrating the humanity of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, breaking down the barriers which too often ‘other’ our communities.