A celebrartion bringing together Travellers and Gysies from Romania, Ireland and England to celebrate their culture.
by Sarah Burns
A reflection on methods of engaging the Roma, Gypsy and Traveler community
Traveller Journeys project- Bristol Playbus 2011
This year with funding from the Heritage Lottery we were able to work with three different communities to celebrate Roma, Gypsy and Traveller culture.
Working on in partnership with Bristol City Council and bristol libraries.
The aims of the project were:
- To celebrate the culture and history of Gypsies and Travellers who live in Bristol and South Gloucestershire
- To raise awareness amongst professionals about how they can promote equality of access to their services
- To raise awareness in the local communities of the culture and history of the Travelling and Gypsy communities with the hope of challenging common perceptions
Three workshops were set up in Bristol and South Gloucestershire to work with children and young people from Roma, Gypsy and Traveller communities.
These were at Holy Family Primary school working with Irish Travellers; City Academy Secondary school, with young people from the Roma community and Rose Meadows Traveller site.
The workshops commenced in May and terminated in July, the last week of school, and just before the public event to celebrate Roma, Gypsy and Traveller culture.
- Improved communication skills
- Increased confidence
- Increased awareness of Traveller cultures
- Improvement in cohesion between Traveller communities.
Holy Family Primary school
Traveller children in Holy Family Primary school worked with Gypsy folktales using art materials to create pictures and puppets. They made old fashioned Gypsy wagons (Vardos) and were keen to make and draw horses, these being an important part of their cultural identity
As trust grew, the children shared more about their heritage, creating collages depicting their culture and lifestyle. What emerged was a strong sense of pride in their way of life.
Stories, art, music and dance formed the content of the workshops.
Quotes from Traveller children
“I was born a Traveller and I’ll die a traveller and nothing can change this” (Christine. Aged 10 years)
“Travellers are very friendly and would welcome anybody”. (Katelin. Aged 8)
City Academy Secondary School
Dance featured predominantly in workshops for the Roma community at City Academy.
Participants fused traditional Roma dance with western style street dance.
Workshops also consisted of circus skills, playing physical games such as Musical Statues
Rose Meadows Traveller site (Ashton Vale)
At Rose Meadows Traveller site, the children engaged with traditional Gypsy folk stories using these as a stimulus for making peg people and a puppet theatre.
They took photographs of their characters and then made books, retelling the story in picture form.
The children also enjoyed making different types of puppets for instance, hand puppets and shadow puppets and creating their own stories with these.
Parachute games and games which involved chasing each other proved particularly popular with the younger ones at the beginning or end of workshops.
Celebratory event on 29th July to celebrate Roma, Gypsy and Traveller culture
The public event to celebrate Roma, Gypsy and Travelling cultures was a huge success, integrating the three communities, as well as local people from the area. About one hundred and twenty children and eighty adults attended the event. Irish Travellers had a friendly ‘dance off’ with the Roma community as well as having arm wrestles with each other and local police. Live Roma and Gypsy music kept the crowd entertained, along with storytelling and workshops in Street dance, art, and blacksmithing, a traditional Traveller and Gypsy craft. The children were awarded certificates of achievement. Bristol libraries occupied a tent telling well known Gypsy and Traveller stories and a barbeque was enjoyed by all.
The Lord and Lady Mayor attended the celebration along with prominent figures from the Traveller community and Roger Goulding from The Heritage Lottery. They handed certificates to children who had participated in the workshops and those who performed. One of the Traveller children said (about the event) that it was
“the best day he had ever known” because it was an event devoted to Travellers and Gypsies and most people were from these communities.
Supported by the Heritage Lottery & The Emmigrant support programme and in partnership with Bristol City Council.