This website has evolved from a project examining the heritage and cultural traditions of Gypsies and Travellers living in the East Midlands.
Heritage is a powerful tool. It is something that gives a sense of place and identity and helps to inform us about who we are and how a region has developed over time. One writer described the process of recording your heritage as ‘place making in a place-less time’. (Robbins 1991) it is a process which has historically been difficult for the Gypsy community because their nomadic lifestyle, combined with official discrimination has meant accurate government historical archives have not been wholly reliable. The Gypsy communities themselves, being for the most part illiterate, afforded little value to the paper and ink, they passed their history on by word of mouth. This oral tradition means that very little written work exists.
These factors have been compounded by the widespread prejudice the communities face, causing many of the local Gypsy community to choose to remain largely invisible.
For a long time the heritage industry had a class and ethnic bias, over the past thirty years, this has began to change. The publication of academic writing (Vikram 1986, Fryer 1984, Gilroy 1987) has helped to develop the multicultural heritage of Britain. Alongside this, art groups such as the New Art Exchange in Nottingham, have developed projects which explore the connections between the stories of the past and present, often showing the relationship between Britain and its colonial past.
The Gypsy community have often evaded these developments. It is a defined ethnic community, yet has little relationship to colonialism. Gypsies have been present in the UK since the 1500′s, yet this presence is largely undocumented and unrecognized.
The East Midlands is home to three of the largest Gypsy groups in the country, and these groups have played an important role in the history of the Gypsy community as a whole. This project aims to give a voice to the Gypsy people so that they can record their heritage, and challenge the perceptions of the settled community. Perceptions which have been largely surrounded by myths, stereotypes and prejudice.
As modern Britain evaluates consumerism, environmentalism, assimilation, family values and identity. There is much in the heritage of the Gypsy community that will be of value to the wider community, and we have tried to reflect these themes in our work.
The project has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (East Midlands), and consists of this website, a book that will be published in June 2013, and a touring exhibition. If you are interested in finding out more please contact us.