Call it out and celebrate Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities – by Dee Cooper

10 May 2023
Hawley Arms

Headlines are meant to catch our attention! 

It’s the first thing that draws us in to read a story, followed by a catchy opening which is the hook that keeps us reading. Usually followed by a picture to represent the piece, sometimes a stock image and nothing to do with the actual story you are reading. 

Back in the day, there was a saying: “Today’s news is tomorrow's chip paper.”

How times have changed. We no longer live in a world where newspapers wrap our fish and chips. Instead, we live in a world where stories fill our news feeds, or pop up on our phones daily, and it’s a world where stories live on and don’t just disappear under tomorrow’s tasty batter and salt and vinegar. 

I ask you to think about this for a minute.

When was the last time you read a positive story about our communities in a mainstream newspaper, a local or online?

Then think for another minute how many negative stories have you read over the years? 

Clickbait headlines that draw attention and fuel online trolls! The word discrimination only still exists, by the hands that feed it and allow it to continue.

Headlines that incite racism without thought for the repercussions faced for a whole community in their entirety:

“Travellers take over car park”. 

“Bigger, Fatter, Gypsier”

We’ve all seen them, felt them and many of us have replied in the comments section, reported it, and tried tirelessly to educate.  

In fact, our communities are blessed to have many activists, campaigners and community voices that stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity against the racial slurs, stereotypical views, and slanderous comments that continue to affect our day to day lives.

Racial profiling and engaging stereotypes prevent many of us from being able to have a simple meal out or get a weekly shop. All too often we are turned away in pubs, clubs, and restaurants. We are followed in supermarkets; we are told empty venues are already full when trying to book for a celebration and you can forget all about booking that holiday filled with crazy golf, giant deck chairs and Motown classics! We’re just not welcome.

The impact of the pandemic only isolated us further, leaving many of our communities without essentials. With mental health on the rise, this impacted our communities in a massive way, losing people needlessly. 

Access and engagement are hard enough and being stereotyped, as we so often are, only leaves all our communities less likely or able to engage to seek the help they need. We are often denied help from people outside of our own communities, because of the many misrepresentations that have been written about us. 

Has it always been this way? Most of you may still remember the days when handwritten signs filled shop windows and pubs stating “No Gypsies or Travellers allowed” nowadays they just shut up shop, especially at fair time “Appleby and the Epsom Derby” are two classic examples. 

“With the wisdom of our elders and our educated youth, we can make the difference”.

Teamwork makes the dream work. Let’s end discrimination together. Call it out!

By Dee Cooper for TT Features

(Lead photograph – Gypsy men enjoying a pint outside the famous Cawley Arms in Camden during a pit-stop on the 2022 London Horse Drive © Mike Doherty)