New Zealand ‘The Original Gypsy Fair’ drops Romani images from its advertising under pressure from campaigners
New Zealand commercial festival business ‘The Original Gypsy Fair’, has been forced to drop photographs of Romany Gypsy people from its posters and leaflets as the fight against the misappropriation of ethnic Romany identity “gathers steam”.
Bob Lovell has been attempting to raise awareness of New Zealand’s New Age Original Gypsy Fair misappropriating Romany/Gypsy culture, heritage and imagery for many years. The Original Gypsy Fair is owned and operated by Mr. Jim Banks.
“When I first approached The Original Gypsy Fair people, it was clear within minutes that there were and never have been any true Romany/Gypsy travelling with this fair,” says NZ Romani campaigner Bob Lovell. However, Bob persisted, “I suggested to them that in my eyes and in my culture, it was insulting and basically is an abuse of we Romany/Gypsy People world-wide, not just in New Zealand.” And how did they justify their misappropriation? “We are Gypsies because we travel around earning a living. We tell fortunes, we make and sell things just like Gypsies do. Besides”, they said. “We are Gypsies in spirit we might have been Gypsies in a previous life.”
Their disparaging remarks would have been enough to galvanize any Romany/Gypsy activist into action. But for Bob it got personal over the unlawful use of his close friend Mr. Barrie Law’s photos, “They are using UK Romany copyrighted photos for advertising on their posters, everywhere.” That was his stake in the ground moment.
Bob had waited for the right time when “Romany Folkie” saw the truth of the situation in New Zealand. “Then along came Frances Roberts Reilly from Canada and ex UK. She is a direct descendant of Welsh Rom families, Woods and Roberts.” Frances is a retired journalist and she has been a strategic communications consultant with Canada’s Federal and Provincial Governments, working closely with ministers and the media on healthcare, immigrants, veterans and women’s issues. “She took me in hand and we started the hard work of writing up a petition, letters to New Zealand Government Ministers, a Facebook page and a blog”, said Bob. Adding, “I could not have done this work as well written and thought out as Frances has done and still does. Parruka Tute Mi Pen, Frances.”
Travellers’ Times (February 2018) reported on the Stop Romany Cultural Appropriation letter to Hon. Jenny Salesa, Minister of Ethnic Communities. As an update, citing a full workload, the minister routed the letter onto a colleague - to the desk of Hon. Kris Faafoi Minister of Consumer and Business Affairs. The letter had outlined matters appropriately concerning the business minister regarding trademarking and business registration of Mr. Jim Banks’s three New Zealand businesses - 1) The Gypsy Fair 2) The Gypsy Market and 3) The Gypsy Road Show. As well as Bob’s long fought issue about their unlawful use of copyrighted photos.
On this last point, the campaign has seen some real results. The copyrighted photos owned by Mr. Barrie Law have now been replaced with a generic graphic on The Original Gypsy Fair posters and advertising. Has the New Zealand Government put pressure on The Original Gypsy Fair to remove the copyrighted photos? “We have reason to believe this change was involuntary by the Gypsy Fair”, says Frances.
In recent weeks, Cliff Harvey has joined the campaign. “He was born in New Zealand as was I. He is Rom and comes from Smiths, Lee, Bendel lines.” Cliff is an author of books on nutrition and a PhD candidate. He travels the world with his work and writing. “Cliff’s brought much needed energy to our team”, Bob says. Cliff’s response is, “I’m stoked to be working with Bob and Frances.”
Cliff is busy building a dedicated New Zealand Romany Facebook page – *AoteaRomani – the first of its kind. “The page itself will focus on the celebration of Romani and education and on the issues faced”, says Cliff. The objective is building a community that with exposure and knowledge, it will become more and more difficult for people to appropriate and discriminate without social consequences.
“It’s a small victory” says Bob. Of course, there is more work to do in bringing the Minister of Commerce and Business Affairs up to speed with a demand for a legal review that removes the word “Gypsy” from all registered business names. Then an equally important priority, ensuring that Romany/Gypsy ethnic rights are included into New Zealand’s Human Rights Charter.
In all honesty, Bob admits; “It has been a great worry for me here in New Zealand, as we Romany/Gypsies are few on the pov - ground.” Nevertheless, he is undaunted. What motivates Bob to carry on? "'What motivates Bob to carry on? The parting words of Original Gypsy Fair’s supporters still echoing in his ears: “Anyway, what's wrong with what we are doing? You Gypsies don’t travel any more in the UK, so therefore you aren't real Gypsies anymore."'
“Our over-all goal”, says Bob “is educating non-Romany/Gypsies that we Rom are an ethnic minority, world-wide and the citizens of many countries, protected by the UN under ethnic and cultural rights.” The campaign is gathering steam and with high response rates on social media added to the mix, support is still growing.
A last word of thanks from Bob, “Parruka tute ta Bokt” to everyone for their support.
Find the campaign on social media:
Sign the petition [link]
Facebook page: stopromanyculturalappropriation
Twitter hashtag #stopromaculturalappropriation
*Aotea is New Zealand in Moari language.
By The Stop Roma Cultural Appropriation campaigners