Monday, 21 November 2011
Tuesday, 15 November 2011
The last photo shows the reality of queueing.
Sunday, 13 November 2011
Wednesday, 2 November 2011
Monday, 10 October 2011
Since I am not a Gypsy myself, many people ask me how? and why? Looking for a novel theme, for a variety of reasons I have explained before, I was intrigued by the whole idea of a community living their secret lives on the edge of society, who seem to keep themselves together – and apart. Or, was it the rest of society that was ostracising them? Why was there such a mismatch between the old romantic notion of a Gypsy in his horse-drawn wagon and the more modern image? Hundreds more questions began to build up and I wanted to understand; I needed to know more. The more answers I found the more questions arose.
As I dug down into academic textbooks and spoke to their authors; made contact with Gypsy and Traveller organisations; searched the Internet; visited sites; listened to Gypsies and Travellers; attended meetings and events, my knowledge and understanding matured. I read of injustice, persecution through history and discrimination that persists today and felt moved to reach out and convey what I had learned, but in an entertaining rather than heavy-going, pedantic way. On the other side I was bombarded with folks who claim genuine grievances and have tales to tell of behaviour that perpetuates a negative stereotype. I listened to everything.
I wrote Gypsies Stop tHere and published it in 2008. Since then, I am pleased to say many Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers have found a voice, speaking up for themselves in the press, on blogs, chat-shows and documentaries, and writing their own best-selling memoires. When I was doing my research six years ago, they kept themselves quiet and I found few documented accounts of Gypsy lives today or within living memory. Those I did find, I read avidly – they are listed in the Bibliography.
My book happened to coincide with the start of Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month; the Travellers Times (and associated educational media) was raising its profile; more recently followed the outrageous Big Fat Gypsy Wedding series that may have done more harm than good (see previous posts on BFGW), but certainly stirred the public’s imagination. You may have spotted other, better informed documentaries offering less sensationalised representations. With the new Coalition government, legislation is sliding all over the place. Then reality kicks in with Dale Farm in Essex, a humanitarian and legal tangle that should never have happened, now on the cusp of an unsatisfactory and expensive resolution. http://ow.ly/6KJrb
The opening of Gypsies Stop tHere, spoken by a keen, young, female activist, is: “People threatened with eviction, due to no fault of their own, being unjustly hounded out. It’s mediaeval the way they’re treated, don’t you think?” The arguments for and against follow, woven into the village story. http://www.miriamwakerly.com/ I hope readers are tossed back and forth, weighing things up and really thinking about the issues from all angles.
After that book, I was sure I would move on to a new topic, but no! I knew there was more to say. I felt the present should be more clearly linked to the past; the three-way relationship between Romany Gypsies, Irish Travellers and ‘mainstream society’ put into the context of recent history, through storytelling. It is clear that some people still despise Gypsies and Travellers en bloc, symptomatic of racism; and I hoped even they might find out more for themselves about this community’s struggles, as individuals, and how things have come to be as they are today.
So the sequel No Gypsies Served was published in 2010, both a sequel and a prequel. At book signings I found people new to the books, would choose Gypsies Stop tHere because it seemed logical to read the first one first, although you could just as easily read No Gypsies Served first.
That then was surely the end of Gypsies! I had started a novel set in the same village, Appley Green – nothing to do with Gypsies or Travellers! Good friends of mine think I am frankly obsessed (I would say fascinated) with my subject; some people would be pleased to see me weaned off this controversial and addictive theme, full of moral, social and legal conundrums. (Should that be conundra?)
After I was well into my new Appley Green story, somebody suggested I write the biography of a certain Gypsy man. A factual book, pure and simple? It’s what members of the Gypsy and Traveller community themselves often desperately want. They search through my books looking for photographs, hunting for a mention of their relatives. Fiction about Gypsies written by a non-gypsy is less attractive. But I had put Gypsies behind me, hadn’t I?
Meanwhile, I was being invited to speak on radio and give talks to groups of people, reflecting the growing interest in the culture, history and highly controversial issues. Now enjoying the writing of my new novel, I was very torn, but the temptation was irresistible and my decision inevitable.
So – two very different books then, I decided. Why not? I am retired and have the time. My subject, an elderly gent, whose identity is known to just a few people at the moment, lives some distance away and does not use email; so there were gaps of time that gave me space to continue with the novel. The arrangement worked very well.
The launch was planned for this December, in Waterstone’s as usual. However, the difference between a good biography and a better one, is a few months’ more work. Writing a factual book is anything but ‘pure and simple’. So, keeping with my plan to publish the biography and the novel at the same time, to please everyone, I should have them ready to go in the spring 2012.
Monday, 18 July 2011
Gypsies Stop tHere is now a Kindle eBook - at last. Might as well go with the flow, I thought, or what will be regarded by future generations as a technological revolution. Ironic really; it’s only a few months since I was in rebellious mode. Step back for a moment to this piece about breaking all the rules, just last year! http://catherineryanhoward.com/2010/03/05/miriamwakerly/
The world of publishing is evolving apace! With the extraordinary rise of e-books, sales currently outstripping printed books I understand, no wonder many new authors are now taking the independent publishing route. In fact, how many authors with long-established publishers have changed tack? Comments on these questions would be very welcome, - or answers, if you happen to have them.
(I rejected digital print as cost-ineffective. However, it is an option for a writer-publisher who wants a modest print-run. )
So Gypsies Stop tHere, my first novel published in print 2008, is now available for the e-reading world to purchase! US, UK and German Amazon. Wonderful! At a bargain price. No print costs. 70% royalty on Kindle. Naturally, I am thinking about the guy recently in the news as the first independent author to sell 1 million Ebooks. http://mashable.com/2011/06/20/john-locke-1-million-ebooks/
Did you read about a leading public school that has been actively ridding itself of its library, its students now using iPads instead? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-berkshire-13426491 With two more books in progress, should I bother with print at all? Clearly e-Books are the future and my choice is not going to make a jot of difference to the overall trend! I am but one stitch in the vast tapestry of publishing.
But, but, but … Should I worry about what will happen to bookshops as this ebook trend is pursued by authors? My helpful and supportive friends in Waterstone’s? And libraries? Books – that I love to have, hold, read, possess and cherish? And publishers? Agents? The printers? The natural conclusion could be their collective demise. I do not want that.
Or, will ebooks and printed books co-exist happily forever? This, by the way, is a hypothetical question, but if anyone wants to give it a go, they are welcome.
Now, I need to make sure people will find my book. More on this in a few weeks time …
PS Here is a link to a Guardian article re the statistics to clarify in what sense ebooks are allegedly outstripping print - note that it compares against hardbacks and this is for the US. http://bit.ly/nmPGAS
Saturday, 11 June 2011
No? Well, June is Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month. It began three or four years ago. Various events displaying and exploring the culture and traditions of Gypsies, Travellers and Roma take place around the country. It is hoped that the general public will be interested, curious and intrigued enough to go to these events. From my experience it is quite a rare thing for this often secretive community to reach out to the wider public. If Big Fat Gypsy Weddings can attract nearly 9 m viewers, and Appleby Fair now attracting hoards of onlookers, then there should be people queuing up for events. This is the real thing and they are usually free of charge.
Sadly, it would seem that funding cuts have curtailed some plans for this year, as you can see from the limited information available on http://www.grthm.co.uk/events-SE.php Events relate only to last year. However, the good news is that Travellers Got Talent is there!
http://www.grthm.co.uk/travellers-got-talent-2011.php 'A Gypsy Life for Me' 'an 8 hour series' will be broadcast on Sky TV based on the footage. More about this on Travellers Times: http://www.travellerstimes.org.uk/
If you find an event going on in your area - keep your eye out - then do let me know. I will then put it here on my blog.
GRTHM London seems to be flourishing http://www.grthmlondon.org.uk/ Even I am on there tucked away in Resources - Publications http://bit.ly/mUMQ2E
So - I hope to hear about anything you hear about where you live!
via Twitter @MiriamWakerly or leave a comment right here.
Wednesday, 23 February 2011
The Guardian http://bit.ly/e3lHEV This is the opening paragraph of my 2nd BFGW blog dated 7 February
Channel 4’s plans in The Times http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/life/article2913541.ece Oh no not more ... ! (You need to subscribe to access this.) I doubt Romany Gypsies will be taking part.
Surrey Heath Residents Blog http://bit.ly/h8tQWa This is my recorded interview - gets off to a slow start, but warms up, so stick with it to the end. Excuse the scary photo (who took that?)
Article with Damien le Bas http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/life/article2913526.ece Damien is a Romany, Oxford graduate and was on The One Show.
A Guardian article by David Altheer with 256 comments !http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/05/gypsies-society-traveller-community
Not to do with BFGW but a lovely positive story from Phoebe Buckley, top level equestrian, Romany Gypsy. 'Against the Grain' R4. http://bbc.in/fBfdYe
Excellent article I missed earlier on 11 Feb Gypsies: tramps and thieves. I urge all to read. http://bit.ly/hVDhRX The link was in Travellers Times Newsletter.
Friday, 11 February 2011
SINCE WRITING THIS POST I SAW THIS! Jake Bowers speaking for the Romany Gypsy community: http://bit.ly/h9TldF on Daybreak.
I may be revising my view of Channel 4 documentary, dubbed ‘mockumentary’. I hope it really does help relations between Gypsies and non-Gypsies, rather than make for more bad feeling. Excellent representation on BBC Breakfast show this week. http://bbc.in/e0kK5J
For booklovers interested in an easy and entertaining read on Gypsies and Travellers today, and our relationships with them, you may like to take a look at my novels. They are set in the fictitious English village, Appley Green. Many of the issues that are being raised in Channel 4's programme are woven into the stories.
When I began my research 6 or 7 years ago nobody was talking about Gypsies or Travellers very much. From their history to the modern-day shortage of stopping-places, I realised I had found a fascinating subject that few people understood. I visited many Gypsy sites at places close by, including: Chobham, Hartley Wintney, Leatherhead, Ash and, indeed, the famous Irish Traveller site, Westway, in London. I spoke to a lot of Gypsies and Travellers as well as reading books by professors who have done the same thing. I attend Gypsy and Traveller meetings and hear about their problems first-hand. I also did and still do a lot of thinking!
My novels have been described as an ‘easy way in’ for a non-Gypsy. Bridie Page, A Romany Gypsy, with Derbyshire Gypsy Liaison Group said, “Miriam has captured the essence of Romany/Traveller life managing to merge old and new seamlessly. A right riveting read!”
Sue Cook, Broadcaster and Writer, “Wakerly’s books do a wonderful job in helping to promote understanding where there is ignorance and tolerance where there is bigotry. I recommend them heartily.”
Gypsies Stop tHere (2008) and No Gypsies Served (2010). Click on some links to find out more:
Amazon http://amzn.to/hwfhdj and http://amzn.to/gXhX7h
I am now actually looking forward to the next episode - but hope I don't have to do another U-turn. Am going to a Gypsy and Traveller Forum in a week's time and will find out how the community are feeling about the series by then. At the moment, they are not happy. See Travellers Times http://bit.ly/fZPBHR
Monday, 7 February 2011
Thursday, 20 January 2011
Firstly, these were, going by their accents, Irish Travellers rather than Romany Gypsies. Please correct me, someone, if I am wrong. They rarely mix.
People scoff, ridicule, and look down upon the sheer brash lavishness, bright pink vulgarity, the width and weight of the dresses and so on. They will decry the 'sexual attacks’ in the apparent ‘grabbing’ rituals, the brainwashing of young girls into early marriage, a lifetime of childbearing and polishing, with no career options, that turns the clock back … I have read and heard many times over that Gypsies are known for saying what people want to hear, which they openly admit, and the girls seemed only too happy to gyrate and posture for what the cameras wanted to shoot. Displaying the ‘big knickers’; un-British ignorance of Audrey Hepburn (not that surprising considering the age group); and arguably the most ungainly walk a bride has ever managed in the history of weddings, caused no apparent embarrassment. Just pure enjoyment it seemed, in some unreal bubble of a world where modest virgins dress like tarts. Makes for good television. Yes, I know all that, but moving on.
Did you notice the underlying positives? How happy and healthy the people in this programme were? Shiny hair, bright eyes, beautiful skin, bodacious physiques? How spotless their clothes and everything about them? What a lovely sense of humour? The loyalty to family and kinship group? In some ways the (I have to say, adorable) children seemed socially mature and kind to each other. Girls living their dream, however absurd it may seem from the outside. No apparent hang-ups or grudges. No sex or alcohol before marriage, no drugs, and teenage girls never allowed to be with a boy alone before marriage. Young men who claim to take family and financial responsibilities very seriously. If you compare and contrast with some non-Gypsies they come out rather well. Well, how controversial.
In Gypsies Stop tHere, Lena is a young Romany Gypsy wife and mother of two little boys, who is cast out from her community. As you can see, in the context of this programme showing the powerful sense of belonging that is the linchpin of Gypsy and Traveller culture, this is the worst thing that can happen to a Gypsy. Also in No Gypsies Served, Dunstan, a half-Gypsy or didakoi, left his family at the age of 16 and you can see some of the consequences. It is unlikely to happen, but is a ‘what if’ scenario.
The programme did help to demonstrate why their culture persists; the difficulties of breaking away, or their lack of any wish to do so, stood out.
I am looking forward to the next episode and would love to hear your views – especially if you are a Gypsy or Traveller.