Monday, 2 July 2012

Romany Day - I was away with the Gypsies!

On Saturday (30 June) I went with a supply of my three books to 'Romany Day', held at the Rural Life Centre in Tilford, a fascinating outdoors museum near Farnham, Surrey, well-worth a visit any time.

This was a day for building bridges between Romany Gypsies and non-Gypsies. The sun shone – and the wind blew. Those of us with anything light enough to fly away had a constant battle with sporadic gusts that would suddenly remove stands, papers, balloons and books; even a gazebo took to the air at one point. I see now why ‘flyers’ are called just that!
Everything keeping still at this moment!!
There was a relaxed and friendly atmosphere with a wide variety of things going on, from the Fire Service’s dramatic demonstrations of a fire within a van and its extinguishment, (fire being a major potential hazard on many Travellers' sites); to a group of weavers and spinners from Guildford – not Gypsies, but people with an active interest in traditional skills.
The younger generation of Romany Gypsies were making them-selves seen and heard through a mix of street-dance and country and western music in the barn opposite my post; lovely youngsters showing the talent, enthusiasm and hard work that result in a polished ('Diversity' style) performance. This was far removed from traditional shanties or step-dancing, but shows that time does not stand still and tastes move on.

It was quite a social occasion. I made some new friends and saw some old ones: Ann, who works tirelessly for her community, a matriarchal looking Gypsy I know in old-style dress; wagon builder and painter, Peter Ingram, whom I visited years ago when I began research for No Gypsies Served; Jake Bowers, the well-known Romani journalist now turned blacksmith. I overheard someone congratulating him and shaking him by the hand for speaking up on TV on behalf of Romany people against the Channel 4 Big Fat Gypsy Weddings. I saw John Hockley, Chair of the Surrey Gypsy Traveller Community Relations Forum and West Surrey Rural Communities Officer, who gave my speech for me at the launch of No Gypsies Served when I lost my voice. He said how much he enjoyed Shades of Appley Green. A loyal fan!! Elsewhere there was the tantalising smell of bacon pudding cooking (as referred to in Gypsies Stop tHere!).

I also met up with people from the Romany Family History Society; the ladies from the Rural Life Centre bookshop; and curators from Bourne Hall Museum and Surrey Heritage in Woking, who I think were the main organisers.

Thanks to Surrey Heritage Centre, the Musem in Woking,
 for allowing me to show you some
of their wonderful photographs on their stand.

 A lovely day!  Hope you can be there next time.


  1. Sounds like a wonderful day Miriam! Thanks for sharing with us!

  2. Thanks for this post, Miriam. Wonderful!

  3. Hi Miriam
    Sounds like a lovely day - great that your writing and your life are in sync!
    Ali B

  4. Looks like you had a wonderful day, reconnecting with folks you met during the research process and have turned into loyal fans. Well done, you!

  5. Fascinating post, great photos, thanks for sharing. I admire your passion! xx

  6. Looks like a fab day! Wish I was there ....

  7. Fascinating post and I loved the photos. Check out Jess Smith on Facebook. she's from the travelling community and lives in Perthshire. She's a lovely woman and has written non-fiction on the traveller lifestyle as well as fiction. I've met her several times at conferences and other things. I think you'd like her.

  8. Thanks for that Chris - I hope to be her friend!