Government spending cuts have meant no more funding for Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month, but communities across Britain look set to continue the celebrations anyway.
It was launched in June 2008 to great fanfare. After 500 years of ignoring and denying Gypsy and Traveller history, the British government backed June as being dedicated as Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month. Over the last three years it's grown from a handful of events to a true nationwide celebration of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller culture and history.
From Pavee (Irish Traveller) Ceilidhs to exhibitions on the Romany holocaust, every aspect has been actively celebrated and remembered. For the past 2 years a £125,000 central government grant was spent producing everything from a magazine and website to the nationwide talent contest Travellers Got Talent, as well as funding local events from Cumbria to Cornwall.
But then came the cuts. Not long after the coalition government came to power it was made clear to those in the community and Traveller education services that there would be no more money. The new government simply wasn't interested in Gypsy Roma and Traveller History Month anymore. Drastic cutbacks in the number of Traveller education service staff has meant many children's education will suffer, let alone celebrations of our culture.
But the signs are that local Gypsy and Traveller communities will continue to celebrate the month anyway. In Wales, Isaac Blake of the Romani Arts and Culture Company says: "Building on the success of the second celebrations held last year in Wales, even more events are planned for this June. The main GRTHM 2011 event will be at the Riverfront Theatre and Arts Centre in Newport."
Gypsy woman Ann Wilson has been involved in Gypsy Roma and Traveller History Month since its beginning. "Its very important that our Gypsy culture continues to be celebrated." says Ann. "The current government may not value it, but it's really important to all of us." Ann has started a new Gypsy-run and managed organisation called the Barvalipen Community Interest Company (CIC) to continue the work started during Gypsy Roma and Traveller History Month.
"Barvalipen means heritage in Romani," she explains, "but it also means wealth, which just goes to show that our greatest resource really is our history, culture and identity." The new non-profit making community company has big plans, from teaching Romani lessons to establishing a Romany cultural heritage school in Surrey. But this June, she and the other members of Barvalipen CIC will be bringing Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month home to the Epsom Derby. Working in partnership with Surrey County Council and the Epsom Downs racecourse, there will be fenced off enclosure on the famous Epsom Downs on Derby featuring wagons, a stage, traditional food, music and dancing right at the heart of the world's most famous racing event on 4th of June.
The loss of funding has meant that no magazines will be produced for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month this year and even this website will not be regularly updated. But if you have an event you'd like to promote you can list it yourself at the Travellers Times website.
However, the Gypsy Media Company Ltd, has paid for this website and all of the information on it to remain online until future funding to continue Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month is found.
One of the aims of GRTHM is to counter-balance the widespread ignorance of Traveller communities that often leads to hatred and conflict. Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month celebrates our culture and history by tackling the negative stereotyping and prejudices that have led to this situation.