Exhibition is set to focus on Gypsy heritage

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A new exhibition at the University of Leeds is exploring visual, historical and fictional representations of the Gypsy and traveller community.

Rights and Romance: Representing Gypsy Lives is the latest exhibition at the University’s Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery.

In the 50th year of the controversial Caravan Sites Act, this exhibition examines the changing perspectives on, and representations of, the Gypsy and traveller community by those outside it – alongside the stories and voices of the community itself.

Opening on Thursday, March 1 until July 31, the free exhibition focuses on the designated Gypsy, traveller and Roma collections held by Special Collections at the University of Leeds.

Some of the items exhibited have been chosen by members of Leeds GATE (Gypsy And Traveller Exchange) and the Gypsyville heritage group, and are interpreted using their words.

Amanda is a member of the Gypsy community who was involved in sharing stories and selecting photographs and artwork to go on display.

She said: “I really wanted to get involved with the exhibition so I could take my grandchildren to see their culture.

“We go to a lot of museums across the country, but we rarely see our heritage on display. I can’t wait to share this with them.”

The collection was gathered by Dorothy Una Ratcliffe. She was not a Gypsy woman, and her collection reflects an outsider’s admiration for Gypsy and traveller culture.

Dr Jodie Matthews of the University of Huddersfield, co-curator of the exhibition, said: “The fact that Dorothy Una Ratcliffe gave her collection to Leeds University in 1950, along with funds to increase the collection, means that this archive of representations of Gypsy life is available for us to try to understand both positive and negative attitudes towards this community in the past.”