History of Gypsy and Traveller communities celebrated in Leeds as charity campaigns to end prejudice

The cultural history of Gypsy and Traveller communities is being celebrated in Leeds as part of a national campaign.

Tuesday, 29th June 2021, 11:45 am

Leeds City Council buildings were lit yellow on June 1 to mark Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month and the council will fly the flag of the communities on Wednesday.

The gesture is welcomed by Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange (Leeds GATE) which supports more than 3,000 Gypsies and Travellers living in the city.

The charity's service manager, Rachael Darling, said: "Gypsies and Travellers are very much a part of the Leeds community and bring lots of culture with them.

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Heritage items on the wall at Leeds GATE, which is celebrating Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month
Heritage items on the wall at Leeds GATE, which is celebrating Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month

"We are proud of our partnership work and relationship with the council, but we would like Gypsies and Travellers to have more chances to tell their stories and be heard in a positive light, sharing their skills and rich culture.

"Recognising Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month is one way to do that."

The charity has called for more work to challenge negative stereotypes against the Gypsy and Traveller community in Leeds.

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Ellie Rogers, CEO of Leeds GATE, which is working to break down prejudice against Gypsies and Travellers in Leeds

Cindy-Lou Price, Leeds GATE's hate crime advocate, said: "The Travelling community is very loving and close-knit - we all share the same culture and beliefs.

"Non-Travellers have said some cruel and untrue things about us including that we are dirty, we don't wash or are thieves who steal.

"They may think that we can't afford to live in a house so have to live in a caravan - I heard this a lot at school and got bullied for it. People don't understand that this is our culture.

"I think it would be good to have open conversations with non-Traveller communities, to find out where misconceptions come from and to learn more about each other."

Cindy Lou plans to deliver awareness training to schools, workplaces and other groups in Leeds to break down stereotypes about Traveller culture.

Coun Mary Harland, Leeds City Council Executive Member for Communities, added: “As a council we are extremely proud of the work we do with the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community, so it is great that we are able to mark Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History month this year.

"The celebrations allow us to mark the many contributions that people from these communities have made and continue to make across Leeds.

"However, it is also vital that we continue to debunk the stereotypes and expose the prejudices that these groups still face every day.”

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