More than 30 years of records and artefacts about Leeds’s Gypsy and traveller heritage have been unveiled as part of a new learning and resource centre.
Thousands of items have been brought to Leeds GATE, in Cross Green Lane, Cross Green, to help educate all parts of the community and combine with a new job shop and training centre for travellers at the facility.
Leeds central MP Hilary Benn was on hand to officially unveil the centre and archive material at a ceremony yesterday, which also celebrated 10 years since Leeds GATE was first set up.
Mountains of archive material, collected by Leeds City Council’s Gypsy Roma Traveller Achievement Service (GRTAS), was moved into storage from the condemned West Park Centre in October last year but it is now open to the public once again.
Mr Benn said: “I think it’s about learning about each other and respecting each other and it works both ways – it’s about improving understanding and if we do that we will all benefit.”
The library of material covers everything from rare books on Gypsy law and music to language, history and housing.
The adjoining jobs and training centre has been set up with the help of a grant from the Department of Work and Pensions to help improve skills and educate Leeds travellers as well as the wider community.
Helen Jones, chief executive of Leeds GATE, said: “Gypsies and travellers are distinctly disadvantaged and obviously education is one of the key issues but it’s improving significantly for young people.
“It’s to encourage parents to have an encouraging attitude towards education.”
She said she hopes parts of the archive will be used by school groups to enhance skills and cultural awareness.
The opening also saw the One in a Million charity tribute song, penned by young Leeds travellers, played in memory of late former Leeds GATE worker Kathleen Lowther Morrison.
Claire Lockwood, manager of GRTAS, said: “It’s really the ideal place for this archive to be.”