Gypsy, Roma and Traveller families from across West Mercia and the West Midlands joined other visitors and organisations for the ‘Gypsies, Who are ya!’ celebration event at Hartlebury Museum, on Sunday 15th June.

Around 600 visitors saw one of the largest collections of Gypsy Vardos in the country and also had the chance to try their hand at basket making and wagon painting. The more musically gifted visitors had the opportunity to join musicians, The Craigans, to entertain the crowds. Mary Horner, author and editor of ‘Romany Road’ also spent time talking to visitors and collecting stories for future editions.

Dr Richard Taylor, the Wyre Forest MP attended the event. He met many of the families visiting the museum and gained an insight into life on the road in a traditional horse drawn wagon and learnt about some of the difficulties the Gypsy, Roma and Travelling communities face today. Dr Taylor was particularly impressed with the pupils from Stourport High School, who had researched and put together a display and audio history about the lives of famous, sporting and local Gypsies.

The event was part of the first national Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month, with events taking place across the country to explore the history of one of Britain’s minority communities. The event was supported by the Worcestershire Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Partnership, which includes representatives from Worcester Diocese, West Mercia Constabulary, Rooftop Housing, Community Housing, Wyre Forest and Wychavon District Councils, Worcestershire County Council, the West Midlands Consortium for Services to Travelling Children, Schools and Families and Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue.

Student Police Constable Stephen Thomas, a member of the local Gypsy community, guided West Mercia Constabulary’s Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Anthony Bangham around the event, introducing him to exhibitors and visitors. Afterwards T/ACC Bangham said:

“West Mercia Constabulary was delighted to support the Gypsy Roma Traveller celebration event. It was a great family day out and provided people with a first-hand opportunity to learn about different cultures and traditions.

“As a public service, the force is keen to promote understanding between all the communities living in our force area and we believe events, such as the one at Hartlebury Museum, are an excellent way of bringing people together so they can learn more about other’s history and way of life.

“West Mercia is always keen to attend and support events that enable us to gain a better understanding of the different communities we serve; it also gives us the opportunity to encourage members of those communities to consider joining the force.”

Ian Hughes, Chief Executive of the Rooftop Housing Group said:

“It was a privilege to support an event with members of the Gypsy and wider community coming together to celebrate the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History month. The number and range of partners supporting the day is evidence of how the difficult issue of meeting the needs of our local Gypsy community is being taken seriously.”

Revd John Paxton, Chair of the Worcestershire Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Partnership said:

“Worcestershire County Council must be congratulated for opening up Hartlebury Museum to the community and partners for this event. The range of activities, displays and presentations were excellent, and the atmosphere was very friendly and relaxed.”

Looking to the future, the Revd John Paxton, who chairs the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Partnership, hopes that the group can promote a better understanding of the needs of the local Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities and support an informed dialogue between members of these communities and the settled community to look at accommodation choices.”

To find out more information about the Gypsy, Roma and Travelling Partnership please call 0800 0421 800 or email gt@rooftopgroup.org.