Romedia Foundation joins forces with Travellers’ Times
The Romedia Foundation is excited and honored to announce the launch of the much awaited collaboration with Travellers’ Times, the respected UK-based Gypsy and Traveller news agency from Hereford. The Romedia Foundation and Travellers’ Times share a similar, long-standing commitment to offering genuine, alternative accounts of Romani issues within mainstream and specialized media.
By joining our efforts, we want to bridge the two geographical and cultural European areas, a bridge between the East and the West, building an internationally orientated platform. Simultaneously, we aim to provide information about the Romani Gypsy and Traveller culture, which is less known to Eastern European Roma, and vice versa. It is an amazing opportunity to get to know each other better, also in terms of our audiences, by creating this sharing platform and uniting the missions of the two media organizations, to counter centuries-old stereotypes about our cultures and our communities.
Who are we?
Travellers’ Times is one of the long-term projects undertaken by Rural Media, a UK award winning media education, production and development charity. It has a history of 14 years, from a newsletter started by the law faculty of the Cardiff University, becoming a nation-wide distributed publication, with amazing graphics and photo-based news, taking advantage of the opportunities social media offers. Nowadays, it has a strong online presence, being among the most prestigious sources of information on the Traveller communities in UK. The Romedia Foundation is a Romani non-governmental organization based in Budapest, Hungary. Its work on the production of films and videos, international multi-media campaigns, and public events strives to contribute to a positive perception of Romani ethnic identity, combat anti-Romani prejudice, and provide alternative information to policy makers on Roma. The Romedia Foundation was founded in 1992. Since then, it has sought to make use of television broadcasting, film production, publishing, and the opportunities offered by multi-media digital technology to disseminate an insider’s viewpoint on Romani issues, challenge centuries-old prejudices, and promote the self-representation and empowerment of Roma.
Did you know?
The Gypsy and Traveller population in the UK equates to approximately 300.000 people who are often stigmatized, persecuted, marginalized and misunderstood, in similar ways to the Central and Eastern European Romani population. There are many types of Travellers, and the term can be perceived as an umbrella concept, with certain groups pertaining to this categorization standing out more than others, purely because of misconceptions and ever perpetuating stereotypes associated with the “Gypsy culture”.
Travellers can be divided into two groups, those that are ethnic Travellers, such as Romani Gypsies and Irish Travellers, and those who live on the road for purely economic reasons such as New Travellers and Showmen. In reality, there is not one Traveller community but many, each with their own particular culture and history.
With the New Age Travellers subcategory, a fairly new concept emerges, one which refers to the people who enjoy living ‘on the road’, in campervans, on allocated camping sites, or moving from one place to another. Generally living off manual trade, New Age Travellers are associated with the notion of hippies, which implies a general mistrust in their capabilities to commit, hinting at their instability and, ultimately, does not acknowledge their contribution to the betterment of the society.
Groups such as the Travelling ones will be automatically looked at through a prejudiced mentality, and ascribed to the outcasts’ and pariahs’ categories, due to the fact that they do not fit in the regular lifestyles within which our societies work. There is a false dilemma, intrinsic to the lack of flexibility of some of us to accept that there are multiple ways of living, which are not always within the familiar limits we are used to function.
So, it is safe to say that the term Traveller refers to anyone who has a nomadic lifestyle, while in the same time encompasses an ethnic and cultural dimension to it, depending on the subgroup one is referring to.
Basically, there is a standard, called ‘Mandla criteria’, which can be used as reference points when trying to understand who falls under the Traveller category:
- Long shared history
- Cultural tradition of their own
- Common geographical origin
- Common language
- Common tradition
- Common religion
- Characteristic of being a minority or being oppressed by a dominant group within a large community
In UK, the Romani Gypsies have been documented ever since 1515, where they have arrived from continental Europe. With such a long history everywhere in Europe, it is hard to conceive that prejudices are still so ingrained against these groups.
Travellers’ Times and Romedia Foundation
To wrap it up, our collaboration wishes to show that while there is no definite way to define the Traveller communities, or the Romani ones, there are aspects that are common to both groups. The outcome will be the sharing of information, so we become familiar with whom we are. The biggest challenge is to bring together our passion for media and communication technology and use our long-standing experience to provide the insiders’ perspective to the larger society, in the most professional way.
We do believe this collaboration is one of a kind, for the first time bringing together expertise and dedication from two completely different European areas under one platform. Romedia Foundation already initiated this, by co-opting Damian Le Bas who is a writer and filmmaker and editor of Travellers’ Times and collaborates with The Guardian. He is a native Romany speaker from a large Gypsy family, and wrote masterful articles for Romedia Foundation’s blog, such as “Travellers should travel – The forked tongue behind the gag” , “Solving the nazi question”, “The written Romani language – never say never” or “In all toil there is profit”.
The official launch of the cooperation between Travellers’ Times and Romedia Foundation represents an important step in furthering the process of getting to know each other and familiarising both Western and Central and Eastern European audiences with the Romani people and the Travellers. Both Eastern European audiences as well as Western ones deserve a fresh, truthful approach; therefore with this collaboration we will create a necessary bridge of information and appropriation, a much needed practice through which our cultures can strive, become stronger and more united.
I believe the figure of 300,000 used here is an underestimate. Considering that some
200,000 Roma have entered the UK from others parts of Europe over the past 15 years,
and taking into account the huge number of house-dwelling Roma/Romanies of the older
population, even a total of 500,000 may be putting it too low. I would like to see a debate on this so that we can arrive somewhere nearer the reality of the situation.