Exhibition on Gypsy Roma and Travellers proving a success

24 June 2019

THE first two days of an exhibition celebrating and highlighting Gypsy, Roma and Traveller history, heritage and culture in Newark and Sherwood have been a great success.

Visitors in Newark and Ollerton have been able to obtain first hand an insight into life in the various Travelling communities in the district.

Displays have specifically focused on the lives of local families who have lived in and around Newark and Sherwood for generations. The exhibition, which was first held at the council’s Castle House offices in Newark, was aimed at helping at raising awareness of these communities and the positive contributions they make to society – and to offset negative stereotypes and prejudices.

In Newark visitors were able to meet 69-year-old Bobby O’Neil, himself a Traveller who came to Newark from Newcastle with his family in the early 1960s, with his many fascinating tales and anecdotes. Seth Leigh, a Romany, who came from Norwich to Newark, was also at the exhibition to meet visitors.

Also attending was 95-year-old Robert Wilson, known locally as Bob, who is the oldest Traveller in Newark. Bob, who was born in a reading wagon - also known as a vardo – brought a detailed scale model of the wagon to the exhibition for visitors to see. Photographs from the family album formed part of the display.

There were also photographs of other local families, life histories and information about Gypsy, Roma and Traveller traditions, including a range of interesting artefacts such as kitchen ware and Royal Crown Derby porcelain. There were also video interviews with members of the local Travelling community to watch.

The exhibition also covered the worst chapter in the communities’ past where 250,000 were exterminates by the Nazis in an act known as the ‘Porrajmos’—the Gypsy Holocaust. This was detailed in displays provided by the National Holocaust Centre and Museum in Laxton, near Ollerton.

The exhibition is part of programme of activities organised by Newark and Sherwood District Council to celebrate Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month which was first established in Britain in 2008.

Bobby O’Neil said: “Travellers do suffer persecution and in some ways we are made to feel like we are foreigners in our own country and we are not. This is our country and we were born here. This exhibition is great in explaining our history, heritage and customs. Everybody was really interested in the stories and it has been all really positive.”

Nickie Anthony, district council community relations officer, said: “The display at Castle House was a resounding success with members of the Gypsy/Traveller community attending and talking to local people and the press about their fascinating culture. Local people had the opportunity to have an insight into the Gypsy/Traveller culture and traditions and a lifestyle that unfortunately Travellers can no longer pursue.

“Every person who attended the event gave positive feedback and enjoyed listening to the tales of times gone by members of the community. The exhibition also went down really at the Lifespring Café next to the town hall in Ollerton.

“Welcoming members of the community into district council and acknowledging their fantastic culture is the first step in breaking down discrimination and creating positive relationships with staff, communities and services locally. This is a community that plays a large part in the rich heritage of Newark.”

Castle House will be hosting the exhibition again on Wednesday, June 26 in Civic Suite 1 (12noon-4pm) with further locations planned in the near future.


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