Leeds University Library

Romany Collection film unveiled

Published Tuesday 4 April 2017

Gypsy girl sat on steps of old caravan in road

Gypsy and Traveller community give their view

The Library's Special Collections department has teamed up with Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange (GATE) to create a film about its unique Romany Collection.

The film aims to encourage more people to take an interest in the vast collection of papers, photographs and artwork currently housed at the Brotherton Library in the University of Leeds.

The Romany Collection is currently being catalogued thanks to a grant from the National Cataloguing Grants Programme.

Debi White and Dinah Mulvanny from the Gypsy and Traveller community joined the Special Collections team to be filmed viewing the Romany Collection earlier this year. The Library's Special Collections are keen to reach wider audiences including the Gypsy and Traveller community to allow them to explore how their culture and history has been represented.

The filming was in follow up to a previous workshop, attended by Debi and Dinah, run by Special Collections that also invited Gypsy and Traveller community members to view the archives. The community debated the cultural significance and accuracy in various items.

When the Special Collections team saw the reactions the material received at the workshop, they agreed it would be good to share the enthusiasm further afield. The discussions were reported on the University's Yarn Platform and it was decided that a film could help also help bring the collection to life.

Tim Procter, Collections and Engagement Manager at Special Collections said, "The team reported back that the discussions at the workshop were fascinating. The community knew that the collection had a personal and ancestral significance.

Dinah and Debi had been particularly passionate about how the collections show the hardship of traveller life and its virtues. So we invited them in to be filmed explaining their thoughts which gave me a chance to meet them too."

In the film, Dinah describes how she feels people's perception of Gypsies is very different to what they actually are. The pair hope that if more people were to come and view the collection it would make them more open minded to the Gypsy and Traveller culture.

Like Dinah, the library team want to encourage access to the collection beyond the Gypsy community. Tim added, "The collection is relevant to the wider community as a means to educate and encourage cultural awareness.

"It is my hope that this project will serve not only to publicise the archives themselves, but also to encourage a cultural mindfulness with regards to the Gypsy and Traveller community."

Debi concludes, "We would like people to know what it's really about. The truth about Gypsy Traveller life, in the past and in the present."

Visit Special Collections and view the Romany Collection.