Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month starts in Hackney

A music and dance extravaganza helped kick off Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month on 1 June in Dalston Square with colourful swirling skirts and a live band.

The interactive show from Yagori Dance School saw the audience on their feet, dancing along to a Gypsy violinist, learning some moves themselves and feeling inspired to find out more about one of Hackney’s oldest communities.

GRTHM is a celebration month started in 2008 as a way to explore the culture of the largest ethnic minority community in Europe. There are an estimated 300,000 Gypsies, Roma and Travellers in Britain with a community of around 800 in Hackney including 400 children.

Alongside the show, ArtHoppers delivered a puppet making workshop inspired by the costumes on display, with children making their own puppet dancers who could move along to the music.

Young Irish Traveller, Mary Reilly worked with Arthoppers artist Claire Ward Thornton to come up with an illustration for this years GRTHM colouring-in competition, where children and adults can show off their colouring-in skills to be displayed in Hackney libraries with the top three winners given a prize.

Mary Reilly, aged 12, said: “I was so glad to work towards Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month, I wanted to help people understand us and represent Traveller culture, I'm so glad to know that I could do that by designing a special piece of artwork.”

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities have lived in London for the past 500 years, and have a rich history and culture. Sadly discrimination of these communities is common, with researching showing in the UK nine in 10 Gypsy, Traveller or Roma children have experienced racial abuse. To help dispel myths and foster community cohesion all eight of Hackney’s libraries are hosting book displays where residents can learn more about Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.

For more information you can contact Sherece Walker of Hackney Housing’s Travellers Service on 020 8356 5396; sherece.walker@hackney.gov.uk.

Mary's winning design