Rolling stones: Chorley Romany

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I’ve got a piece in this week’s Big Issue in the North highlighting the case of the Linfoots, a Romani Gypsy family from Chorley, who have spent the past four years fighting to stay on a piece of (greenbelt) land that they own. To read, click on the image above.

Manchester Day parade

I had a great day today, taking photos of members of the city’s Roma and Irish Traveller communities who were part of the Manchester Day parade. This is the first time the Roma have been included in any kind of public event like this and it was great to see them sharing a little of their culture with the city at large…we had really good fun. It was also nice to be able to shoot freely without all the baggage which has been weighing me down lately (access problems, self doubt..).

Elvira and Me – final

So. It’s over. I’ve submitted all my MA work and now just need to physically hand my book in on Monday. Most importantly for me though, this afternoon I’ve given Ramona her hardback copy – which I wanted to do before I shared it online. The reaction was very positive and I am so glad I had the project translated into Romanian (cu multe mulţumiri Daniel şi Dorothea!) because members of her family were immediately able to check it out for themselves…who knows, maybe they will learn something about her.
But now I’m doing that thing which I so often do with my own work – I’m mentally over it before I’ve even showed it to anyone. The dissemination part is something I am fairly weak at, since if I’m honest I shoot/cover stories primarily to indulge my own curiosity. I stick things on my blog and show them to the few colleagues I know well but beyond that am never quite sure what to do with my personal work. Anyway I think this is actually the first time that I’ve been truly proud of a body of work, and I finally feel I’m really saying something worthwhile – no doubt because this project is a collaboration – all I’ve done in this case is act as facilitator, supporting someone else to represent themselves. I intend this to be the start of a larger body of work on the UK’s new Roma communities.

Please check out my book layout.

If viewing on Issuu is a problem, you can download the low-res pdf from here.

A couple of short clips of Ramona talking can be seen below – she has such an amazing voice that it seems criminal not to share her words. These are not part of my MA submission….


Roma education report

A selection of my photographs from Cedar Mount, a high school near my home, has been used to illustrate a study into the experiences of migrant Roma children in UK schools, written by Equality and published by the Roma Education Fund. Cedar Mount has about 100 Romanian Roma children – roughly one in eight pupils – as well as smaller numbers of Roma children from other Eastern European countries. I wrote about the school’s successes – and the challenges it faces – for Times Educational Supplement Magazine earlier this year. One of the things Manchester’s education authority has started doing – with great foresight in my opinion – is employing classroom assistants from the Romanian Roma community, almost all young adults who speak English but have not themselves benefitted from a formal education. There are several reasons for this – it shows the community that they are valued in this city; it raises aspirations by proving to Roma children that they can have the same ambitions and expectations as the rest of us in the UK, and it builds the confidence of this group of adults, who will hopefully go on to become links between different sections of the population. Ramona, who I have been focusing on for my major project, and who appears in the image above, is one of these people and the only woman. The report is available at Equality’s website.

And back…

I’m back from my Romania trip today in body, if not quite yet in spirit. After a week-and-a-half somewhat marred for me by illness and culminating with the 19-hour return journey from hell, it’s going to take my weary brain some time to process the huge amount I have seen and learned. I had a brilliant time and was made to feel extremely welcome by the family I was staying with, who let me shoot freely. Whether or not that freedom has translated into images which support the narrative which emerged before my eyes while I was there is another question, one which will take me a little while to work out. This part of my project is not over – I have a few things to do over the coming weeks to tie up loose ends with Ramona, while also ramping up the work with my other subject Lida, with whom I will travel to the Czech Republic in just over a month’s time. I’m not sure how both halves of this project will sit together in the end, or if they even will…in fact I’m still not entirely sure how the work will be presented. I’d be surprised if the second part measures up to the first in terms of its strength but I’m keeping an open mind, while trying not to feel overwhelmed at the very great but exciting task ahead.

So it’s happening…

Today I’m going to travel to Luton by coach and then fly to small-town Romania, arriving early tomorrow morning. We’re going to Urziceni, a town of 17,000 people about 60km from Bucharest. What I’ll see and learn there I don’t know but at the moment I’m keeping everything crossed that people will be ok with the camera. I doubt I’ll have internet while I’m away so back in 10 days or so… ciao.