Info Tour Blog # 2
It is day four of the Traveller Solidarity Tour and we are in Southampton, being put up in the (very comfortable) house of local activists Les and Lizzy . Last night we did the Southampton talk at local pub, The Dorchester Arms. It has been quite beautiful to experience just how different each talk has been depending on the audience, the venue and the energy.
Jenni and Dan gave the talk. We had gone over the format of the talk earlier in the evening – so far each one has been slightly different and improved upon as we find our feet – the feet joined to the 25 legs of our tour (though I have been secretly counting and can find only 8 legs among us…).
During the presentation, we had a phone-in to local Traveller Doreen Ward who regaled us with tales of her childhood, born on the roads of Ireland in a wagon. She told us she missed the horses but definitely did not miss washing the cast iron cooking pot! When asked about education and health provision for Travellers, she gave examples
of family members who have been ignored by the authorities, who turn blind eyes to their problems. The conditions on her site haven’t been improved or serviced in years and every time they call emergency services out, paramedics or the fire brigade, those services will not enter site without a police escort. She also spoke about bullying of Traveller children in schools and sited it as reason why many among her community are hesitant to put their kids through school.
After the talk there was some good conversation, some yummy yummy food – I myself ate a cupcake made by a local Traveller which was decorated with a picture of a Gypsy Wagon…om nom nom!! Several bands played, most memorable was local ‘junk band’ who had fashioned instruments of out, well, junk. They distributed these concoctions all round and the whole audience got involved.
It seems like there is already a growing number of people getting involved in Traveller Solidarity down here in Southampton and hopefully many more eager to get involved. It has been a real pleasure to be hosted here and to be a part of such an enthusiastic event.
We had an early start (time for toast but no beans) after the fun and games of the Southampton event and set off in the other direction back to Brighton. This talk was arranged at the University of Sussex as part of an anti-racism course organised by our good friend Dani. We got a good turnout – I think uni is compulsory. The students seemed really keen and asked some important questions of how they could get involved in Roma Nation Day. Unfortunately, although the talk went well, the parking situation didn’t go well and the over zealous parking inspector was quick to hand us out a £60 parking ticket!! We soon managed to wangle our way out of it and made tracks once more to Southampton and swiftly headed on to Bristol.
Bristol was great. There were loads of TSN crew on the ground who lovingly put us up in a charming little house and fed us delicious food at outrageous hours of the night. For the event we had a spacious church hall. The meeting was attended by about 35, perhaps 40 folks. Bristol TSN crew had baked about 7 trays of vegan cake and the sound of munching enhanced the important issues at hand.
Towards the end of the meeting a lady entered with three young girls. By some (godly?) coincidence, she was an English Romani Gypsy with her daughters who was at the church to visit the priest. She was really happy to be received by a room of people who were keen to get informed and involved in GRT struggles. She expressed how hard it was for her children to remain in school and how one of her daughters was forced out by repeated bullying. She was really pleased that people were meeting and she seemed enthusiastic to get involved in issues surrounding education and really happy to have chanced upon our gathering.
TSN Bristol have organised a local meeting soon and hopefully lots of different groups and interested folks will be enthused to get together and start something big.