The 2016 ACERT conference Identity Now more than achieved its objective of providing an opportunity to reflect on the meaning and importance of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller identities in a range of contexts. Around 50 participants, most from community backgrounds, presented and discussed different aspects of identity and the challenges they experienced asserting and defending it. The fact that several speakers did not attend gave more space for those who attended to make powerful and distinctive contributions. Although, Irish Travellers were underrepresented due to unforeseen circumstances, there were many shared themes and experiences, shared with the Gypsy and Roma communities.
Lisa Smith, an ACERT Vice-chair, and Margaret Wood, an EC member, made a detailed submission to the Women and Equalities Committee Inquiry into tackling inequalities faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Communities. It covers the failure to recognise or build on the progress made up to 2008, the inadequacy of the Ministerial Working Group Commitments, the impact of cuts and funding change and the unleashing of xenophobic and nationalist sentiments by the Brexit debate. Women and Children suffer disproportionately from the consequences of austerity. It comprises a powerful indictment of this and the previous coalition governments’ indifference and hostility to Gypsy, Roma and Traveller rights and inclusion.
On January 27th 2017, Valdemar Kalinin, the second Vice-chairs read one of his poems at the Holocaust Memorial Day National Event at the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre in Westminster. Valdemar has also collaborated with the Imperial War Museum on the revision of the Holocaust exhibit. We have uploaded educational resources, including Roma Life stories, to the website supporting Holocaust Memorial Day.
To celebrate International Women’s Day March 8th the Traveller Movement hosted an event in the Houses of Parliament where Rose McCarthy the ACERT chair and Lisa Smith represented ACERT and contributed to the discussion.
On March 9th ACERT supported the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups training day at Friends House. Marc Willers and Chris Johnson made clear and understandable presentations on the problems of nomadic children getting access to schooling, and losing “gypsy” status under the law, if they are settled. Rose McCarthy and Thomas Acton an EC member, both made contributions.
Lisa Smith and two other ACERT members, Peter Norton and Brian Foster, spoke at the NATT+ conference on Friday 10th March at the Friends Meeting House London on the theme “Best Practice in Gypsy Roma Traveller Education-What has worked before will work again!”
Margaret Wood and Siobhan Spencer represented ACERT at a roundtable discussion on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller young people in higher education at King’s College London on May 3. it was a very dynamic meeting chaired by Ellie Mulcahy from the think tank IKMCO. This is a long-standing concern for ACERT and this meeting has led to a closer working relationship with the researchers. Lisa Galloway, an ACERT member, appeared on the BBC Breakfast Show to launch the report The underrepresentation of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils in higher education.
On 16thJune several EC members were involved in an innovative conference organised by The University of East Anglia, in partnership with Education Solutions Norfolk aimed at supporting young Gypsy, Roma and Traveller making the transition from school into further and higher education. The event was planned by Hazel Marsh, an EC member, and Lisa Smith was one of the keynote speakers.
On the same day ACERT made a poster presentation summarising by means of quotes from Key Documents the progress (or otherwise) made in Traveller Education since the Plowden report, at International Conference on Education and Democratic Citizenship Conference at the Institute of Education.
This year marked the death of John Cole, who served on the ACERT EC until he became ill in early 2016. He had worked in Traveller Education in Liverpool for 25 years and in his Eulogy, his younger brother said “John was the loveliest, kindest, sweetest most caring person you could wish to know.” That was the experience of those of us who worked with him. He added, “John never liked to talk about his achievements, but from what others have said, he was well liked and much respected by the people he worked with, and worked for.” Sue Mutter attended the funeral on behalf of the Executive.
Peter Mercer, a leading civil rights activist for the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities of the United Kingdom and all of Europe, also passed away. Thomas Acton wrote: “From the beginning, Peter was a peacemaker within the Romani civil rights movement. He played a full role within both ACERT and the NGEC when those two organisations were at loggerheads, and simply refused to see their rivalry as relevant. He came to dominate the NGEC for one of its most productive decades in the 1980s before its change of direction under Charles Smith. Santino Spinelli’s nickname for him “The Gypsy Gentleman” summed up his character.” it was Peter’s testimony that got Gypsy people recognised as an ethnic group in 1989.
Over the year we have tried to keep the website up to date and used it to share information about our own and other organisations’ activities, through our monthly mailshots to members and supporters. In addition to the activities outlined above we have publicised:
- Traveller Movement Operation Hate Crime and an Early Day Motion supporting the Operation Report Hate campaign
- GATEHerts website http://reportracismgrt.com specifically to record incidents of hate crime against Gypsies, Roma and Travellers
- The All Party Parliamentary Group for Gypsies, Travellers and Roma
- Report of the Roundtable with the Children’s Commissioner
- Romani Arts and Media company training events
- Families, Friends and Travellers e-learning package.
- London Gypsy and Traveller Unit poster campaign, We are so many things”
- Gypsy Roma and Traveller Police Association
- Romedia event (cancelled due to terrorist attack)
- Derbyshire Liaison Group events
- The short film Hotchi
- Reports from the Welsh Assembly Inquiry into the Education Improvement Grant, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller and Minority Ethnic Children
- House of Commons briefing paper on Gypsies and Travellers
Rose McCarthy – 23rd September 2017