Romani Nursery Rhymes

Jell Akai Chavvies

by Kathleen Cunningham

ACERT is very grateful to the family of the late Kathleen Cunningham for allowing us to make Jell Akai Chavvies available to download from our website. Originally published in 2004, this beautiful collection of nursery rhymes was written for Kathleen’s grandchildren, who helped her with the illustrations. The recordings were made by Kathleen, by members of the Cambridgeshire Traveller Education Team and by schools in the Fenland area where Kathleen lived. Included is a fascinating glossary of Romany words. The resource is ideal for children in early years settings but can be enjoyed by people of any age. 

Kathleen Cunningham was first and foremost a poet. Her collection “A Moving Way of Life” 1997 was dedicated to her grandchildren. In the foreword she wrote “so that they will always remember their Romany ancestors and in in memory of my father, Esau Carman without whose foresight in sending me to school they would not have been written”. In “The Great Romany Showman” 2007, illustrated with family photos and with poetry, she remembered the life and travels of her grandfather. 

In 2008 Kathleen’s granddaughter, Rose Wilson, coordinated a national project and published Reminiscence a book of photographs to celebrate the first Gypsy Roma Traveller History month. 

In her foreword to this collection she wrote: “My Granny, Kathleen Cunningham, lost her long battle with cancer and passed away on 23 October 2008 peacefully at home with her family at her side. She was a truly inspirational person who taught me to believe in myself and others, which can be particularly hard when you’re looked upon as “them Travellers” or “the Gypsies”. She taught me to be proud of who I am, as indeed she was, and to celebrate and not hide the fact that I am a Romany Gypsy. She even researched our family trees, which date back to the 1800’s. This is why I think it is important to celebrate our culture and heritage. Other cultures do this, so why not Gypsies and Travellers?” 


The Gypsy, Traveller, Roma, Showmen and Boaters’ Pledge for Schools.

Launch event online

Thursday 16 June, 4.30-5.45 p.m
The Pledge for Schools is a commitment schools sign up to, to work towards creating a welcoming environment and conditions in which Gypsy, Traveller, Roma, Showmen and Boater (GTRSB) pupils can stay resilient and thrive academically. 

It contains actions such as building a supporting and welcoming culture for GTRSB pupils, data monitoring of GTRSB pupils and staff, cultural awareness training for staff, including GTRSB history and culture on the curriculum, having a named contact point for GTRSB pupils and outreach and engagement to local GTRSB communities. 

Come and hear what the Pledge contains, how it is working in a signed up school, and from practitioners in Traveller education, as well as from community members as to why the Pledge is needed.

Chaired by Dr Carol Rogers, Senior Lecturer in Education, Buckinghamshire University, the speakers are:

  • Margaret Greenfields, Anglia Ruskin University, explaining what the Pledge contains.
  • Colleen Roper, from Future4Fairgrounds.
  • Jassy Powles and  her son Jem Purry, from the Boater community.
  • Rosa Cisneros, from the Romanian Roma community
  • Martin Gallagher, Irish Traveller and academic at Northumbria University.
  • Sally Barter, Romany, GRT Schools’ link officer for the London Borough of Hillingdon, one of the pilot areas who have received the recent £1m government funding for Traveller education. 
  • Sadie Barter, Romany Gypsy young person, talking about her experiences at school.
  • Paula Strachan, Head of St Teresa’s school, Darlington, signatory to the Pledge, talking about good practice at the school. St Teresa’s Catholic Primary School serves a diverse community with 54% of pupils from an ethnic minority group. The school and Paula’s leadership are used by the Catholic Education Service as a role model for schools with a diverse community and those with a high percentage of GRT pupils.   Paula is regularly asked to speak about inclusion including recently providing oral evidence to the Education Select Committee regarding GRT barriers to education.
  • Liffy Bond, the Anti-bullying Alliance, talking about the Alliance’s Gypsy and Traveller Anti-Bullying project and audit tool.

Questions can be asked of the panel in the remaining time.


Wee Bessie

“Wee Bessie,” by David G Pullar and Ruthie Redden. This children’s story is adapted for children from Betsy Whyte’s famous book, “The Yellow on the Broom” by her great-grandson, David Pullar, with stunning illustrations from artist Ruthie Redden and wonderfully narrated by Jess Smith.