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?”