John and Yoko school

Robin Marriot, the son of George and Mary Marriot, contacted ACERT to share the story of how John and Yoko Lennon supported a caravan school on a roadside camp in Bedfordshire.

I came across your report concerning the above schools. My Dad, George Marriott, a disabled WW2 veteran, and my Mum, Mary, herself disabled, although not Gypsies themselves, were heavily involved in Gypsy Welfare in Bedfordshire from the mid 1960s until the 1980s, due to the inhumane way in which Gypsy people were being treated throughout the county.

Gypsy protest @ Harlington 1969

As you know, at that time, with no permanent sites for Gypsy families, it was impossible for their children to receive even a basic education and my Dad had the idea to take education to the children via roadside caravan schools. 
But how to fund them? I was 19 years old at the time and a Beatles fan. I was aware that John & Yoko Lennon were involved in a number of projects outside of making music so I suggested that my Dad should write to them and ask for financial help to start up the caravan school project.

Some time later, out of the blue, on 1 December 1969, a telegram was delivered saying, “We are behind your project. Will send money immediately. Love John & Yoko.”

A cheque for £100 duly arrived and my Dad negotiated the purchase of a second hand 32 foot long caravan that would be sited on the roadside close to the M1 bridge on the Caddington to Luton Road. Local press covered the story which was picked up by the nationals. 


Much to my Dad’s embarrassment The Daily Mirror incorrectly reported that the Lennons had donated £1,000 so he immediately contacted them (John & Yoko) to alert the to the incorrect report.

A few days later a letter arrived from John & Yoko with a cheque for £300 and a “PS” saying, “Use it well, but don’t tell!”. With the additional funding a second caravan was bought that Mr Gerwyn Davies, a supporter of the cause over many years, allowed to be sited at his school in Kensworth. 


Unfortunately the Caddington school was burnt and destroyed by so called “vigilantes” or brainless idiots as my Dad referred to them. 
I remember well Gratton Puxon and Tom Acton and their involvement, as well as Jeremy Sandford the author of Cathy Come Home and Yehudi Menuhin the violinist. 

I was  pleased to hear that Gerwyn and Mrs Davies are still with us. My Dad was a great admirer of him and the way he embraced “The Cause” in spite of the unpopularity of the project among local residents. 

As a footnote, when my Dad died in 1996 the Luton News and Dunstable Gazette (they referring to him as the “Gypsy Champion”) reported the event. To our surprise a number of Gypsies attended the funeral, some of them were by this time adults who had attended the schools and been taught to read and write !

With kind regards,
Robin Marriott

NEU motion in support of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers


The National Executive of Britains largest education union has adopted a resolution opposing racism and hostility towards Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities and seeking ways education can be used to challenge and reverse it.

a. Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Communities

Proposer: Dominic Byrne Seconder: Louise Regan

The Executive notes that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities continue to face an ever increasing climate of racism and hostility.

We note The Police and Crime Bill, in criminalising the nomadic way of life, is adding to the social exclusion and racism faced by the GRT community.

We stand in solidarity with GRT communities and oppose all anti-GRT racism.

We recognise that there is still much more to do in the fight against anti-GRT racism in Education. A recent study by The Traveller Movement found that one in five Traveller pupils felt they had to leave school due to bullying and two thirds of those surveyed felt bullied by their teachers. GRT children are excluded from school disproportionately compared to other ethnic groups. In addition to this, Gypsies and Travellers are 10 times less likely to go to university than their peers and fair worst in terms of educational attainment.

As with all discrimination, education is at the heart of challenging it. The NEU has a long history of standing in solidarity with the oppressed and using our skill as educators to challenge racism in all its forms.

We call on the executive to:

1. Work with the GRT community and organisations to produce educational resources to be shared with members, so they can be used in schools and colleges to raise awareness and challenge discrimination.

2. To continue to oppose the Police and Crime Bill and actively support Gypsy, Roma and Traveller led demonstrations against the Bill such as “Drive to Survive”.

3. To work to influence government, opposition parties and local education, to provide funding, issue guidance and offer training to enable schools to develop policies and practices to address the continuing educational disadvantage of these children.

4. To keep pupils from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities high on the Union agenda particularly in all publications relating to inclusion and equality, racism and bullying.

5. To actively seek ways to increase the recruitment of school staff from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller ethnic groups and provide appropriate support to encourage their retention in the workforce

6. To make a commitment to providing training to build the confidence and ability of teachers to support these pupils.

7. To review NEU publications/guidance etc, to make sure that in relevant placesnthese groups are explicitly included.

8. For the NEU to affiliate nationally to the Advisory Council for the Education of Romany and other Travellers (ACERT) and Friends, Families and Travellers.

Early Years Senior Practitioner vacancy in Central Bedfordshire

Salary: £28,099 – £30,719 per annum

Base Location: Sandy Children’s Centre, Sandy

This role is an opportunity to be part of a pilot project to work with Gypsy Roma and Traveller children and their families, where there are issues relating to engagement in education. We are looking for the right candidate to build relationships and support children and families to raise aspirations for learning. Working collaboratively with partner agencies and across teams in Central Bedfordshire Council, this is a fantastic opportunity to find your greatness.

To apply and for further details please visit  https://bit.ly/30dutDm or contact Cathy Brighton Catherine.Brighton@centralbedfordshire.gov.uk   Tel: 0300 300 6311

King’s College London are prioritising Gypsy, Roma and Traveller students on their flagship K+ scheme

Once again, King’s College London are prioritising Gypsy, Roma and Traveller students on their flagship K+ scheme for year 12 students in London and South Essex. This has been so successful in the last few years, and each year we see more Gypsies, Roma and Travellers head to university from K+.

As well as all of the amazing experiences and application support students get through K+, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller students will also receive extra support, provided by the global leading law firm Linklaters. This includes:

  • Free online tutoring to support with A-levels 
  • Careers advice, experience and tips from top professionals
  • Access to funds to go to events and take part in activities you are interested in

Applications are open from now until 29 October – to apply visit https://kplus.london

Join the ACERT Education Network

Most of the people who attend the Traveller Education network meetings work in Traveller Education support services or similar. There are members from all over the country of whom around half tend to join the discussion each time. Often one of the participants talks about some aspect of their work to kick off a discussion with the group. People who may feel isolated in their work can take the opportunity to discuss dilemmas or seek advice.

ACERT hosts the meetings via Zoom. They run between 2p.m. and 4p.m. on Wednesday afternoons. The first meeting of this school year will be on Wednesday 13 October at 2p.m.

The remaining dates for the coming year are provisionally set for:

1st December

26th January, 16th March

4th May, 15th June, 20th July

If you would like to receive a link to join the Traveller Education Network meetings and/or if you would like to join our Education Support Mailing List, please email us at info@acert.org.uk

Looking Forward, Breaking New Ground

An exciting day conference for parents and educators exploring ways of improving opportunities for Gypsy Roma and Traveller Young people

Fri, 1 October 2021
10:00 – 16:30 BST

Friends’ Meeting House
6 Mount Street
Manchester
M2 5NS

This one day conference will target education professionals and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller parents. Richard O’Neill will chair a lively day of presentations and discussions on school and community initiatives that widen opportunities and raise expectations.

After a difficult eighteen months our aim is that the tone of the day will be optimistic. Through sharing ideas and experiences we aim to inspire practical ways forward in the current context.

We want all participants to find this an accessible event. This event is costing ACERT £40 per person. We have set a Standard Ticket price for all who can afford it but if this is beyond you, please make the best donation you can. A buffet lunch and refreshments are provided throughout the day.

We are keen to include parents interested in being part of a parent support network and to identify ways in which ACERT can back them in getting a better deal for their children.

Presentations/Workshops so far agreed include:

  • Selina Costello and Janine Lowther (Darlington TEAS) workshop on Raising the career aspirations of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers on a shoestring
  • Duke’s Theatre Lancaster and Lancashire EM/ GRT Achievement Service presentation about the Our Voice project with young women
  • Ermina Kesedzic and parent worker Juraj from St Edmunds Nursery, Bradford, on work with Roma parents and communities
  • Olivia Hammond, Alternative pathways to success
  • Natalie Stables, Traveller wagon project
  • Harriet Crossley and Roma families from Bowling Park Primary – Inclusion during the pandemic
  • Juice Vamosi from KaskoSan Roma Charity
  • Ollie Petrovic – Identity, Best Friends.

London Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month events 2021

Wednesday 23rd June 12.45 – 1.45pm

Our Romano Drom

A history of the 1971 London World Romani Congress

Written and narrated by Grattan Puxon, Romani activist and general-secretary of the 1971 Congress.

Produced and edited by Ioana Constantinescu for the 8 April 2021 Jubilee celebrations organised by the Jubilee London Committee.

Using archive footage and photographs, Grattan takes us through the 60’s in Ireland where he became involved in Traveller issues, to the UK early campaigns against evictions, the setting up of the Gypsy Council and the lead up to the 1971 Congress in London.

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month Celebration 24th June, 6-8pm  

This virtual 2-part event, hosted by Mena Mongan, will be an opportunity to come together to celebrate the rich culture and heritage of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities through discussion, music and stories.

6pm – 6.50pm – Panel Discussion

The event will begin with a short panel discussion on the impact of the proposed Policing and Crime Bill on the culture and lives of Gypsies and Travellers in the UK.

7pm – 8pm – Celebration

This will be followed by an exciting mix of musical performances and presentations, including..

And many more…


Relive the Jubilee

On 8th April 2021, the World Romani Congress marked 50 years since the 1971 founding event in London. It was a crucial point in the history of Romani people and is now seen as the beginning of the worldwide Romani emancipation movement. It started a political fight for equality,mobilised through Romani organisations, and the unifying flag and anthem.

This year to mark the jubilee anniversary a series of diverse online events have been taking place that offer the opportunity to celebrate Roma history and culture but also critically reflect on the ongoing challenges that are still faced by Romani people worldwide.

Events can be enjoyed via a live stream at www.romanistan.com a virtual place that crosses all continental borders and connects Romani people worldwide. The president of the First World Roma Congress in 1971, Slobodan Berberski, once said: “Every place, there is Roma, there is Romanistan.” This utopia has now become reality!

It is hoped that this year’s online events will spark greater mobilisation. Grattan Puxon, one of the co-organisers of the First World Romani Congress, said: “At a time of rising far-right extremism and anti-gypsyism it is hoped that this anniversary year will bring Romani people and our allies around the world closer together, to create a common purpose, celebrate achievements, and build a stronger collective voice.”

If you weren’t able to attend or wish to reflect on International Roma Day, recordings of the day’s events can be found on Romanistan’s YouTube and Facebook pages.

There is still time to take part and the congress events are open to all. Check Romanistan’s website for updates and information on the next sessions.
In addition to the congress events, Romanistan and its partner oranisations have delivered an online World Roma Congress art exhibition.

Search for Epping ancestors

Gypsy Smith memorial stone – Woodford Green

Patrick Wiley, an American Archaeologist, is researching the history of Romani and Traveller families who lived in Epping Forest from the 1760s onward.  As many as 300 Romanichals lived and worked in the forest until they were forcibly evicted in 1897. Despite these restrictions Romanies and Travellers were known to stop in Epping well into the 20th century and thousands of people of GRT backgrounds live in the Epping Forest District today. Patrick would like to get in touch with anyone of Gypsy Roma and Traveller heritages who lives in the area or has relatives who lived there.

The research will focus on three forest compartments, Walthamstow Forest, Wanstead Flats, and High Beech. Walthamstow Forest is the birthplace of famed Romanichal evangelist Rodney Smith. Wanstead Flats is mentioned in his autobiography and other sources mention it as common campground. High Beech was chosen because there are charcoal pits in the area possibly left by Romanichal charcoal burners.

For his PhD research at University College, London, Patrick plans a series of scientific tests to see if archaeological remains are present.  This information can help him, or other future archaeologists decide to excavate in the future. 

The stages in the fieldwork will include:

  • Walking the site looking for anything of interest on the surface like the charcoal pits. 
  • Magnetic susceptibility tests covering an entire forest compartment to look for changes in the soil caused by human habitation.
  • Magnetometry to finding the buried remains of campfires, forge fires, and iron artifacts
  • Ground penetrating radar to look for the hard-packed earthen floors of bender tents. 

Patrick hopes these tests will reveal campsites in detail and might even be able to determine if the camp was built in summer or winter based on the location of the campfire or hearth.

Romani Archaeology is largely unknown in the UK, but studies have been carried out in Sweden and the Czech Republic in collaboration with local Romani people. Patrick is seeking people of Gypsy Roma and Traveller heritages to work with him as partners and participants. Anyone interested can reach him at patrick.wiley.20@ucl.ac.uk.

Romani history is a severely neglected topic in the humanities and barely any Romani archaeology has ever been conducted. I believe that the marginalization of the Romani past is directly connected with the marginalization of the Romani people. I know that the study of the past has great potential to inspire, transform, and empower and I believe that a dedicated subfield of Romani and Traveller archaeology will have that same impact. 

Patrick Wiley

3 day event on legacy of 1971 congress

April 5-7, 2021

The Social, Cultural, and Political Legacy of the 1971 World Roma Congress event-series is organized by the Roma Program at the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard University (Boston); the Romani Studies Program, Central European University (Budapest/ Vienna); and the Department of Romani Studies, Södertörn University (Stockholm).

Each year, for more than two decades, on April 8, Romani people across the world celebrate Roma National Day. Some have turned this anniversary into a one-day opportunity to discuss their rich heritage, through concerts, exhibitions, film screenings, conferences, and media events. Others, including activists and academics, have marked the Roma National Day by organizing remembrance events to take stock of continuing persecution and stigmatization, but also of progress in social, political and economic fields. This year, on April 8, we mark the 50th anniversary of the First World Roma Congress. This is an important moment to reflect back on the recent history of Romani people as well as contemporary obstacles and threats as well as opportunities for Roma justice and dignity.

5 April, 3-5pm Central European Time (2-4pm BST)

The legacy of the First World Roma Congress in Nordic Countries
Department of Romani Studies at Södertörn University

This panel includes two celebrations of the Roma National Day from two Nordic contexts. The small community of Norwegian Roma in Oslo have focused on communicating their culture and tradition to the general public. The large community of Arli in Norrköping, Sweden combine their celebration of their Roma identity with political awareness making.

6 April, 3-5pm Central European Time (9-11am EST)
Visions of Roma emancipation: 1971-2021
Romani Studies Program and Roma Students Association at Central European University

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the First World Roma Congress, the Roma Students Association of Central European University in collaboration with the Romani Studies Program at CEU reflects on its legacy and relevance for present day struggles for recognition and equality. The event includes short videos on the key symbols of Roma nation: the name, flag, and anthem; the launch of an online interactive exhibition; an interview with Grattan Puxon, one of the key organizers of the First World Roma Congress; and a roundtable discussion on history, self-determination and the use of digital technologies.


7 April, 3-5pm Central European Time (9-11am EST)

The Place of Roma in the Global Struggles for Liberation and Anti-Racism

Roma Program at the FXB Center at Harvard University

The experiences, struggles, and literature for liberation and anti-racism find many parallels across the world. From historical state-sponsored injustices to a continuum of structural inequalities, racialized and colonized peoples have been victims of systems of unjust dogmas, policies, laws, and societies. Yet, social movements and scholarships continue to isolate their struggles, failing to experience the power of the global. In the past few years, the Roma Program at Harvard University and the Romani Studies Program at CEU have organized solidarity events to harness reciprocal support, learning, and cooperation among scholars and activists, including intersectional feminists, from different geographies and social movements. The Place of Roma in the Global Struggles for Liberations and Anti-Racism panel builds on that work, focusing on a connection of struggles, political tactics, and paths on how to build momentum for a joint global solidarity movement against oppression.

Organizers:
Department of Romani Studies at Södertörn University
Roma Program of the FXB Center at Harvard University
Romani Studies Program Program at Central European University
Roma Students Association at Central European University
Media partner: 
TV Baxtale
Please register here: 
https://forms.office.com/r/gimhaCgQdw
Registration deadline: April 2.
The event will be live-streamed at:
https://www.facebook.com/CEURomaniStudiesProgram
Facebook event: 
https://www.facebook.com/events/1089506324851005

Jubilee message from Vice President of the International Romani Union

Juan de Dios Ramírez-Heredia Montoya is President of Spanish Unión Romaní and Vice President of the International Romani Union

You can hear this message in the voice of Juan de Dios Ramírez-Herediaby clicking on the following link: https://youtu.be/B4jMs07MmGE

In 1971 the “Iron Curtain” and the “Berlin Wall” seemed impregnable walls

April 8 was declared International Roma Day at the first World Romani Congress. Now it is celebrated around the world.

    On April 8, the Romani people go to the riverbanks to throw flowers into the river. It is the symbol of freedom, crossing borders, and the Earth as a shared place for all the people. 

       After that, we leave floating lights on the still waters of the river to remember our ancestors. We never forget the half-million Romani people who died in concentration camps under the Nazi regime after World War II. 

      We are living hard times. Our people are still being prosecuted, also in democratic countries. Some of them arrive in Europe fleeing from hunger and misery with the hope of a better life, but they are expelled. We must raise our voices to demand a more tolerant society and we have to ask our governments to show solidarity. We cannot lose hope. 

      On April 8, we must go out onto the street with a smile and we have to offer our hand to whoever wants to shake it. If people want to listen to us, we have to tell them who we are. Our people have nothing to do with what is portrayed in some mass media. 

     On April 8, we should feel proud of belonging to a great community. We are more than fourteen million people around the world. Fourteen million human beings with a common history, with a common language, with a largely shared culture, and with the desire to continue being Romani of the 21st century.

At the London Congress, a dream came true

      Fifty years have passed since on April 8, 1971, a group of Romani people from 28 different countries met in London to talk about our aspirations at that moment and to think about our futures. This was a unique event, absolutely unthinkable for many of the people who attended the Congress. It was in London where we discovered that we wanted to be the architects of our future and the administrators of our freedom. 

      There were only Romani people, in the London Congress. Most of them came from former communist countries. We should not forget that three-fourths of the European Romani population came from Russia and its satellite states. That is why we were very interested in what the people who came from those countries could tell us. In 1971 the “Iron Curtain” and the “Berlin Wall” seemed impregnable walls.

Great achievements of the London Congress

      Those of us who were lucky enough to participate in that meeting agreed we should have a flag to represent us. And we approved it: it is blue and green. We also wanted a universal hymn to sing during our celebrations. Jarko Jovanovich composed it with his balalaika. In 1978 we were recognized by the United Nations. We thought we should create an academic institution to work on the normalization and standardization of our language, Romano. It happened thanks to René Descartes University in Paris and Marcel Courthiade, may God have him in his glory. Finally, we created the International Romani Union. The goal was clear: to culminate a political project and to represent the Romani people around the world. 

Names for History

      The first of all is Vanko Rouda, founder of the International Gypsy Committee. Also, his brother Leula and Grattan Puxon, the General Secretary of the London Congress. They were the soul of the Congress. Slobodan Berbeski was the president of the Congress and Dr. Jan Cibula was elected the first president of the International Romani Union. Jarko Jovanovich, composer of Gelem, Gelen and Raya Rudikova, a Romani girl form Russia. The list is very long. 

Meanwhile, in Spain

      In 2017, on March 10, the Congress of Deputies urged the Government to officially declare April 8 as the International Roma Day, as well as to recognize the blue and green flag with a red 16-spoke wheel and the Gelem Gelem as our anthem. “The purpose was to use those symbols in commemorations, acts and institutional events related to the Romani People.”

      On April 6, 2018, the Council of Ministers of Spain approved the recognition of April 8 as the International Roma Day, as it has been done in the past in the Council of Europe and different countries. The Plenum of the Senate of Spain joined this celebration through a solemn institutional declaration.

      The Unión Romaní calls on all citizens to join us on this important and relevant date.