Shropshire’s Gypsy and Traveller community commended by council
June 2021 is Gypsy Roma and Traveller History month, and has been celebrated nationally since 2008. In Shropshire, it provides the opportunity for Shropshire Council to commend the local community for their positive approaches to the pandemic.
The community, which is largely a settled one and is dispersed across the county, has actively participated in the COVID-19 vaccination programme, helping to reduce local risks of infection. Gypsy and traveller families have also worked together to donate food to local foodbanks.
Cecilia Motley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for communities, place, tourism and transport, said:-
“The Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community in Shropshire is to be commended for their actions during the pandemic, as a grouping that has taken the risk of infections seriously, has worked with public health officers to take up vaccinations when offered, and has gone the extra mile by donating to food banks in order to help those in need.
“During national Gypsy Roma and Traveller History Month, it is timely to reflect upon the rich heritage of this community. It is also important to note and record thanks to them for their contributions to the history we are writing now, as a county of communities doing our utmost to come through the pandemic together.”
John Taylor, Gypsy and Traveller liaison officer, said:-
“People may be surprised to learn that the community in Shropshire is really a very settled community, with families living either on privately-owned and family-owned sites, or on council plots on one of the four sites that we operate, plus a small number in bricks and mortar accommodation. There are 151 plots altogether. Many in the community are self-employed, with others employed in jobs ranging from hauliers to teaching assistants and pretty much everything in between, no different to anyone else really. “
Whilst the council and our partners are not in a position during the pandemic to add to the beautiful work previously created with our families, the attached images show and tell some of the stories of their heritage.
National Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller History Month aims to:
- raise awareness and explore the history, culture and language of travelling communities;
- challenge myths, tackle prejudice and have balanced debates about all issues;
- celebrate the richness that GRT communities bring to everyday lives.
The Roma people are the largest European ethnic minority community: there are 10-12 million Roma living in the EU and in the enlargement region, according to EU sources.
In Shropshire, the heritage of the Gypsy and Traveller community has been celebrated in previous years through recording of their stories and creation of artwork. This has included a story telling project with Mythstories Storytelling Museum, who worked with a group of Traveller children to produce four wooden boxes into which the children placed artefacts to support recordings of stories of the lives of different Travellers. The project was supported by Shropshire Archives.
This project followed on from a previous one in which Travellers from Manor House Lane site, who were pupils at Thomas Adams School, built, painted and added artefacts to a vardo which is now a permanent display in the museum. The finished boxes were then added to the display.
The images show examples of the wooden box artwork by the community.
Shropshire Council owns and manages four Gypsy/Traveller sites across the county totalling 64 plots. In addition to this we also lease a yard to the Travelling Show family in Oswestry.
Each plot provides the following:
- Hot and cold water supply
- Electricity supply
- A separate toilet
- A bath/shower room
- A kitchen and dining area
Shropshire Council’s Gypsy and Traveller Team is made up of a Senior GRT officer and two Gypsy Liaison support officers. The work of the team includes the management of Shropshire Council’s own sites and includes the provision of a supporting people service. The team also liaise/advise with internal and external agencies including the police, adult social care, children’s services, and health service agencies, and are responsible for advising private landowners and enforcement matters.
There are also a number of privately-owned sites countywide, bringing the overall plot total to 151. It is also worth noting that a number of Gypsy and Traveller families reside in bricks and mortar accommodation.