'My roots make me proud' - a reflection on traveller history month in Gloucester

The Romany community has a huge history in Gloucester as Kelly Marie Horsley (inset) has exhibited throughout June
-Credit: (Image: Kelly Marie Horsley)

Since June 2008 people from across the UK have celebrated Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month.

Throughout the majority of this month, Gloucester Library has hosted an exhibition called Kushti Divvus - Forgotten stories of Gloucester’s Romany Gypsy Community. It is described as “an opportunity to celebrate the rich heritage of this fascinating community

Kelly Marie Horsley was born into the Romany/Gypsy community in Gloucester. The first language of her mother is Romany and Kelly’s recording of history across the generations in Gloucester has been something she is proud to showcase.

Traditions such as attending horse fairs, meeting friends and family, music, history and heritage is the very best of the community. Supported by Voices Gloucester and Young Curator Georgia Williams, below we’ve spoken to Kelly as a reflection on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month.

June is an important month for the community, why is it important to you?

For my family’s history and my community together, this is important to me. Lots of communities across the country are celebrated right throughout the year and I think a lot of people particularly put us into stereotypes but we should be allowed to share our history and what we have done for our society. I was born in Gloucester, most of my family is from Gloucestershire throughout 2,300 years of history and today it is important for my family to learn from photographs I’ve collected.

Why is the Romany language important to cherish for your community?

It is our identity and the language goes back a hundred years. We use a broken language and certain words in Romanese and of course many wouldn’t know what we are talking about! I’ve grown up as a child learning the language and it has certainly aligned with my own identity.

Archive imagery from Gloucester's Romany community
Archive imagery from Gloucester's Romany community -Credit:Kelly Marie Horsley

Talk to me about stereotypes used against your community and how you feel about them?

I’m never ashamed to say where I come from as someone who is Romany Gypsy. My roots make me proud and if it wasn’t for my ancestors then I wouldn’t be here today. A lot of the Romany community that I know did go to serve in world wars and fought for our country but I do hate some of the backlash we get, the hate is sadly real. I think people forget that we were a community during the Holocaust that were murdered and the stereotypes are unfair. Accusations that we don’t pay taxes and use certain sites because we have no designated space when council’s have a legal duty to provide traveller sites.

What would be your message to people who are sceptical about your community?

I do think some are ignorant and I think some are not fair. It is tiring when people tar us with the same brush because there’s both good and bad in every community. The stereotype that we just leave rubbish everywhere and the comments that we should be killed or shouldn’t be able to breathe is disgusting.

Archive imagery from the community in Gloucester
Archive imagery from the community in Gloucester -Credit:Kelly Marie Horsley

The project has meant a lot to you, how do you reflect upon it?

It was a leap into the dark finding some research and findings I never thought I would uncover. Traditions from the community celebrated this month are important. The project has been an amazing opportunity to showcase my work to wider communities, my family’s history means so much and beyond this I hope I have given people different perspectives.