Page last updated at 15:30 GMT, Tuesday, 30 June 2009 16:30 UK
City celebrates Gypsy culture

By Andy Roberts
BBC South East Wales

Kathleen Cassidy performs a traditional Irish dance

Young performers from Cardiff's Gypsy sites have marked the launch of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month.

Organisers of the event in Cardiff Bay hope to break down the barriers of mistrust and create opportunities for young Gypsies to thrive in the world.

Isaac Blake, a Cardiff-born Gypsy, says he worked hard to build a career as a contemporary dancer and choreographer after finding school difficult.

"If you were known as the Gypsy kids you were pushed aside," he said.

Isaac Blake

Now back in Cardiff working as a tutor at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Isaac said he was keen to encourage artistic activities by young Gypsies from the Shirenewton site where he grew up in the east of the city.

"Now I'm at a point in my life where I want to give something back to the kids," he said.

"Hopefully we can challenge the stereotypes and let Romanies and non-Romanies get to know each other."

The one-day event in Cardiff Bay featured circus performances by children from Shirenewton, storytelling, video shows, flower making, dukkering (fortune telling), and traditional Irish dancing from Kathleen Cassidy, the daughter of an Irish Traveller.

It's believed about 1,500 Gypsies and Travellers live in Cardiff, where there are two official sites at Shirenewton and Rover Way.

However it's estimated up to half of the community lives in permanent housing, due to lack of caravan pitches or concerns about children's health and well-being.

Organisers supported by the Black Sector Voluntary Network Wales and the Arts Council of Wales hope to build on the launch event to stage a bigger festival next year with events in different parts of Wales.

Patricia Knight

Patricia Knight, coordinator of Gypsy Roma and Traveller History Month in England, was present to give her support to the first event of its kind in Wales.

She said it was important for Gypsies, Roma and Travellers to learn about their own diverse cultures, and for the settled community to understand the UK's fastest growing minority, numbering around 300,000.

Patricia pointed to some success in getting Gypsy history included in the school curriculum in England, as well as projects with museums and libraries.

"People still think we're tucked away down lanes behind hedges but we're all around you," she said.

"We're your neighbours, your doctors, your dentists, your lawyers, your choreographers ... we're part of mainstream society, and with this month we're hoping to mainstream our culture more."

In pictures: Gypsy culture
30 Jun 09 |  Arts & Culture
Gypsy culture: Isaac Blake
30 Jun 09 |  Arts & Culture
Gypsy culture: Patricia Knight
30 Jun 09 |  Arts & Culture
Gypsy culture: Kathleen Cassidy
30 Jun 09 |  Arts & Culture



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