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Deemed Dirty

A free one-day symposium on February 23rd, organised by the University of Sussex and Drive 2 Survive, is asking whether current representations of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities as an environmental problem are based on facts or myths? 

The programme for the event is below:

Deemed Dirty: Are current representations of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities as an environmental problem based on facts or myths? 

Transformations in the lives of Gypsies and Travellers in present day neo-liberalism

When: Free One day symposium on 23rd February 2024.

Where: University of Sussex.

Location: Humanities Lab Silverstone Building, opposite Room 211, Silverstone Building SB211Arts RoadFalmerEast SussexBN1 9RG

Who is it for: Anybody interested in the representation of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers. Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community members, environmental and social justice activists, students, academics and people directly working with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities

The symposium is funded by the British Academy for the project  ‘Dirt or cleanliness? The tension between Travellers and Gypsies and settled society (SG2122\210901)’

This is a hybrid event, both in person and on zoom, but only for the speakers as we do not have the right facilities.

Tea/coffee and a sandwich lunch will be served

On this occasion, we will also celebrate the arrival at Sussex of Prissy, the Queen of the South, a structure representing a Gypsy horse by Romani artist and activist Jake Bowers. Part of the National Trust project, ‘Changing Chalk Cultural Heritage’, the installation will be temporarily hosted at Sussex.




Provisional programme

Introduction 10.00-10.15


1.              10.15-11.45  Deemed Dirty: Are current representations of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities as an environmental problem based in fact or myth? 

Prof Roberta Piazza (Sussex), Jake Bowers (film director and journalist) and Patricia Knight (director of Talking Romani CIC): ‘What is ‘dirt’ and what does it mean when associated with Romanies and Travellers?’ Report on the British Academy-funded project (in person)

Prof. Judith Okely (Oxford) (on line) ‘Gypsy ideas of cleanliness and dirt as an identity boundary’ TBC


Coffee break 11.45-12.00

2.              12.00 -13.15 The impact of the communities’ representation on education. What are the issues and what has been done so far?

Dr Emily Danvers (Sussex) ‘Gypsy, Traveller and Roma Students in UK Higher Education: An Ethic of Engagement through the Student Lifecycle'. (in person)

Emma Nuttall (FFT Policy Manager) ‘Educational inequalities facing Gypsy, Roma and Travellers in England’ and Scarlett Smith for the Q&A (in person and on line)


13.15- 14.15 lunch break

3.   14.15 - 16.00 The history and heritage of Romani and Travelling communities as part (or not) of their representation

Prof Michael Stewart (UCL) ‘Outline for a history of the Holocaust of Roma and Sinti’ (in person)

Amy McGourty (activist and advocate, Sussex), Emma Bray (Activist and advocate) and Lulu Jones: Panel discussion on ‘Remembering the Roma Holocaust: memory, affect and the political uses of history’ (in person)

Josie Jeffery and Kate Richardson (National Trust) ‘The Changing Chalk Cultural Heritage project’ (in person)


4.         16.00- 16.15  Conclusion

Roberta Piazza and Jake Bowers

5.         16.15-17.00

Presentation of Prissy, metal sculpture by artist and blacksmith Jake Bowers

To register to take part please see:

Supported by:




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