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This Land

When they tell you Gypsies and Travellers are an environmental problem, please show them this film.

A new film coordinated by Drive 2 Survive explores and celebrates the Gypsy and Traveller connection to the land. Made for the human rights advocacy group in Scotland Aye Right, it draws upon archive photographs, cinematic imagery and a poem to explore the long and well established connection between Gypsies and Travellers and the landscapes we have always travelled through and worked in.

Using archive imagery from the Robert Dawson Gallery collections, Gypsy and Traveller family photograph albums, Kushti Bok, Bourne Hall Museum and independent film makers, the film is a powerful exploration of the deep connection to the land. It is read by community activists Lynne Tammi and Jake Bowers and the words are reproduced below.

The film is released as Drive 2 Survive is continuing its research project with Sussex University to examine how the narrative of Gypsies and Travellers as being inherently "dirty" is constantly reinforced by the media. It is hoped that by contrasting the community's own view of cleanliness and purity with mainstream media narratives that campaigners can begin to challenge the widespread notion that characterises Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities as an environmental problem.

This land

Let me piece together our story, from the shreds that are now left

For most it is invisible, long bleached out from the weft

Yet in our nation’s fabric we’ve been there all along

But for us it’s not so easy to answer: “where is it I am from?”

For you it may be a town, a house, a street, a place

But for us it may be a direction, that we emerged out of in haste

From the North came the summer walkers and the Nacken, who some say are descendants of the clans

From the west, the Pavee tinsmiths, hawking pots and pans

From the south and east came the Romani, from India long ago

Together they met at the margins, and together they did grow

From above came divine inspiration to walk lightly on the land

But below is where we’re really from, our home is where we stand

From the Daffodils down in Cornwall that we picked in fragile spring

To the Berry fields of Blair, where the Stewarts used to sing

Faces down, backs tired with picking, it was all the crops we knew

The taters, the beet, the yeasty hops. We harvested everything that grew

And then there were the blacksmiths,

who gave ore it’s useful form

They beat it into horseshoes and ploughshares,

To work the earth where they were born

Some raised horses, ponies and mules, richly fed them on the hoof

Equine and human wanderers lived in symmetry, with just a sky as roof

We knew each twitch of the flank and ear, each dramatic stamp and nicker

We were horse whisperers from birth, they were fast, but we were quicker

At every fair and market, we sold this valued, healthy stock

To keep each farm producing food upon this north Atlantic rock

And when it came to defend this land, we packed our bags and went

Used to living on enemy territory, it was no hardship in a tent

Each and every family had men who never made it home

No breadwinner left to fill the pots of those who had to roam

Yet they moved on, as others did, beyond what they had seen

And found this land ‘fit for heroes’ began to grow quite mean

At first they closed the commons, the bye ways and the drove

And took away our stopping places where our ancestors would rove

Reduced to living on wasteland, before the council man appeared

Modernity brought misery and everything we feared.

They stole our children far away from us to settle other nomadic lands

Our woman tried to get them back, but they were deaf to all demands

The plan was to cut the links that bind us deeply to one another

To ‘educate’ away our connection, to the earth, the land, our mother

It worked, in part, because those we knew, grew cold and hard and mean

Unlike their ancestors they turned away from everything that’s green

But our elders knew better, they said this too shall pass

They taught us all we had was each other. So those who listened held fast.

So when you see a Gypsy boy or Traveller girl with horses at the fair

Or caravans still pitching up on open land without a care

You’re witnessing a triumph from a people with a past

With an iron determination to prosper, to overcome and last

Each one of us came from everywhere, we sprung from this very land

And to her we shall return, in turn, when we’ve made our earthly stand

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