Update on our work, April 2019

Interviews and Archiving
With the Roma Stories project extended until late September, the various facets of the oral history research and archiving are coming together towards an affecting and evocative end result. Over the past six months, we have finished conducting a second round of interviews with around forty members of the Roma community of London; we have translated and transcribed the majority of these and are now in the process of proof-reading, compiling documentary footage and preparing for the exhibition of the work in locations across the city, from the London Metropolitan Archives to Redbridge Museum and University of London.

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The responses, experiences and stories we have heard have been both poignant and heterogeneous, providing a diverse picture of what it means to be Roma in London today – from marginalisation and persecution to memory, identity and belonging – in no particular order. In a glimpse at one such interview, Baronita recalled harrowing accounts of the Holocaust/Porrajmos (Roma word meaning ‘the Devouring’):

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“They caught her and took her prisoner. And they took her to one of those concentration camps. And she said she saw with her own eyes, she saw people dying in front of her, dying from thirst, hunger…and they were making them slaves.” (Photo courtesy of Baronita Adam)

Training and Development
Staff and volunteers working on the project have continuously undergone training and self-evaluation to ensure the best possible outcome for the Roma Stories process. This has included attending two sessions at the London Metropolitan Archives, supervision with the Tavistock Institute and a workshop on film-making with Roger Kitchen in Milton Keynes, who has been recording people’s stories for over 40 years. Each of these has been an excellent opportunity to engage with our partner organisations, develop our story-telling and documenting skills and more accurately represent the memories and experiences of London’s Roma.

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Equally noteworthy, we have facilitated school workshops on Roma History including at Redbridge Primary School and Southern Road Primary School, for more almost 400 students and staff at each event. This has raised new challenges around gaps in the curriculum around Porrajmos and Britain’s Roma, and the difficulty in disseminating difficult materials, but has been an important learning curve and received very positive feedback.

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What’s Next…?
In further news, our Teacher Resource Pack will be launched for Gypsy Roma and Traveller History Month (GRT) in June at City Hall, London. This exciting piece of work aims to inform and raise awareness of Roma experiences of World War II and is comprised of oral histories and exercises adapted for use within the current primary school curriculum. It is hoped that this will foster respect, tolerance and better understanding of the Roma community and its history of persecution, providing new perspectives on the dominant narratives of 20th century history in schools.

We are also in the process of developing a series of academic seminars, and are due to meet with the Raphael Samuel History Centre to discuss the events, to be hosted by Queen Mary University of London. This is a varied and busy time as we approach the final stages of our research and compile the stories and voices of London’s Roma into a tangible exhibition, documentary film and learning materials and events. Aiming to bring these unique narratives to people of all walks of life and levels of interest across London, we are looking forward to exciting progression in the coming months.

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(Photo courtesy of Robert Dawson Collection, Roma Support Group)

You can keep updated with our work via Twitter @OralRoma.

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