Christine Virginia Lee, Community Champion

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The Romani Cultural and Arts Company 6th profile will be of Christine Virginia Lee.

Christine Virginia Lee was born in Saint Asaph in January 1955 and grew up in Holywell, north Wales. Chris trained as a Graphic Designer specifically in the area of Media Design and Design Aesthetics. She was part of a new-wave of designers in the early 1970s who embraced new technology in the design of educational materials. After working in theatre and advertising, Chris joined a team of designers, illustrators, a photographer and educationalist in the Education Department of Powys County Council, mid Wales. The team came to be known locally as ‘the hippies by the lake’. The then director of Education for Powys commented that ‘No-one has ever designed a board game in Powys to teach Primary School children about the Romans and Celts in Wales – l like it’.  Chris subsequently was appointed Graphic Designer in the Media Unit of the Polytechnic of Wales and went on to set up her own design company Chris Lee Design. An important part of the ethos of Chris’s company was to undertake work for charities, social organisations and women’s groups as well as private companies. These included The Bevan Foundation, Honno Welsh Women’s Press, Red Flannel Films, The Cardiff Women’s Safe House established by Jan Pickles and the Vale Women’s Business Network established by Christine Atkinson to encourage and support self-employed women entrepreneurs in the Vale of Glamorgan.  Chris Lee is of Romani Gypsy heritage and is a Community Champion for the Romani Cultural and Arts Company in Cardiff.  This organisation is the only one of its kind in the UK run entirely by individuals of Romani Gypsy heritage. Chris is involved in a wide range of work with the RCAC including participating in Training Days throughout Wales covering the history and culture of Romani Gypsies and Roma, Traveller accommodation, health, education and racism.  In 2016/2017 Chris was part of a team who over the course of a year, carried out groundbreaking work interviewing Traveller families throughout Wales about their health and wellness. This was the first project of its kind to be undertaken in the UK.  The  team of 6 researchers recorded important first hand oral testimony from Travellers themselves about their health and their experiences of accessing health care in all parts of Wales.

Chris is openly gay, a feminist and proud of her Romani heritage.  In 2015 she attended the first lnternational Roma LGBTQI Conference in Prague organised by Roma activist David Tišer and his ARAART team. Participants in this conference and subsequent meetings are creating a Roma LGBTQI ‘movement’ throughout Europe.

Chris Lee believes that when a whole community of people experience racism and oppression because they are Gypsies, we need to speak out and through our actions, bring about positive change.  The rich culture, language and history of the Romani people is something to celebrate. She believes the work of the Romani Cultural and Arts Company headed by lsaac Blake, is unique and extremely important.