Frances Roberts-Reilly, Filmmaker, Poet, Storyteller & Harpist

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The Romani Cultural and Arts Company 7th profile will be of Frances Roberts-Reilly.

Frances Roberts-Reilly, filmmaker, poet, storyteller, harpist, is of Romany origins through the direct line of Abram Wood, the Welsh Romichal family of musicians and storytellers. A notable family based in North Wales and Newtown where her three times great grandfather, John Roberts was renowned for his musicianship on the triple harp, winning many prizes at Welsh National Eistedfodd’s and crowning his career by playing harp for Queen Victoria with his seven sons on her official visit to Wales in 1889.

Frances credits her Romany heritage for her interest in human rights. Her filmmaking career began at the BBC in London. After working at BBC and CBC, she became an independent documentary filmmaker, profiling human rights issues for over 30 years. Interviewing first hand experiences and stories from those imprisoned and tortured in Argentina, Chile, Korea and the Philippines.

Currently living in Canada, her interest in human rights led to directing “The Constitution: New Rights for Women?” and the documentary “Ten Sacred Circles of Life” on aboriginal rights that was distributed throughout Canada’s prison system. Her independent documentaries have been screened in schools, libraries, prisons, churches and communities across Canada.

After making award-winning documentaries, she earned an Honours degree in English Literature at the University of Toronto.

She has published numerous short stories, articles and poems. Her recent poems explore Romany life, identity and culture. She is published, internationally. Frances has been a guest author on CBC Radio and WSRQ Sarasota Radio. Her poetry chapbook, The Green Man is published by The Ontario Poetry Society. She is a member of The League of Canadian Poets and The Ontario Poetry Society.

Frances performs spoken word with a harp, her poetry and the Gypsy stories bought by her Romany family to Wales. The Gypsies own story of journeying from the known into the unknown world all the way from India to Europe and now to Canada.

She has entertained audiences at the Latitudes International Storytellers festival, on CBC radio, at the Celtic Roots Festival in Goderich, Ontario and Baden Storytellers Guild in Ontario. She has also performed for seniors in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Presently, she and Bob Lovell, the Auckland singer-songwriter with a Rom (Gypsy) heritage are working together on Romany rights with a petition to the New Zealand government, protesting the cultural appropriation and misuse of Romany heritage for commercial gain by non-romani. Frances is currently finalizing her first poetry collection, Underworld Histories, which explores the hidden identity and lost histories of Romani and looks forward to publication in Fall 2018.