Progress Report 2016

The Romani Cultural and Arts Company Ltd

Aka Romani Arts

Summary of the main achievements of the charity during the year.

The Charity’s 7th year has seen significant development in the integration of communities along with a host of successful achievements that have been instrumental in driving the overall message forward.

These specific activities are:

Children-In-Need Project – 3rd Year Funding – completed 2nd year (2015-16)

The charity has been awarded a further three years funding from BBC Children-In-Need, totalling £151,000. This will enable the project to continue, improve and grow over 2014-2017.

The enhanced project was re-launched in Autumn 2014 and went into it’s second year in Autumn 2015, working across 4 Gypsy and Traveller sites, with even more young people than before benefitting and getting improved opportunities to engage and mix socially whilst learning new skills.

Case Study as evidence of impact of CIN project:

One of our regular attendees to workshops has been young GIRL A. Young GIRL A has always attended but reluctantly. She always starts well within the workshop setting but then when she does not get the interaction she thinks she should, or the one-2-one adult support she thinks she deserves, she has tantrums, causes disruption, makes a mess and then leaves before the workshop ends. 

We have shown great patience over the years to Young Girl A. We always offer her a fresh start each workshop and always show her that she can achieve and that we believe in her capacity to do the right thing. This patience has paid off. Over 2015-16, Young Girl A has been engaged productively with other children and young people. During 2015-16, her older sister frequently helps out at the workshop and Young Girl A has seen the perfect role model in terms of behaviour, attitude and engagement with expectations and others. Young Girl A is now interacting with other children without prompting and is able to sustain an activity without too much hassle. A big leap forward came when we asked Young Girl A to spend one workshop renewing and rethinking our workshop rules and behaviour expectations for this particular site. She devised something sensible and accessible to all. She now lives up to her own rules and expectations and is the perfect role model to others when their behaviour falls short of the rethought rules.

We are very proud of the social, emotional progress and improvements in engagement and an ability to sustain an activity for the duration of a workshop. Young Girl A is further evidence of the unique way we build children and young people up and subtly nudge them in the right direction. We anticipate that Young Girl A will follow in her older sister’s footsteps eventually, and end up supporting the adults leading the workshops. 

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Month 2016

In line with a previous decision, we are now committing to organising The National Wales Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month on a two-yearly basis. The next one will be in June 2017. Planning is already underway with a venue secured for the gala day event. Our national school’s competition will be launched in October 2016 and will be ‘design-a-bandana’. The marketing and publicity is already in place and ready to be sent out.

Family Lines – Family Trails Project

The project finished in March 2016. An outstanding exhibition has been produced and

is potentially in line for a design award. The exhibition is currently being housed at St

Fagans’ National History Museum of Wales. An accompanying book has also been

produced which contains photographs of old chrome trailers and pick-up trucks. There

are some interesting images of working life and site residents across the decades, with

a timeline and examples of the Romanes language.

Grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund – ‘No Travellers!’ Project

The Romani Cultural & Arts Company is excited by the £49,800 grant provided by The Heritage Lottery Fund.  

The money is paying for our experienced Community Champions from the Gypsy and Traveller communities to carry out extensive fieldwork across South East, South West & Mid Wales. The work is seeing the gathering of stimulating oral histories, photographs and artefacts to chart, record and archive the fascinating and significant stories of this captivating people.  

With participants from the regional Gypsy, Traveller and fairground communities, the collection is proving to be enlightening and an essential archive of the experiences and memories of this unique people. To ensure a broad range of participants, our fieldwork is seeing us seek out and work with house-dwelling Gypsies and Travellers and new-site residents.  

The Romani Cultural & Arts Company is a ground-breaking organisation; by Gypsies & Travellers, for Gypsies & Travellers, with Gypsies & Travellers. We believe that our community is capable of great things and of greater integration into mainstream culture, whilst retaining it’s unique cultural identity and heritage. We let our community grow from the inside out; and this outstanding project has been created by community members and will be led and developed by community members.  

We are grateful to the support and funding provided by The Heritage Lottery Fund.  

“The Romani Cultural and Arts Company is one of the most consistently innovative and vibrant organisations on the Romani cultural scene that it has done so much to create.” Dr Thomas A Acton OBE, Professor Emeritus in Romani Studies | University of Greenwich, London | Corvinus University, Budapest.

Big Lottery – Awards for All – 2016 Research Project

In 2016 we were very grateful to receive a £5000 grant to commission research and consultation into the opinions and aspirations of Gypsies and Travellers relating to the education provision on offer to their community’s children and young people.  

We are pleased to announce that the resulting report from the research and consultation is now available. The report has been made available to all Welsh Local Authorities, the four regional educational consortia and the Welsh Government to enable them to reflect upon current policy and practice and ask appropriate questions in order to improve the life chances of some of the most vulnerable and marginalised children and young people living in Wales.  

Isaac Blake said that: “these children and young people are precious. Too many of them are still being failed by public services that do not meet their needs and aspirations – this cannot be allowed to continue.”  

The Romani Cultural & Arts Company hopes that the report will stimulate a genuine debate around the genuine needs and aspirations of the Gypsy and Traveller community and enable deep changes to be made so that less and less children and young people are disadvantaged and failed. We have already had positive feedback from the Welsh Government and some local authorities.

Additional Community Champion posts for Gypsy & Traveller sites

We have recently received a Santander Community Plus Grant of £5000.

This funding will now be used to target support to the elders of the local Gypsy & Traveller sites by providing two additional Community Champions. These essential posts will organise regular social events and meetings for the elders of the Gypsy & Traveller community and improve community access to essential services and potentially to literacy, numeracy and basic ICT workshops.  

This is a ground-breaking initiative that will enable the elders of this vulnerable, marginalised community to stand up, be heard and to grow in confidence so that they can better engage with agencies and public services. We are very proud of the service we provide to the local Gypsy & Traveller community and we know that many people will benefit from this additional capacity.  

Laurel Price, an elder site resident from Rover Way in Cardiff said: ‘Nothing happens on site. We are abandoned and I think its great to have someone looking out for us.’

GypsyMaker 2 Project – funded through Arts Council of Wales

The Gypsy, Roma & Traveller Arts & Culture National Symposium II will launch the GypsyMaker 2 project on 20th January 2017. The event, hosted by Taliesin Arts Centre, will feature artists Artur Conka and Billy Kerry plus guests including Rosamaria Kostic Cisneros, professional dancer, dance historian, critic, and Roma scholar of Coventry University and Isabel Raabe, co-founder together with Franziska Sauerbrey of the office for cultural affairs in Berlin who are also the instigators and coordinators of the international project RomArchive: Digital Archive of the Roma.

The GM2 project aims to stimulate dialogue across communities about the ways in which art continues to inform the lives of individuals and communities today. For this second phase of the project the RCAC has commissioned exhibitions of new work by Artur Conka, Roma, and Billy Kerry, Romani Gypsy. Examples of both artists’ work will be on display in Taliesin’s Oriel Ceri Richards Gallery space during the symposium.

“The arts bring enjoyment and inspiration to our everyday lives.  Taking part in the arts, whether as an individual or a member of a community, helps bind us together in a celebration of our common humanity.  But the arts can also help us to understand what is distinctive and important to protect in the differences that define us all.  The arts help us to explore and express the things we have in common and our place in the world.  A fair-minded and tolerant society values and respects the needs, interests and creativity of everybody.  It’s a society that’s impatient of disadvantage, which embraces equality and celebrates diversity.  We want the arts in Wales to include everyone.  We know this will make the arts in Wales more vibrant, exciting and relevant.  We warmly welcome the contribution that this second Gypsy, Roma & Traveller Arts & Culture National Symposium will make to that debate.” Nick Capaldi, Chief Executive Arts Council of Wales


Christine Lee has once again represented the Romani Cultural & Arts Company at the second International Roma LGBTIQ Conference held in Prague on the 11th and 12th August, 2016.  Chris also attended the Prague Pride Parade on Saturday 13th August.  

The historic first International Roma LGBTIQ Conference in 2015 highlighted and explored the many challenges facing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Roma in Europe and beyond.  The important exchange of information and lively debate between the delegates resulted in the drafting of the Roma LGBTIQ Prague Declaration in which the 28 representatives of Romani LGBTIQ professional associations, civil society and academia from 12 countries (Czech Republic, Canada/France/United States, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain and United Kingdom) assembled at the First International Roma LGBTIQ Conference in Prague, seeking to address the realities and bring about change to the lives of LGBTIQ Roma, Gypsy, Sinti and Travellers across Europe, and positively address the impacts of national legislation on our everyday lives.  The keynote Speech at this years conference was: ‘How can European institutions tackle the issues facing Romani LGBTIQ people’.  

Chris Lee is of Welsh Romany Gypsy heritage and grew up in north Wales. Chris worked as a graphic designer in advertising, theatre, education and publishing for many years.  She also established and ran her own successful graphic design company – Chris Lee Design.  Chris is a Community Champion for the Romani Cultural and Arts Company and is currently part of a team working on a ground-breaking project researching the health and wellness of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers in Wales. The entire team are of Romani Gypsy / Roma heritage.  

‘When it comes to human dignity, we cannot make compromises’. Angela Merkel  

Isaac Blake; Director of the Romani Cultural & Arts Company, is proud to have Chris Lee attending this event once again and represent Wales and the charity. Isaac says “An open, tolerant society cannot pick and choose which groups should merit tolerance and understanding. Every individual living on our beautiful planet deserves to be judged on their own words and actions; not on their race, nationality, religion, sexuality or family background. Let’s stand together and be proud of the amazing diversity that humanity encompasses.”

Additional Information Relating to the charity’s activities.

Over 2015-16, three training events have been organised by the charity to further enhance its reach and influence and also to generate unreserved funds. Below are details of the experienced trainers and speakers who have been involved. All of them are from the Gypsy, Roma & Traveller community – unique:

Dr Adrian Marsh – Researcher in Romani Studies & Romani Early Years

Dr Adrian Marsh – Researcher in Romani Studies & Romani Early Years, is of Romany-Traveller origins and has been working with Roma, Gypsy and Traveller communities in the UK, Sweden, Turkey, Egypt and central, eastern and south eastern Europe. Dr Marsh has taught Romani Studies at universities in London, Malmö, Stockholm, Cairo, Istanbul and Diyarbakir and has held an ERSC fellowship, as Researcher in Romani Studies at Greenwich University, London. He recently managed Early Childhood Development projects for Roma, Gypsies and Travellers for the Open Society Foundations, London. He is currently living and working in Istanbul, as a consultant expert fort OSF, the Council of Europe, Save the Children and ISSA’s Romani Early Years Network

Christine Lee – Community Champion

Christine Lee is of Welsh Romany Gypsy heritage and grew up in north Wales.  She currently resides in Barry near Cardiff.  Chris worked as a graphic designer in advertising, theatre, education and publishing for over 30 years. She also established and ran her own successful graphic design company – Chris Lee Design. Through contact with the Dollar Park Traveller Site in north Wales and other Romany Traveller families, Chris became aware of the serious issues, which many families face on a regular basis. She is keen to contribute to a greater understanding of these issues by the wider population, to bring about change and to make the non-Gypsy community more aware of the rich culture and traditions of Gypsies in Wales.

Dr Aleksandar G. Marinov

Dr Aleksandar G. Marinov is a recent graduate from Swansea University where he studied the effects and consequences of the contemporary mobilities of Roma from Bulgaria. Born and raised in a Romani family in Sofia, he has always been passionate about the issues surrounding their realities. He has studied Political Science (BA) and International Relations (MA) and worked for think tanks such as the Institute for Regional and International Studies (Sofia), done research for the Centre for Research in Theories and Practices that Observe Inequalities in the University of Barcelona (Barcelona) and have done an internship with the European Centre for Minority Issues in Flensburg (Germany). Aleksandar is also interested in community organising and been a supporter of the Romani Cultural and Arts Company since he first arrived in Wales in 2011. He is thus eager to share his knowledge and experience both as an insider and as a researcher due to his vested interest in Romani empowerment and inclusion.

Artur Conka

Artur Conka is a photography graduate from the University of Derby. One of the few Roma to have documented his community from behind the lens Artur’s photography and film making has focused on the plight of the Roma Gypsies and Travellers in Europe. He feels that it is important to give the Roma; so long without influence or consideration by those in power, a voice. Artur came to Britain in 1998 as an 8-year-old migrant. Originally from one of the poorest Roma communities in Slovakia, Artur returned years later to record how life had changed for its inhabitants during its decline. The result was his first documentary film ‘Lunik IX’. Artur’s work has appeared in various international publications including Huffington Post, The Independent, Vice Magazine, Foto8 Magazine, Vas.Cas.Sk, Creative Boom, Lab Kultur TV Magazine, Derby Evening Telegraph. Artur will produce a new body of work for GM2 continuing his original and innovative approach to filmmaking and photography.

In addition to the above activities of The Romani Cultural & Arts Company, we have been significantly involved in numerous activities and policies to support the development of work that has already generated vast interest and inspiration throughout all communities in the ultimate aim of reaching integrated harmony between the variant cultural differences.

The charity continues to naturally enable positive change to occur for the GRT communities of Cardiff (and beyond) by encouraging developments to begin ‘inside the community’ not ‘external’ to the community. The community members are offering their services to the charity and they are leading the development of projects. This year has seen several community members supporting research and volunteering on mini-projects. The charity is leading the way in raising the profile and confidence of women from GRT communities by creating opportunities for them to work in professional contexts.

This truly ensures that the service the charity provides 100% meets the needs of the community members, their families and their children. The charity is not seeking ‘quick-wins’. The charity is not seeking to grow for the sake of growing – the charity will grow because the community wishes it to become the principal organisation working with them and for them.

The Director of RCAC currently sits on national forums such as:

  • The National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups
  • Race Council Cymru
  • Cross Party group of the National Assembly for Gypsies and Travellers
  • Welsh Government | Wales Race Forum
  • Gypsy Roma Traveller Police Association – Honorary Member