Romany Rai an immersive video installation

Not since Josef Koudelka (Magnum) travelled among Gypsies and Travellers in the 1980s has an artist had such access into their world.

Since he was a small boy Tom has been travelling by horse to Appleby Fair, the annual traditional Gyspy horse fair with his Dad Walter LLoyd, and for the last 22 years he has been filming the journey and many of the characters he has met along the way. Tom’s father Walter has been associated with Gypsies all of his life and travelling to Appleby with horse and caravan since the early 1970’s. Tom has himself spent half of his life living under canvas and travelled the length of the country and back with ponies.

A Romany Rai can be defined as a gentleman scholar of Gypsies, and as one of only a few Gorgios (house dwellers) that are truly trusted by the Gypsy and Traveller community, Walter not only counts many of them as his friends, but his knowledge of their distinct tribes, language and customs makes him a truly modern day Romany Rai.

Inspired by a video installation by Isaac Julien at the Victoria Miro Gallery that shifted his view of what video art could be, last year Tom applied to Arts Council England for a Research and Development grant to explore what he could do with all of this footage and he has been working on this installation for the last 3 months with sound artist Dan Fox and special effects compositor and projection mapper Jason Threlfall.

With the collaboration and professional support of Eden Arts, Tom has been using the Engine Bay in Eden Arts’ old fire station to explore new ways of working with recorded digital media relating to the Appleby Fair to create an immersive video installation across two enormous screens. Romany Rai is not only more honest and truthful than Big Fat Gypsy Wedding (which has become the cultural reference for Gypsies and Travellers in the UK) Romany Rai is both beautiful and poetic.

The project has unique access to an extraordinary collection of moving image (including unseen footage taken by the Gypsies themselves in the 1960’s) and reflects Tom’s personal and intimate impressions of an untold and often impenetrable community with candid conversations with Billy Welsh (Shera Rom or Head Gypsy) his family, and many other Gypsies, Travellers and horsemen and women he has met on his extraordinary journey.

Private View Thursday 23rd March 3:00 – 6:30pm
Eden Arts, Penrith Old Fire Station, Bridge Lane, Penrith, CA11 8HY For more information contact

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