a film that celebrates the culture and music
of British Romany Traveller Gypsies
Jeremy Sandford, author of Cathy Come Home and Edna, the Inebriate Woman, two award-winning television dramas recently voted no.2 and no.57 of the best TV programmes ever, has become one of Britain’s best-loved authors.
He here writes about the film he recently wrote and directed, Spirit of the Gypsies.
‘We shot much of the film on Herefordshire Romany Gypsy sites and a lot of it at Stow-on-the-Wold Gypsy horse fair. The film is mainly about traditional Romany music, but there’s one singer, Mark O’Gallaidh, in the Irish Pavee Traveller tradition.
‘There is only one New Traveller in the film and that is Viviana Nomad who, like me, is a member of Friends and Families of Travellers. Her performance of “Brough Hill Fair” is however arguably the most powerful of all the songs in this powerful film, and brings tears to the eyes of many viewers.
‘I often have New Travellers living on the land round my home, Hatfield Court in Herefordshire.
‘The film has been shown to the mainly New Traveller audience in the Groovy Movie tent auditorium at Glastonbury Festival, and the Big Green Gathering and other venues, and was much appreciated.
I am so pleased with the success it has had that I am now seeking backing for a similar film, but called Spirit of the New Travellers.’
‘A riot of horses, colour and music,’ that’s Spirit of the Gypsies.
The celebrity presenter of the film is David Essex, world famous actor, musician and recording artiste, who is patron of the Gypsy Council and is himself mostly Gypsy.
David, who starred in ‘Godspell’, ‘Stardust’ and ‘That’ll be the Day’, this autumn undertakes a major performance tour of England, Ireland and the USA with his band.
He says, ‘My mother taught me always to be proud and never to deny that you are a Gypsy. Gypsies are free range people and Gypsy songs are songs of the open road, of wandering and of liberty. A land without Gypsies is a land without freedom!’
Working closely with the Gypsy community, Sandford has been filming on the Gypsy sites, roadside verges and commons of Herefordshire, and also in houses, yards and horse breeding establishments owned by Gypsies.
The film was also shot at the great Romany horse fair at Stow-on-the-Wold and at the Wheelwrights and Romany Museum at Axbridge in Somerset, and in many other locations.
Working with Sandford has been the award winning cameraman Nicolas Gifford from the Pas de Calais area of France. ‘I brought him over, says Sandford, because he seemed to me to be the best of all possible candidates for the job. His camera work has well caught the flamboyance of the Gypsies performance.’
Nic was impressed. He is familiar with the Django Rheinhardt and Flamenco type music played by French Gypsies at places like the great festival at Les Saintes Maries de la Mère. The music of our British Gypsies, similar in its romantic passion but very different musically, was a revelation to him.
The film features the exotic caravans and artwork favoured by many of today’s Gypsies, as well as the horse drawn caravans still favoured by some traditional Romanies.
Sandford says, ‘We’ll show the bustle and exuberance of the Romany horse fairs and weddings, and also the loneliness and solitude of some of the remoter ‘hatchintans’ or ‘parkups’.’
Among the many songs featured are ‘Romany Rai’, ‘Keep on Roaming’ and ‘I’m a Freeborn Man of the Travelling People’.
Prestigious Gypsy singers Ted Atkinson, Mic and Suzie Darling, Mark O’Gallaidh and Peter Ingrams are among the many Gypsy artistes featured.
The 75 minute long film was made possible by generous grants from the Arts Council, paid to the Gypsy Council. Sandford later achieved further funding, bringing it to a very high standard of excellence through post-synching and digital editing.
The film will be offered for sale, with a multilingual inlay, to Romany Gypsy communities throughout Europe. European sales will be masterminded by the Centre des Études Tziganes’ in Paris who have been funded by the European Union to facilitate cultural exchanges between the various Gypsy communities in Europe.
Romany Gypsies have been accepted as the E.U.’s most important stateless minority. As a result funds have been made available for cultural exchange between the millions of Gypsies of E.U. countries. This film will introduce our British Gypsies to their European cousins.
The film is available for £15, including p+p, from Jeremy’s home, Hatfield Court Studios, near Leominster, HR6 0SD. Please make cheques out to ‘Hatfield Court Studios’. The ideal Christmas present to any Traveller family!
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