London Gypsies and Travellers has launched a new exhibition of images at City Hall, challenging the public and Greater London Authority employees to see the reality beyond the stereotypes of Gypsies and Travellers.
The pictures of Gypsies and Travellers going about everyday life were gathered by photographer Mary Turner as part of LGT’s successful #weareallsomanythings anti-prejudice campaign in 2017.
Launching the exhibition, Mena Mongan, one those portrayed, challenged the public to see Gypsies and Travellers for who they really are. Her words are quoted in the exhibition: “There is still that stigma about Travellers. We are part of the London community, but it seems we’re always looking in from the outside.”
Before the launch, LGT activists outside City Hall invited members of the public to describe themselves using just one hashtag, and gave them a sticker bearing the hashtag to wear during the day. They included #cold #gay #woman #resilient #father #politician.
The point being made, says LGT’s Community Development and Campaigns Officer Clemmie James, who helped Gypsies and Travellers organise the event, is that people are many things – not just a stereotype or a first impression. “Is it really possible to reduce ourselves to simply one noun or adjective?” she says. “It’s almost impossible and this is highlighted in the campaign and exhibition.”
For the launch, Gypsy and Traveller representatives and London Assembly members gathered in City Hall’s cafe area surrounded by the positive and optimistic images, which will be on display for the whole of January. The exhibition coincides with the consultation period for the draft London Plan – which includes housing proposals that could have a major impact on Gypsies and Travellers.
“The timing to have our progressive and positive campaign in the heart of the building is perfect,” said Mena Mongan, “because the Mayor’s team is inviting feedback on the draft London Plan until 2nd March.”
“The community is pleased to see such progress in the acknowledgement of Gypsy and Traveller needs in the new draft London Plan, but real change would come from the delivery of new sites.”
The community, with the support of London Gypsies and Travellers, is about to launch a new postcard campaign revolving around the London Plan consultation. Further details to come.
Pictured: At the exhibition launch, Betsy Mobey, a Romany Gypsy, in discussion with London Gypsies and Travellers Trustee Richard Bennett