I’ll try my best to answer the question in the title, but I’m not making any promises. I’ll also keep it brief because I’m writing this right before lunch.
I’m a Showman, originally from Oxford way but now living in East London. My family have been Showmen since 1840 and show no sign of slowing down (the picture below shows me with my sister Freya). My parents divorced when I was still in primary school which meant that my education wasn’t as disrupted as it can be for many Showmen who take most of the summer off for the season. I was able to go to college, then university and somehow emerge the other side with a very expensive bit of paper as my reward.
When I was travelling as a kid we had a work-pack and education record book given to us, and were able to attend school or get regular support from Traveller Education Services to ensure we kept up with settled kids our own age. The system was simple and flexible. It meant that I could briefly enrol in the school local to where we had the fair (if we were there for long enough), helping our own education and giving settled communities a proper understanding that Traveller kids are just like anyone else and weren’t a bunch of child-stealing, tax-dodging thieves, fighters and swindlers. It felt like I was supported and encouraged, and the system allowed that. Most of the support that existed then is gone now and it upsets me that my younger brother and sister don’t have the help I had. The UK has regressed.
At university I began to delve into Traveller history. I wrote my dissertation on the dialect variety spoken by Showmen and I studied under Yaron Matras, the UK’s leading voice in Romani linguistics. This piqued my interest to the point where my bookshelf is now full of quite thick, reasonably boring books about GRT lives, communities and histories.
Since graduation, I have worked in schools for many years and so have gained a solid understanding of the system and its flaws. My job now is to use that knowledge when schools try and push GRT families around – just because they think Travellers won’t push back.
I have a lot of experience of working with young people in a mentoring, guiding and listening role. Working directly with young people and families in a helping capacity is the most rewarding and enjoyable thing I do. It’s more fun than building up and pulling down the Waltzer at least.
Because of all of this, when I saw that LGT was looking for a Youth Outreach Worker to work with families and young people, offering guidance, mentoring and support and helping families with education or training, I did wonder if they had written the advert for me personally.
I care about giving young Travellers access to what I had. The job isn’t about making anyone do anything they don’t want or forcing anyone into academia if they don’t want it. It’s just about breaking down the barriers so that as many options are open for young people as possible – finding out what you want and supporting you in getting it. If you need some advice on education and training, individual mentoring or help finding work – or if you just want to distract me from the work I should be doing but keep putting off – then do get in touch on 0208 533 2002.