Poole Museum to host display of hidden heritage of Gypsies and Travellers

This summer Poole Museum will display stories from Kushti Bok (which means “Good Luck” in Romany). The group supports people from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller backgrounds.

Poole Museum’s ‘Our Space’ area invites community groups to tell stories that are important to them and their links to the local communities. ‘Our Space’ will host a display of the largely hidden heritage of Gypsies and Travellers in and around Poole.

Developed through partnership with Kushti Bok, it features research by Raymond Wills, the local ‘Gypsy Poet’. As a child Ray grew up on his grandparent’s farm on the Mannings Heath commons. His closest neighbours were Gypsies and Ray spent hours visiting the local camps in Canford Heath, old Wareham Road and Alderney.

Ray’s interest sparked him to explore his own family history and the display will feature a family tree which traces his Romany roots back to the 1700s. Visitors will also be able to view a large map from 1912 showing historic campsites; some of which resulted in the naming of local features and landmarks. From Monkey’s Hump to Heavenly Bottom, the camps were situated in many of the heathlands across Poole.

Councillor Bobbie Dove, Lead Member for Equalities, BCP Council said: “Key to the delivery of our priorities is that we put residents at the heart of everything we do and that all of our communities feel connected, empowered, safe and included. Therefore, it is important that we celebrate the diversity of our towns and recognise the contributions of all communities in their development.

“We are rightly proud of our heritage and that cannot be complete without the inclusion of the contributions and hidden heritage of our Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities which strengthens the cultural identity of our towns and places”

Nathalie Sherring of Dorset Race Equality Council said: “We are delighted that some of the very rich history of the local Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities will be the subject of a display at Poole Museum this June. This display has been made possible because of partnership working between Poole Museum and Kushti Bok, a local group supporting people from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller backgrounds across Dorset.

“We feel that such an exhibition is hugely important to increase the understanding about the rich heritage of the Gypsy, Roma and traveller culture and potentially eradicate the amount of prejudice that this community constantly face. We would encourage everybody to go and see this display and we hope that other ethnic communities living in BCP will also have the opportunity to exhibit at Poole Museum in the future.”

Poole History Centre staff offer advice and guidance about exploring family history. Resources available include census records, maps and newspapers.

The exhibition opens on 18 June and runs until 5 September. For more information www.poolemuseum.org.uk