16 Jun 2009

A group of 7 to 14 year old Roma children will be taking to the streets of London throughout June to give out free copies of a picture book they have produced which aims to engage the general public with their culture and break down the prejudices they face.

Working with The Children’s Society and arts group, Akademia Pstryk, this group of talented young people have used pinhole photography to produce the picture book. 1,500 copies of the book will be given away at public events during Gypsy, Roma and Traveller month in June, and it will also be available to download online.

The Children’s Society has worked with Roma children for over 13 years, as they are one of the most disadvantaged groups of children in our society. The charity’s own research with Roma, Gypsy and Traveller children found that 86% had experienced racial abuse, and the average school leaving age among the group of over 200 children was 11½ years old.(1) According to DCSF research, only 7% of children classed as “Gypsy/Romany” achieved 5 or more A* to C grades including English and Mathematics in 2007, compared to 45.4% of students overall.

Jacob Garber, from The Children’s Society, who has coordinated the project, comments “We hope this project will both build the confidence of the Roma children involved, and help to educate the general public about who the Roma people really are. Roma culture is incredibly rich with stories and songs that have been passed down for generations. Roma people have traditionally kept their stories hidden from the rest of society, but now this group is ready to open up and engage with everybody.”

With the help of Akademia Pstryk photographer Marta Kotlarska, the group have illustrated their story using pinhole photographs. This little-known technique is not only a cheaper alternative to digital photography; it is also very environmentally friendly. Using cardboard boxes, paper and chemicals no longer needed by professional labs, the young people made their own cameras and developed their own photos.

Marta Kotlarska, who is mentoring the children throughout this project comments “Fostering the creativity of young people has been important to me and, as my work looks to modernise and reinterpret folk tales, I was very keen to bring the experience of Akademia Pstryk to this project.”

The young people will be holding five events (3) throughout June to give away copies of their books to parents and children as well as teaching members of the public how to do pinhole photography themselves. A caravan decorated by the young people will go on the road as a symbol of the young people’s pride in their rich history.

The project has been funded by the Arts Council, with further funding from the Consulate of the Republic of Poland and The Children’s Society.

For more information visit www.childrenssociety.org.uk/roma-awareness-raising, www.clickacademy.co.uk, project blog http://bumburumbum.blogspot.com/ or email or call Jacob on jacob.garber@childrenssociety.org.uk / 0207 474 7222.

Notes to editors:

The Children’s Society is a leading national charity, driven by the belief that every child deserves a good childhood. New Londoners, established in 1996 in Newham, East London, is one of over 60 Children’s Society projects. Here, we have worked for 13 years to help young Roma to fulfil their individual potential and to challenge the systems that keep them marginalised.

Akademia Pstryk, created in 2004, is a Polish social arts organisation that uses visual and performing arts to work with children at high risk of social exclusion including Roma children.

The Roma people originated from India around 1000 years ago and are currently Europe’s largest ethnic minority. However, widespread ignorance of Roma culture has meant prejudice against the Roma is still common in mainstream society.

(1)This is Who We Are (2007), The Children’s Society (Heather Ureche and Myfanwy Franks)

(2) (DCSF, 2007)

(3) Full information about the events below:
June 14th 2009, 2pm – 5pm Bernie Spain Gardens, South Bank, (part of Refugee Week celebrations), SE1 9PP, outdoors
June 20th 2009, 1pm – 4pm Broadway, Stratford, E15 1NN (outside Stratford shopping centre), outdoors
June 24th 2009, 6pm – 9pm The Hub, 123 Star Lane, Canning Town, E16 4PZ Exhibition opening, presentation of awards to young people
June 25th 2009, 5pm – 6.30pm (TBC) East Ham Library, Children’s Section, Newham Town Hall, High Street South, East Ham, E6 6EL,
June 28th 2009, 1pm – 4pm High Street North (by junction with Barking Road), East Ham, E6 2HJ, outdoors