Elliemay Clare is taking the teenie beauty pageant world by storm


04 February 2016 / SHERRIE SMITH, 

Elliemay Clare, an eight year old Romany Gypsy girl from Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire, is taking the teenie beauty pageant world by storm. Elliemay attends Westfield school and has been competing in both regional and national pageants for the last 6 months. She has already won 14 crowns and even more medals.

Inspired by seeing the American competitions on TV, and the popular TLC program Toddlers and Tiaras that helped launch Honey Boo Boo, Elliemay started to badger her mum Ivy to find some competitions in the UK for her to join. She entered her first in Watford, Herts last summer.

Having always been confident and lively, Elliemay enjoys making up her own dances to her favourite songs and doing her own make-up. She spends hours at home watching pop star videos and perfecting her routines for each show. Many parents and contestants assume she is professionally coached as she's such a natural, but it's all her own design.

She has always loved dressing up and putting on dances but is in her element now with the beautiful glitzy bling outfits, spray tans, her hair being done by hairdressers, and professional makeup.

It's costing hundreds of pounds to provide her with different dresses, travel to contests etc, but mum Ivy thinks its money well spent as Elliemay is so happy. Her self-confidence and poise in front of an audience has grown immeasurably.

Ellie May upright (600px * 800px)

Her first cousin WBO champion boxer Billy Joe Saunders has been really encouraging and supportive he bought her the red dress in the photo above.

There's a lot of fierce competition often in the world of teenie pageants, often with 50-70 girls competing. Sometimes, the other parents have sometimes been hostile and can be very cliquey identifying Elliemay as being a Gypsy.  However mum Ivy says: "She just rises above it and ignores them because my girl is just so happy and I’m so proud of her" and adds that  from day one she has just loved it.

Chair of Gypsy and Traveller Empowerment Hertfordshire Josie O'Driscoll says: “All of our children should be able to achieve their potential whatever their ethnic or cultural background.

“We are all too aware of racism, barriers and issues that many of our youth face in their everyday lives. We are very proud of our gifted and talented Gypsy and Traveller children in Hertfordshire and we actively promote their achievements in any way we can to enable them to go forward in their chosen paths."

No Room to Roam, No Place to call Home

Josie O’Driscoll, Chair of GATE Herts, Traveller Movement, and TT advocate, says that ‘the last acceptable racism is no longer acceptable’ as she tells The Travellers’ Times about the rally for Gypsies and Travellers being planned as the petition against the new Gypsy / Traveller planning law definition reaches over 2,000 signatures in three days.

Gypsies and Travellers will take to streets of London on May 21st, in less than three months’ time, to protest against what we see as a discriminatory and racist planning policy.  

The planning of a demonstration against the new ‘gypsy status’ is well under way, we anticipate a peaceful but noisy event and hope to attract huge numbers on the day. Traditional horse-drawn wagons will be one of the highlights. After suffering centuries of marginalisation, discrimination, exclusion and institutional racism we the Gypsy Traveller population of the UK will send a message to this Government that what is seen as acceptable racism by society will no longer be accepted by us.

Campaigners have launched an online petition to oppose the ‘gypsy status’ planning law and to gather support for the demonstration that is going to happen outside the houses of Parliament  Councils are obligated in planning rules to provide land to house traveller communities. The Housing Act 2004 also requires housing authorities regularly too undertake regular assessments of the accommodation needs of gypsies and travellers. New planning rules brought in on a bank holiday weekend last August state that “for planning purposes the Government believes a traveller should be someone who travels.  However the new nomadic qualification could dramatically cut the number of people who are seen as travellers under planning rules

Travellers would have to prove they have a 'nomadic' lifestyle to qualify for help in the planning system   Experts said that this would in practice mean showing that they had been on the move for two months every year, possibly by moving from camp to horse fairs. The changes have emerged after a High Court ruled that gypsies will no longer automatically be banned from setting up camp on Green Belt land because ministers had been unfairly discriminating against travellers. County Councils are already testing their Gypsy and Traveller populations against the new ‘gypsy status’ definition in order to reduce the need for future sites and deny our children the chance of a home on a Traveller site.  It has not taken some local authorities long to realise that this change to the definition could reduce the need for more sites if it is discovered fewer families comply with the new definition; if we don’t have ‘gypsy status’ we may no longer develop and build a Gypsy and Traveller site and we may even lose our place on an existing public or private legal Traveller site.

The result will be that many Gypsies and Travellers will be forced back onto the road because they will be made homeless, or ‘prove’ their ethnic identity and heritage to retain their homes.

This will be happening in a climate where ‘travelling’ has already been effectively criminalised. This will drive an exponential increase in unauthorized roadside camps and could create tensions and hostility between settled and nomadic groups.

We see this as a direct attack on our culture and heritage and on our children’s futures and their right to define who they are in their own terms. We see it as a racist attack in that it seeks to marginalise us and deny us a rightful and legitimate place in this society. Our ethnicity is being challenged unless we can prove we are Romany Gypsies, Irish Travellers, to do this we have to prove we travel for work purposes, yet at the same time when we do travel we have no where we can stop. We are in a catch 22 situation that threatens our very existence. We owe it to our ancestors and to our future generations to protect and maintain our cultural and traditional way of life.

The petition against the new laws can be found by following this link: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/support-uk-s-romany-gypsy-traveller-people-to-bring-down-a-new-law-which-seeks-to-deny-us-a-home?bucket&source=facebook-share-button&time=1453892721

Herts floristry workshop

Sherrie Smith, a successful Romany Gypsy businesswoman and florist, is sharing her skills at the first ever Romany Gypsy-lead floristry workshop in Hertfordshire.

The workshop was set up by Sherrie Smith so that Gypsy and Traveller and settled women could meet and mix and learn useful skills to become self-employed businesswomen in the floristry trade.

The weekly series of day-long classes took place at Sherrie’s business premises over the first six weeks of winter and five women took part. The course was free and was part-funded by Unlimited, an organisation that supports social enterprise businesses, with Sherrie covering the costs of the floristry materials herself.

“Floristry is a good trade for Gypsy and Traveller women to learn as much of the trade now takes place online meaning that it can be fitted in with childcare and raising a family, Perfect for young mothers,” says Sherrie, who is also a full-time mother of two children. 

The Travellers’ Times went down to Sherrie’s last workshop in December to check out what was going on and was very impressed. The women were taking a break from the final class of the project and were tucking into some Christmas nibbles and non-alcoholic mulled wine, whilst outside a fire burned away in an old iron wood-burner. The big wooden workbench inside the workshop was strewn with completed wreaths and flower decorations and bits of holly and moss left over from the finished pieces that the women had been working on. It certainly looked very industrious and Sherrie’s five pupils told us that they have had a very good and productive time and wished that the course was longer.

Lisa, a mother of four from Herts, says she is already taking orders for Christmas wreaths and table decorations. “I’ve loved it,” she says, and adds “can we do another six weeks Sherrie?”

Michelle, a non-Gypsy/Traveller from Cheshunt, was also impressed and enjoyed working with the other women, saying that it was a great way of “getting to know each other” and breaking down the misconceptions spread by certain TV programmes.

Gypsy Roma Travellers have audience with Pope


          09 November 2015 / Josephine O'Driscoll

    Gypsy Roma Travellers have audience with Pope

    Pope Francis recently held a special audience at the Vatican with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people from all over the world in a move that was welcomed by the communities, yet which has also raised concerns with some campaigners about the content of some of his speech.

    Josie O’Driscoll, Chair of Herts Gypsy and Traveller Empowerment and a volunteer at the Traveller Movement, was one of the 7,000 delegates who went to the audience, and has written an open letter to the Pope to raise some of her concerns about what was said during the audience.

    The audience with Pope Francis was organised to mark the 50th anniversary of the first papal visit to an international Gypsy camp which took place when Paul VI visited the camp near Pomezia, on the outskirts of Rome in 1965. Josie O’Driscoll joined the delegation from the Traveller Movement

    The ceremony included music and dance from Spanish and Italian Roma.

    Spanish singer Maria Jose Santiago who sang two songs for Pope Francis along with guitarist Paco Cepero. Towards the end of her performance the singer added "Holy Father; Spain loves you". A young Irish Traveller was the first to be blessed by the Pope when he stepped down from the pulpit.

    The pope addressed the crowd in Italian and although there was some translation into some languages English wasn't one of them.

    Now that the translation is available in English some Gypsy and Traveller campaigners are concerned that the contents of the speech may have betrayed a lack of knowledge of the daily lives of Gypsy Roma and Travellers, and the racism and discrimination they face.

    Josie o Driscoll says: "I have some pressing questions for Pope Francis. I'm not sure if his holiness has researched or has an awareness of the barriers that Gypsy, Traveller and Roma people face when it comes to inclusion and integration, and I am concerned that all the onus was put onto us to break through those barriers and not enough focus was put on the people who put up those barriers in the first place. We have been trying to break down the barriers of prejudice and discrimination all our lives and we feel that his Holiness should have recognised our efforts.”

    "I will be writing a letter to Pope Francis to raise my concerns I hope he receives it and takes it on board for future speeches"

    Josie has shared her letter to Pope Francis with the Traveller’s Times and we have published it below:

    Your Holiness,

    My name is Josephine O’Driscoll and I am the Chair of Hertfordshire Gypsy and Traveller Empowerment – a UK community organisation run by and for Gypsy and Traveller people.

    I was delighted when you called Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people to an audience with you in Rome in October. A lot of us have a very strong Catholic faith and religion is a very an important part of our lives.

    We enjoyed our stay in Rome and were overwhelmed by the amount of people who went, coming from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities from all over the world.

    As your speech was in Italian, I didn’t at first understand what you were saying and I didn’t realise what had been said until I received a translation of it from the Vatican Radio when I got home to England.

    After reading and re-reading your speech, I was disappointed and a little offended by some of the contents. I would be the first to say that some of what you said needed saying, that integration is important, and you were the right person to say it. However, I am not too sure if you are aware of the barriers to integration that we face.

    Unfortunately, some sections of your speech betrayed a certain stereotyping of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people and appeared to blame them for their own poverty and marginalisation.

    As someone who works daily on integration and inclusion, what struck me most were your comments on education – particularly about Gypsy, Roma and Traveller parents should recognise the right of their children to go to school and be educated.

    I am a parent who removed one of my children from a school because of bullying and abuse. It was an extremely difficult decision and it took a lot of soul searching and I tried to sort it out with the school, but in the end I had to do the right thing for the best interests of my child. She had suffered from three months of racist bullying including the other children calling her names and I couldn’t let it go on.

    My decision wasn’t an easy one as I too have expectations and aspirations for all my children, but taking children out of an unsafe school environment does not mean that they will get no education. My daughter is now in her third year at college.

    In another part of your speech, you said: “Dear friends, do not give the media or public opinion reason to speak ill of you.” With all respect, that is not easy when you have a racist media that loves to publish bad articles about Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people – as you found out yourself when some of the UK press twisted your own words for the sake of a few tawdry headlines that further increased the prejudice against us all.

    I hope you receive this letter in the spirit of which it has been sent.

    Yours sincerely

    Josephine O’Driscoll