A Very British History: Romany Gypsies

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A Very British History: Romany Gypsies

Series 1



“Appleby Fair – Gypsyland!” cries the presenter here, Damian Le Bas, as he arrives on a summer’s day at the horse-fair-cum-festival in Cumbria. It’s the start of an excellent, eye-opening survey of how the lives of Romany Gypsies have changed in Britain.

The 1960s were a crucial decade, Le Bas explains, as housing developments absorbed land on the edges of towns that had been traveller sites so that many Travellers either formed roadside camps or took to a settled life in houses.

Anti-Gypsy sentiment grew and the programme is full of old newsreel clips of evictions. “It’s hard to fit them into the second half of the 20th century,” frets the voiceover on one, but we see how in practice many have fitted in (Barbara Cartland was an unlikely ally) and the film does a great job of exploring an ethnic identity that has survived centuries of nomadic life but still provokes startling prejudice.


Documentary exploring key moments in the 20th century for minority communities across the UK. In the first edition, Damian Le Bas revealing that many Gypsies in the 1960s were forced to abandon their nomadic way of life for a more settled existence. Focusing on the Home Counties, the writer draws on his own Romany family background and rich film archive to show how Gypsies faced becoming outlaws in their own land, with regular stopping places for their caravans drying up, and tighter planning laws putting further pressure on finding somewhere to live.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Damian Le Bas
Executive Producer Tony Parker
Producer Adam Keelan
Series Producer Diana Hare