The Catholic Church across Yorkshire's historic West Riding since 1878

The Catholic Church across Yorkshire's historic West Riding since 1878

Unique Bradford exhibition celebrates Gypsy, Roma & Traveller History Month

A new photography exhibition at Bradford’s Cartwright Hall celebrates Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month with insights into the lives and culture of these, largely Catholic, communities.

‘Dreams, and Songs to Sing’ – a free exhibition by Bradford-based documentary photographer Cath Muldowney, created in partnership with members of Bradford’s Gypsy and Traveller communities, opened on 17 May at Cartwright Hall Art Gallery and will run until 8 September 2024.

Taken from a line in the Irish folk classic Fields of Athenry, the exhibition title was chosen by photographer Cath Muldowney when she heard a Gypsy man, Bernard Cunningham, sing an emotional a cappella version of the song. His singing is also featured in the exhibition. The installation at the Bradford Council-run museum, is the culmination Cath’s work over five years of capturing portraits of members of Gypsy and Traveller communities across the Bradford district.

These communities are intrinsic to the story of Catholic Bradford, with strong links to churches, such as St Peter’s at Leeds Road in Laisterdyke, going back generations. Across the Diocese of Leeds, many Slovak parishioners are of Roma heritage and other lay faithful from Traveller backgrounds are also at the heart of their parish communities, attending churches such as Christ the King, Bramley, Holy Family in Armley and St Nicholas, Gipton. In the recent past, the late Fr Frank McGrath of Holy Family Parish was renowned for his ministry to the Traveller community in West Yorkshire.

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people are often seen as one group, with so much about their heritage and lives unseen and unknown. The new exhibition showcases these communities’ diverse traditions and cultures, and their place in the rich history of Bradford and West Yorkshire through to the modern day.

This is the first time these communities have been part of an inclusive photography display in the region. The exhibition has been created working in partnership with Bradford District Museums and Galleries and the community and members organisation Leeds GATE (Gypsy and Traveller Exchange). Led by Gypsy and Traveller people in partnership with others across West Yorkshire, Leeds GATE’s work has an award-winning track record of community activism, social action, and member-led innovation.

Photos are included from iconic fairs and drives such as Lee Gap, as well as at people’s homes and events. Personal objects are shared by some of the community members photographed, and together they offer a glimpse into the lives and culture of Gypsy and Traveller communities in Bradford.

Kathleenanne Boswell lives on a site in Bradford and works at Leeds GATE as a Senior Youth Worker, engaging with many young people through education and activities in the region. Her family, like many others on the site, have lived there for four generations and are deeply connected to the region.

‘As a Leeds GATE staff member and from the Traveller community, I’m privileged we get to do this exhibition. This has never happened for our communities before in Bradford. Myself and others have been so proud to be part of planning and design of it. I hope it’s going to raise awareness for our communities across Bradford and give people a clearer understanding of our heritage.’

Kathleenanne, her Mam and Granny are all woven into the backstory of Leeds GATE and the community activism at its heart; their life stories are told as part of the exhibition.

Rachel Trafford from Leeds GATE said: ‘Gypsy and Traveller communities certainly face challenges and discrimination in our society or being made invisible in our British history. However, this exhibition is about finding and sharing Gypsy and Traveller hope, joy and beauty, opening in time to celebrate Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month in June. It is a truly inclusive piece of work with our members. We thank them for sharing their likeness and a small part of their experiences with us, the photographer Cath as well as Bradford Council’s Cartwright Hall Gallery – it couldn’t have happened without them.’

Photographer Cath Muldowney, said: ‘It’s been a privilege for me to be allowed a glimpse into a way of life that has existed for centuries and is very much a part of the tapestry of the Bradford district. The people I have met have been warm and welcoming, honest, and funny.’

James Steward, Head of Bradford District Museums and Galleries Service at Bradford Council, said: ‘This exhibition has been created with a shared belief that it is important to work in partnership to increase awareness and respect of the variety of community cultures and heritage in our city. It wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication of a big team of people and we sincerely thank everyone who helped us.’

Find out more about this FREE exhibition at https://bradfordmuseums.org/cartwright-hall-art-gallery/ and visit Cartwright Hall, Lister Park, Bradford BD9 4NS – 01274 431 212
Opening Times:
Monday (except Bank Holidays): Closed
Tuesday – Friday: 10am-4pm
Saturday – Sunday: 11am-4pm

For more information about Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month (June 2024), please visit: https://www.leedsgate.co.uk/gypsy-roma-traveller-history-month … and Leeds GATE has also put together a new Schools Resource Pack this year, including resources made by many colleagues who are also Gypsies and Travellers: https://www.leedsgate.co.uk/history-month-pack-for-primary-schools-2024 


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