How did the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month begin?

Every June since 2008, people from across the UK have celebrated Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month (GRTHM).

What is the Purpose of Celebrating Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month?

According to the Traveller Movement, the aims of GRTHM are to:

  • Promote knowledge of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History, Cultural and Heritage
  • Disseminate information on positive Gypsy, Roma and Traveller contributions to British Society
  • Heighten the confidence and awareness of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people to their cultural heritage
  • Celebrate Gypsy, Roma and Traveller culture and heritage

It’s essential to acknowledge that Roma, Gypsy, and Traveller people are often misunderstood and misrepresented. These communities are very diverse, with distinct histories, languages, and traditions. It’s important not to generalise but to understand and appreciate the differences within these groups. Furthermore, many stereotypes about Traveller communities are untrue. This blog will challenge these stereotypes and advocate for reducing discrimination. Members of these communities deserve the same rights as everyone else. Understanding and empathising with all communities can combat bullying and exclusion, which are extremely harmful.

The Marginalisation of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller People 

What is this Year’s Theme?

This year’s Gypsy, Roma and Traveller history month theme is  “What does family mean to you?”. The aim of this theme is to emphasise the importance of family for many Romany, Irish Traveller, Roma and nomadic communities and people. By focusing on something that is important for this community and many others, people will gain a deeper understanding of the richness of the history, culture and traditions of these cultures whilst reflecting on the similarities between their own experiences and values.

Key Facts about these Communities

Nomadic People in the UK

In the UK, about 300,000 people traditionally lead nomadic lives. These communities are often grouped under the term “Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people,” but they have distinct geographic backgrounds, languages, and customs.

The History of Romany people

Romany people’s ancestors are originally from Northern India and moved to a range of places in Europe. British Romanies first arrived in Britain in the early 1500s. The term ‘Gypsy’ that some Romani people use to describe themselves comes from Egyptian which is what the settled population perceived them to be because of their dark complexion. Romany people speak ‘Romani’, a language with similarities to the ancient Indian Sanskrit. Romany people speak the Romani language. Some Romani words have become part of the English language – ‘lollipop’ originated from Romani, for example.

The History of Irish Travellers 

Irish Travellers originated in Ireland and are estimated to have come to Britain from Ireland in the 1800s. They moved from town to town and worked as tinsmiths, thatchers, weavers, farm laborers, animal traders, and flower sellers. Irish Travellers speak English as well as their own language, known variously as Cant, Gammon, or Shelta.They have no genetic relation with the Romany people.

New Travellers, Scottish Travellers, Showmen & Boaters

Apart from Romany people and Irish Travellers there’s a range of other people with no ethnic connections to these groups that have chosen a nomadic lifestyle. These include Scottish travellers, people who live on canal boats, those working in the show industry (e.g. fun fairs, circus) and new travellers who are a group formed through the festival movement in the 1960s. 

How can we raise Awareness of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month in Schools?

Through activities and information in schools we will be able to challenge stereotypes, contribute to community cohesion and understand the contributions that the GRT community has made to British society.

Below is some good practice when promoting GRTHM in your school:


  • Gather information, and ensure you are aware of current Gypsy, Roma and Traveller issues.
  • Arrange CPD for teachers and other school staff to understand the history, culture, and contributions of GRT communities. 

Inclusive Curriculum 

  • Include GRT history and contributions in various subjects like history, literature, and social studies in your curriculum where possible. 
  • Highlight the diversity within the GRT communities and their historical and contemporary contributions.

Know your School Population 

  • Be aware of students from GRT communities and ensure they feel supported.
  • Encourage their participation in events and pupil voice activities (e.g. student council) to raise awareness of GRT history and culture and to make sure their voices are heard. 

Behaviour and Culture

  • Slurs and derogatory language towards the GRT community are harmful as they perpetuate negative stereotypes and are offensive. Using the words ‘p*key’ and ‘g*ppo’ for example are considered unacceptable racial slurs.
  • Ensure that inappropriate behaviour and language is challenged and dealt with in line with the school’s behaviour policy and a seriously as other derogatory behaviour towards minority groups.
  • It’s important that all staff are training in recognising derogatory language towards the GRT community so that consistent messages are given.

Community Involvement 

  • Invite members of the GRT community to speak about their experiences and culture.
  • Work with local GRT organisations to enhance the work you are already doing to represent these voices in your school community. 

Continuous Support 

  • Ensure that the promotion of GRT history and culture is not limited to a single month but is part of a continuous effort to foster inclusivity and respect throughout the school year.
  • Establish support networks for GRT students and their families within the school community.

Please see below some discussion questions and a true/false activity you could incorporate into your tutor time or lessons about GRTHM this month:

Key Discussion Questions for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month

Q: In what ways might the lives of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people be similar or different from the majority UK population?

Suggested answer: There are many differences, some of which are:  travelling around, not living in a house, some young people may be home-schooled, there is a different language spoken at home, bigger likelihood of this community experiencing bullying, different traditions at home. 

Similarities include: they might live in a house as well, they like spending time with family, having a job/getting an education is important.

Q: What role do you think family plays in communities that travel around a lot?

Suggested answer: Family might be more important, as most time is spent with them, and it is difficult to build relationships outside of the family/travelling community when changing places a lot. Family members are also who carry on traditions, teach traditional languages etc. 

Myth Busting – True or False?

Tackling myths and preconceptions that students may have of these communities is really important. Here is a suggested activity below for you to use with your students. 

Q: Most Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people live in brick and mortar houses.

True! Over two thirds of Gypsies in the UK live in houses.

Q: You can find Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people in all different kinds of jobs, like nurses or police officers.

True! People from these communities work in all kinds of professions.

Q: Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people don’t have to pay taxes.

False! Gypsies and Travellers pay council tax, rent, gas, electricity, and all other charges.

Q: There is a “King of the Gypsies”. 

False! There is no “gypsy royalty” – it’s a nickname for boxer Tyson Fury.