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Dorset author hopes book on travellers will change stereotypes
A DORSET author hopes that his newly-published book highlighting the positive contribution made by gypsies and travellers will counter many of the negative perceptions of the travelling community.
Ray Wills, a poet and writer with family gypsy roots, has spent two years editing ‘Gypsy Storytellers’.
It is a compilation of poems, stories, photographs and anecdotes from gypsies and travellers.
He began the project in 2011 in response to the eviction of travellers from the Dale Farm site in Essex.
Mr Wills, 68, said: “Different people all around the world were shocked by the way gypsies were evicted from the site.
“I was contacted by Geoffrey Neville, the son of the famous Melbourne Cup jockey Raymond Neville, who wanted to do something to raise some funds for the families of Dale Farm and other gypsy families who were going through very hard times.
“Nomadic people pass their stories down from generation to generation and we also wanted to pass these stories on and show people that the gypsy and traveller community are not just takers in society, they have contributed.
“Many of them joined the forces and got killed in the war. A lot are horse breeders and a lot are show people. A lot of gypsies have contributed, they have paid their taxes”
The very first poem in the book was submitted by singer and actor David Essex, who paid tribute to his grandfather Tom, a “travelling tinker.”
Mr Wills said he hoped the book would help improve relations between the settled and non-settled community: “A small number of people come down here every year and cause trouble” he said.
“That’s a very small minority of the gypsy community. If Dorset provided small transit sites that would go a long way to resolve the problem.
“The aim of the book was to show that within the gypsy community there are creative people, artists, photographers, poets and writers. We have had contributions from all over the world.”
All profits from the book will go to the Gypsy Council. It can be ordered online from www.francisboutle.co.uk
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