"We Still Breathe their Air" - a taste of the wealth of Romany writing today

20-01-2005

And now to a special programme that we will be broadcasting this weekend, in cooperation with BBC Radio 3 and Open Productions. Romany - or Gypsy - culture is traditionally oral, with a focus on song and storytelling, but there is a growing body of Romany literature. In the programme we meet Romany writers from the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom, who share a desire to see Romany culture recognized and respected. I'm joined by David Vaughan who, along with the British broadcaster, Simon Evans, is co-author of the programme.

How did the programme come about?

"I grew up in Kent in the South East of England, where traditionally many English Romany-Gypsies or Travellers worked on the land, and still travelled from place to place - although this is a way of life that is very rapidly dying out. I was interested in the parallels with Roma in the Czech Republic. It's interesting, for example that English Romany-Gypsy dialect is full of words that many Czech Romanies would recognize. These are words that come from the Romany language that Roma brought with them, when they left India a millennium ago."

And what about the subject of the documentary you made - Romany writing?

"Well, Romany traditions and way of life have come under increasing pressure in recent years, and in order to assert and preserve Roma culture and identity, it's interesting that more and more people have turned to writing - and that's not just in the Czech Republic - where many are writing in the Romany language. I found out through my conversations with the English broadcaster, Simon Evans, who has made documentaries and written about British Romany-Gypsies, that there's a similar trend in Britain. So we decided to work together and in this programme, we meet Romany writers from both countries, and of course, we hear some of their work."

And when can we hear the programme?

We'll be broadcasting it in two parts instead of our usual Saturday and Sunday programmes - although you will still be able to hear Saturday's Insight Central Europe, as usual."

20-01-2005