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GRT communities

Gypsy Roma Traveller (GRT) is an umbrella term for different GRT communities which include:

  • Gypsy
  • Roma
  • Travellers of Irish heritage
  • Showmen (show people)
  • Circus Travellers
  • New Travellers
  • Scottish Travellers or Gypsies
  • Welsh Gypsies or Travellers
  • Bargee Travellers


  • Gypsies are a recognised ethnic minority with an identifiable culture and language.
  • Both the Gypsy and Irish Traveller communities are categorised as ethnic minority groups under the Race Relations Act 1976 (amended 2000), the Human Rights Act 1998, and the Equality Act 2010.
  • Gypsies have been in Britain since at least 1515 after migrating from continental Europe. The term Gypsy comes from "Egyptian" which is what the settled population perceived them to be because of their dark complexion. Linguistic analysis of the Romani language proves that Romany Gypsies, like the European Roma, originally came from Northern India, probably around the 12th century.
  • Gypsies speak Romany which has its roots in Sanskrit and has some words in common with Hindi.
  • Gypsies have a tradition of and preference for self-employment. In Norfolk in the past they were involved in agricultural labour such as apple picking or soft fruit picking in the Fens. Gypsies today have adapted to the changing needs of a modern industrial society and now are often involved in scrap dealing (metal re-cycling), tarmacking drives, carpet selling, and dealing in second-hand cars, garden clearance and tree felling. Many Gypsies are proud of their working heritage.
  • As with the settled community, the majority of Gypsies value education and want to ensure their children attend school and receive a suitable education.
  • Historically Norfolk has always been home to a large Gypsy community and there are several council as well as private sites throughout the county.


  • Roma are a recognised ethnic minority.
  • Roma are the largest ethnic minority in Europe. Many Roma in Western Europe are migrants from countries such as Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Romania, Lithuania, Latvia and the former Yugoslavia.
  • Roma originate from Punjab and Rajasthan areas of India. Their ancestors emigrated from India approximately 1000 years ago and travelled through Asia to Europe and later to the Americas. For centuries they maintained a nomadic lifestyle but were forced to settle under the communist regimes of Eastern Europe.
  • Many Roma speak one of the many Romani dialects as a first language, and they usually speak the language of their countries of origin as a second language (eg Polish, Slovak or Romanian). Vocabulary in a second language can be limited depending on education levels.
  • Unlike UK Gypsies, Roma do not usually seek accommodation in trailers or on sites but live in houses as in their country of origin.
  • Roma from across Europe have often experienced high levels of prejudice and persecution in their country of origin and in the UK and many will not ascribe as Roma in the first instance but as Romanian, Hungarian or whatever their country of origin is.

European Roma Rights Centre video
7 Things You Should Know About Roma People - YouTube

Travellers of Irish heritage

  • Traditionally Irish Travellers are a nomadic group of people that originate from Ireland and have a separate identity, heritage and culture to Gypsies and Roma.
  • An Irish Traveller presence can be traced back to the 12th century Ireland, with migrations to Great Britain in the early 19th century.
  • Irish Travellers have a unique culture and language distinct from Gypsies and other Travellers.
  • Some Travellers of Irish heritage identify as Pavee or Minceir, which are words from the Irish Traveller language, Shelta (also known as Gammen, Sheldru, Pavee or Cant).
  • Many Irish Travellers are practising Catholics.
  • Media has portrayed Irish Travellers as appearing to favour flamboyant dress and loose moral behaviour, this is not reflected by the Irish Travellers we work with in Norfolk.

Cork Travellers Women video

A short history of Irish Travellers - YouTube


  • Showmen are not an ethnic minority although the Showmen culture can trace its roots through the centuries to the Frost Fairs of the 17th century.
  • Showmen have owned and operated funfairs and circuses for many generations and their identity is connected to their family businesses. They operate rides and attractions that can be seen throughout the summer months at funfairs. They generally have winter quarters where the family settles to repair the machinery that they operate and prepare for the next travelling season.
  • Most show people belong to the Showmen's Guild, founded in 1889, which is an organisation that provides economic and social regulation and advocacy for show people. The Showmen's Guild works with both central and local governments to protect the economic interests of its members.
  • Showmen families are long-established in Norfolk and there are sites, or yards, in King's Lynn and Norwich.
  • Showmen families often take a great interest in the education of their children, including secondary education and distance learning.
  • Children attend their base school during the winter months and can dual register at another school while they are travelling or work remotely with their base schools using distance learning materials.
  • The GRT Team have provided a "pop up" school each year for one week for the children coming into King's Lynn for the Mart. The children have worked on their distance learning packs (DLPs), been engaged in a wide variety of projects, and made visits to local centres of interest.

King's Lynn Mart

Some local facts!

  • The Mart has been pitching up in the centre of King's Lynn for more than 800 years.
  • It was granted a Royal charter by King Henry VIII in 1537.
  • Each year the Mart traditionally opens on Valentine's Day.
  • The fair marks the start of the travelling season for fairground families, many of whom have been working at the Mart for generations.

New Travellers

  • New Travellers are not an ethnic minority and it is seen as a lifestyle choice.
  • The term New Travellers refers to people sometimes referred to as "New Age Travellers". They are generally people who have taken to life 'on the road' in their own lifetime, though some New Traveller families claim to have been on the road for three consecutive generations.
  • The New Traveller culture grew out of the hippie and free-festival movements of the 1960s and 1970s.
  • New Travellers are often very environmentally aware and focused and have often elected to leave the aspects of society to live a freer, simpler nomadic life.
  • Often travelling in converted buses and coaches as well as caravans, many New Travellers have also settled into private sites or rural communes.
  • Norfolk has fewer New Travellers than counties in the West Country with its historical connections to festivals.

Scottish Travellers or Gypsies,
Welsh Gypsies or Travellers, and
Bargee Travellers

  • In Norfolk we work with a number of Scottish Travellers or Gypsies, and Welsh Gypsies. Both these communities have long shared histories as with those described above.
  • To our knowledge Norfolk does not have Bargee Travellers (Bargees) or Water Gypsies in the county but does have boat dwellers living on the Broads who we have supported as a service in the past.

Further information