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24 September 2014

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Paula and Henry
Paula Elliot

Paula and Henry were married four years ago. Henry is a Romany Gypsy and Paula was born a Gorger.

Here they tell of their life together, Henry's childhood and the future of the Romany culture in Kent.

Paula preparing food


On the 14th May, BBC Radio Kent's Barbara Sturgeon took her lunchtime programme to Cranbrook to discover how Romany Gypsy culture is surviving inspite of all the changes being imposed upon it.

Barbara's hosts, Paula and Henry, explained how life has changed in recent years. Paula married into the culture, and now the couple have started a plant nursery, although they still live in a caravan, albeit a modern one, on the nursery site.

videoHenry and Paula spoke to South East Today about Gypsies' love of entertaining friends and family.

Henry also restores traditional wagons, and hopes to open a museum of Romany heritage.

During the programme Henry told of his childhood, and the importance of animals to Gypsies and some of the values that the Romanies uphold.

Audio.Childhood - Henry spoke of his childhood spent travelling, how we went out with his mother as she sold flowers from a hand basket.

Audio.Traditional living - Henry's family have always tried to live in the traditional Romany way. His family used to settle for the winter, but Henry has always tried to keep travelling throughout the year.

Audio.Animals - Henry told how the Romany attitude to animals is different to that of the Gorgers'. Horses and dogs are regarded as part of the family, but never live indoors.

Audio.Coloured horses - Henry spoke about the significance of the coloured horse to the Romanies. Black and white was every Gypsy's dream horse.

Audio.Horse Fairs - Horsemonden may have gone, but there are other Gypsy horse fairs still going strong. Appleby and Stow have been on for hundreds of years and look like going on for many more, although the future is never certain.

Audio.Selling horses - Henry talked about the emotional side of selling horses. Luck money should always given back and is an important part of any sale.

Audio.Wagons - Henry described some of the different wagons, their history, and life on the open road. The women loved their china and lace and made the inside as pretty as they could. Wagons even had a stove and an oven inside. Most wagons were pulled by one horse, but another could be hitched up if needed. Travelling with a horse and wagon is not as easy as it once was, but Henry still takes his out on the road.

Audio.Hygiene - Hygiene is very important in Romany life. Separate bowls are used for different things, whether it is washing tea towels, other laundry or dishes.

Audio."Gorger Girl" - Paula spoke to Barbara Sturgeon about life being married into Romany life and starting up their nursery business. Paula has always been interested in plants, and a nursery was a natural choice of business. She explained that those marrying a Gypsy will never become Romany travellers, however much they take on the way of life.

Audio.Romany - Gorger marriages - Henry explained some of the issues when marrying into a Romany family. He told why it is more difficult for a Gypsy woman to marry a Gorger man and accept the non travelling way of life than it is for a Gorger woman to marry into the Romany way.

ListenHenry and Paula spoke to John Peel on BBC Radio 4's Home Truths programme.

Audio.Handshake - Henry told how a Romany's handshake is his bond. And a Gypsy is always as good as his word.

Audio.Bacon Pudding - Paula spoke to Barbara Sturgeon about Romany cooking on an open fire and some of the traditional recipes.

Audio.Museum - Henry plans to open a Romany museum, showing the Romany way of life and traditions.

Audio.Travelling - The couple still tries to keep travelling as part of their way of life. They do shows and exhibitions all over the country, although now it is harder to find places to stay.

Audio.Future - Henry sees a positive future for Romany blood and his heritage.

Audio.Closing thought - Henry offers an invitation to come and see how Gypsies live and make their own judgement on the Romany way of life.

The community fights for Henry and Paula


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