Sunday 29 October 2023

Exclusive: Arsenal academy guru Roy Massey on Arteta, Wilshere & facing George Best - Tribal Football

Exclusive: Arsenal academy guru Roy Massey on Arteta, Wilshere & facing George Best - Tribal Football

Roy Massey has a great anecdote on the (in)famous George Best..."I was with Rotherham, playing Manchester United at Millmoor in a FA Cup replay. With 15 min

Paving the way to highlight gypsy and traveller heritage


More museums are reaching out to the Gypsy Roma and Traveller community to record their distinctive lives to help their visitors and the general public at large to understand how these minority ethnic groups have contributed to British society – and rural communities particularly - for centuries.

In 2022, Landworker revealed how Worcestershire County Museum (WCM) at Hartlebury Castle was transforming the experiences of visitors to its beautiful Gypsy Roma and Traveller (GRT) Vardo (the Romany word for a horse drawn gypsy caravan) collection. This followed the appointment of Vardo Project Officer of Georgie Stevens, part Romany herself.

Members of the Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller community are featured in many of the photographs in the Gordon Shennan collection at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery. Many museums held special events during June which is Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller History Month. The historical, economic and cultural contribution of Britain's 300,000 Gypsies and Travellers is slowly becoming recognised.

When Robin Diaper, whose work as the Curator of Maritime & Social History at Hull Museums and Gallery involves overseeing, amongst other sites, the Streetlife Museum of Transport became aware there were stories about the history of the gypsy and traveller community in the city and its surrounding areas he sought help.

“During COVID we tried doing things remotely. There was man called John Cunningham in the Hull Pals Battalion who had earned a Victoria Cross for his bravery during WWI. He was a Romany gypsy. I had seen that Violet Cannon at York Travellers Trust (YTT) had written a blog on him but as she was having a baby at the time, she was unable to write a panel on him for the Wilberforce Museum, which is next door”, explains Diaper, who then was able to get in touch with Cunningham’s great nephew Charles Newland who was good enough to provide all the necessary information for a permanent display of a powerful story that was just waiting to be told.

“That was great and as we had pockets of unused space at Streetlife and understood that perhaps we were not covering the heritage of the gypsy and traveller (G&T) community we asked Violet if she would be willing to help us develop this and to facilitate contact with communities too,” said Diaper. “What we wanted to do was make a permanent addition and a meaningful change”.

YTT chief executive Cannon, who is a Romany Gypsy who spent her childhood roadside at a time when land was not as scarce as today and legislation, which eventually forced her family to move into a house, was less restrictive, was inspired by what she heard to get involved. “I felt it would recognise the permanency of Gypsy and Travellers families in Hull where many families have strong links to York. I have worked in the voluntary sector from an early age and I am keen to remove the obstacles that I faced for future generations of my community,” many of whom are no longer travelling round the country.

Asked to describe the situation facing today’s G&T community, Cannon said recent research by Birmingham University exploring Islamophobia and prejudice against Muslims found that it was exceeded by negative perceptions towards G&T.

Cannon facilitated workshops with members of the G&T community who decided what items would go on display to represent them. This includes a life-sized model of a piebald horse, information boards on diverse subjects and lots of photographs, many taken by George Norris who is strongly linked with G&T.

There is also a unique painting by Charles Cooper Henderson (1803-1845) who is considered one of the greatest coaching painters of the 19th century and whose works are on display at, amongst others, the Tate Gallery. Amidst the grandeur of Henderson’s painting of the Hull and London Royal Mail coach around 1835 there can be glimpsed in the corner a gypsy tent with a small ass resting alongside. HHhh

In a similar fashion to the total absence of agricultural workers in paintings from the past this is a silent testament to a race of people that have lived here for centuries but who have been largely drowned by deafening silence.

Cannon hopes the exhibition will be attended by “gypsy and travellers who will feel valued to see their culture represented. I hope that other communities attend and learn something new, or at least open their minds a little”.

Diaper has been heartened that Gypsies and Travellers have visited Streetlife to view the displays on their culture and social history and “when we did a small opening there was a couple of families who were passing through locally who came along and expressed their pleasure afterwards.”

He is hopeful of developing more exhibition projects with G&T. “Now that we have gained a bit of trust, we have already had some initial interest and we have some spaces that could accommodate temporary works.”

Diaper has also had visitors to Streetlife, which is ostensibly a transport museum, express their pleasure at seeing the G&T community represented.

Visitor Ian Atherton felt it was “only right that G&T are represented in a Hull Museum. If you want to know the true history of a place then every part has to be represented and my dad worked as a scrap man with many gypsies.”

Atherton, who has regularly visited Appleby Horse Fair, believes much of the negative perceptions towards G&T are “generated by the media because once people mix with one another they soon get along well enough.”

The Streetlife Museum of Transport is home to over 200 years of transport history spread across six galleries.

Situated within Hull’s Museums Quarter, the Streetlife Museum of Transport neighbours both Wilberforce House and the Hull & East Riding Museum which are also free to enter.

In recent times the Wilberforce Museum has been working with the local Black Community to develop new galleries looking at the legacies of transatlantic slavery. A temporary exhibition Uncovering Modern Slavery has just opened.



Milking it - where have all the cows gone?


Milking It 

Just as environmental subsidies are allowing money to grow on trees for big companies who are buying up large amounts of land for carbon trading projects then so too are our public funds being misused in a case of missing cows helping to boost supermarket profits.

From the towns where you buy your packaged milk from the supermarket, you will not have noticed the radical changes in the fields that are taking place to provide that carton.

Yet if you are lucky enough to have the time to roam round the countryside, you will not see many cows grazing anymore. There are being replaced by black plastic bags stuffed with grass cuttings ready for storage nearer the farm for use as feed for cattle, whose pats are washed out and collected in slurry tanks, all ready to be transported by road to the fields.

Locked away

The cattle still exist and many farms now house several thousand cows - or beef cattle. They are out of sight in big barns. They stay indoors throughout the year as the drag of taking them out to fields and bringing them back, twice a day in all sorts of weathers, is several steps too far for most producers these days. Quite simply that is ‘inefficient’ in terms of energy and time consumed. The cattle are there 24 hours a day in sparse conditions. While we rightly hear about chickens indoors, we hear much less about these cattle, yet they are sentient creatures.

So, the animals stay indoors, in the dry, and eat mainly grass from the fields. But they also eat a lot of ‘concentrate’.  This is usually soy beans, £800million annually imported from Brazil, and maize (about the same amount in money) mainly imported from USA. The tax/tariff on this maize has been removed by this government in June this year, only the second tariff change since Brexit, in order to keep feed prices low. 

The change from field to factory production has gone on in the last 5-10 years out of sight and with few controls on conditions.

Banks and supermarket pressures

Banks have shoved dairy farmers, caught by supermarkets pushing them to produce milk ever cheaper, into major investment. They need massive tractors and mowers to cut the grass as quickly as possible, often 4 times a year, and then shift the cuttings into silage bags. Farmers also need slurry tanks to hold the waste washed from the barns plus slurry tankers to cart the stuff to deposit on the fields, often along busy roads at high speed. They also need to improve their own infrastructure to carry this frequently used heavyweight.  No wonder 1 in 20 dairy farmers went to the (albeit dry stone) wall last year. 

Diary workers quit over working conditions  

Many dairy workers have been replaced by ever more accurate machines to feed, precisely measured amounts, and to milk and measure the production of the beasts. There are not now enough dairy workers.  A survey for ‘The Cattle Site’ found that four fifths of all respondents were worried by staff recruitment with almost a third considering leaving the industry due to a lack of dairy labour. 28% reported staff were leaving due to unsociable working hours. It may also have something to do with working inside all day. Clearly, they need a union. 

River damage to be paid for by the public purse

The environmental impacts of these changes are poorly understood, as they are poorly studied. One big issue are excessive phosphates going into rivers, causing ‘nutrient growth’ of algae taking oxygen and thus killing other river life. Half comes from yards and half from fields. The slurry is rich in phosphates which are not held in the ground well, and so washes off.  It may also be that the slurry soil works more anaerobically, so not as efficient as old-fashioned aerobic cow manure in holding the phosphate. But I cannot find any UK Land based research looking into this issue.  

The government announced in August this year - as part of unlocking the old EU’s ‘nutrient neutrality’ law- that £280m is going to be invested directly to rivers to improve slurry damage with 4000 farm inspections being carried out by 50 new inspectors. There is also a £25m innovative research programme to improve nutrient (phosphate) holding in soil.  Are the supermarkets going to fund these government costs, rather than coming out of taxpayer’s money, to make up for their cheap milk policy? 

The really big environmental issue concerns global warming. Cows are often blamed for their methane burps, yet the cow contribution to this major problem is much more complex. Cows in fields burp across the grass, where chemicals called ‘hydroxyl radicals’ (charged OH molecules), produced in sunlight by water on grass, break the methane up into less harmful water and carbon dioxide.

In the barns there are no radicals keeping things the methane down. Also, there are all those imported feed concentrates - £1.5 billion in imports from land that would be better left for trees or ranching. The two dairy footprints - one from grazing and the other from barns are wildly different. Our food carbon footprint makes its impression all over the world, when we could be using our grass better.

New approach needed

Imagine if we used the £1.5b worth of cattle feed going to people abroad to regenerate our soils, move the cows more easily, pay dairy workers living wages, and utilise our land to grow grass without polluting the rivers. And we’d have cows back in the fields to show off our countryside.

Ex-PM Johnson promised in June 2016 at Gisburn market that the existing farming subsidies would stay. He lied. They are going. Dairy farms will be hit by the losses.  Yet new ‘environmentally friendly’ farm subsidies are doing little to address the environmental issues of barn-bred cattle. Much money is going to consultants on unworkable schemes to attract inward investors, rather than the farmers themselves. 2,000 farmers signed up to the sustainable farming incentive (SFI) scheme. By August this year, it had paid out £10,692,415– less than 0.5% of the overall £2.4bn farming budget.


Can the breaking of their chains by enslaved persons inspire today's trade union movement?


Following the unveiling of a statue by Belfast City Council to former slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, Unite in Ireland wants his legacy and those of other enslaved persons such as Oloudah Equiano, born in Nigeria, to inspire today’s trade union movement.

Douglass was born into slavery in Maryland around 1818. He worked on a plantation. When he was sent to live in Baltimore as a house slave his mistress, not knowing it was illegal to educate slaves began teaching him to read. When though the slave master ended this the experience, Douglass continued his education by swapping food scraps to poor white children in exchange of knowledge.

At 18, Douglas was reading about the abolitionist movement. In 1838 he escaped, using faked papers, to New Bedford, Mass. In 1841 he gave his first anti-slavery oration speaking boldly and honestly about life as a slave and the traumas it leaves behind. He thereafter became a national leader of the abolitionist movement.  

Chattel slavery was to be outlawed on 6 December 1865. Douglass, who wrote three autobiographies, died in 1895. Six years earlier he became the United States ambassador to Haiti where slaves, on what was then known as Saint-Domingue, waged between 1791-1804 the first successful revolution under the leadership of former slave and first black general Toussaint Louverture and by defeating Napoleon Bonaparte’s forces achieved freedom.

August 23rd is the International Day for Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition which Unite marked by its regional equalities officer Taryn Trainor stating “Today commemorates the insurrection in Saint-Domingue by self-liberated slaves – an event which played a crucial role in the eventual abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and reminds us that abolition was driven and eventually won by enslaved and formerly enslaved persons.

“Earlier this year, we welcomed the unveiling of a statue to former slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, funded by Belfast City Council. Douglass, like Oloudah Equiano in the previous century, travelled throughout Ireland, and was supported by a network of determined anti-slavery activists, women and men, from Cork to Belfast. They knew that, as Frederick Douglass pointed out, there can be no progress without struggle. 

 “As trade unionists, the fight for abolition reminds us that struggle must always be informed and directed by those most directly affected.”

When Douglass travelled to Britain and Ireland in the 1840s his lectures excited great interest and now that Belfast has become the first in Europe to honour Frederick Douglass there are plans in places such as Halifax to erect plaques at some of the locations he spoke at.

The life-sized bronze statue in Belfast is located at Rosemary Street, close to where Douglass addressed crowds in 1845.

Ms Trainor concluded:

“The impact of chattel slavery continues to resonate today – not just in monuments and the names of public buildings and spaces, but also in the ongoing discrimination faced by people of African descent.

 “As attempts are made by far-right actors to stir up hatred, fear and anger against migrants and refugees, many fleeing war and oppression, trade unions must draw inspiration from the movement to end slavery and work side-by-side with those being targeted by these messages of hate to build an inclusive society.”

Belfast historian and tour guide Dr Tom Thorpe said the statue was appropriate as the statue "takes us into a history which united us rather than divides us.

"The anti-slavery cause was followed by people from across the political divide, unionists and nationalists, but also from the Catholic and Presbyterian communities.”