Words & Photos: Mark Stevenson
A couple of years ago I was out and about when I noticed a few ladies sat outside (what used to be a sandwich shop) with a fire going in a metal bin and if I remember rightly baking some potatoes in it. It turns out the shop was now the base for the Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange – Leeds Gate.
Next to them was a lorry with a Gypsy Caravan or Vardo on it. The ladies were kind enough to let me take some pics of it.
Gypsies have been camping around West Leeds for probably hundreds of years and whenever they camp they seem to be met with nothing but hostility.
Most of the said hostility towards Gypsy and Travellers seems to be because of the mess some leave. Most of the crime and mess in Leeds is committed by White British Males. There’s good and bad in every community.
It has been said that the way people talk about Gypsies and Travellers that it is akin to a form of racism.
Take the Travellers that are now camped at Kirkstall Leisure Centre. I bet a pound to a penny no-one went out to them to ask “how are you doing, can I help?”.
Did you know that many Gypsies/Travellers live in houses or in their caravans on private or public land? Some live in short term camps around West Yorkshire.
Gypsies and Travellers are a recognised Ethnic Minorities, with around 7,000 in West Yorkshire.
The average life expectancy for Gypsies and Irish Travellers in Leeds is about 50 years of age.