York’s Gypsy communities used to travel around the city to different areas, known as stopping places. Changes in the law and the increased speed of eviction notices has made this traditional way of life harder – but are there creative ways of planning for traditions of transit in the future?
Lorraine: The first time I remember staying in York, pulling into different places, was with me Mam and Dad. I’d be about nine or ten. We were always very clean. My mam would even sweep the fire and put some earth on top. Before we went onto James Street we used to stop on Poppleton Lane where the garden centre is now. Challaces, it used to be called. We also used to stop on Bad Bargain, Clifton Backies and we used to stop where Tesco’s now is. It wasn’t Tesco’s then it was just the aerodrome. From one area of the town to the other, but just on the edges where it was countrified.
Kally: What happened is they built James Street and it ruined the Travellers. We’d have been better on what we called the Tip. Even after we’d moved on the James Street, we’d still duck up on Back Bargain fields. We had a better lifestyle, we were much healthier and much happier. None of these problems with the Council on your back. Because on the Tip they never evicted you off, Sugar Beet they never evicted you off. They were the two main stopping points.
Lorraine: All the way up to Jewson was common land. We used to stop on common land, we’d stop on car parks. We were on there we were on the tip — it was common land. James Street, was just a tip. They never really came after you on the Gas Works Car Park either.
Kally: They didn’t have any plans for it.
Lorraine: But as soon as plans start going…
Kally: …we’d have started getting eviction notices.
Lorraine: In time we would.
Kally: I remember we pulled on the Clifton Backies and we stopped, we got evicted and they took us to court. They came a took us off and you know where they took us, to Malton Road that café, they moved us there, they towed us away to Malton Road.
Christine: They must have taken you into Rydale local authority area as it was.
Lorraine: So they took you from one area to another Council’s area, ‘so that was their problem then’
Debi: How long were you there for?
Kally: Not long because we moved back into York.
Lorraine: They’d done a court order and they evicted you, but then you came back and it was then another six week’s process to get you out.
Kally: So we moved somewhere else in York. They moved us on, we stopped overnight, then went back to the York, the Tip after that. The Tip was always there but you’d get bored. People would just get bored so we would maybe go to Bad Bargain and then it was back to the Terrace car park.
Lorraine: You’d be lucky if eviction takes 24 hours today. There were Christmas time camps, any holiday time we waited until it was all clear and then all pull on, even if you had to wait until 8pm at night. If you went on just before Christmas you’d know that they wouldn’t come after you until after new year. The law changed that was why we all put our names down to stay on James Street. We did a big campaign but they said we wouldn’t be allowed to stop up and down. So those that live around this town, we all put our names down for the sites.
Being able to travel for work or to attend dances and fairs was a traditional part of Gypsy life which has been made harder in recent years. Yet there are creative possibilities from transit sites which enable short stays through to negotiated stopping, as they do in Leeds, where the Local Authority works with Gypsy families and local resident to broker short term agreements.
In the Local Plan there is a provision protecting York’s historic environment. But can we also start to see different ways of life and traditions – as part of the city’s heritage?