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Hatfield Court


Nr Leominster



February 2002

Professor Liégoise

Gypsy Research Centre

Université René Descartes

45 Rue des Saintes Pères

Paris Cedex 06


Copy: Bill Foster

Dear Professor Liégoise

Rokkering to the Gorjios

Thank you very much for making the new edition of this book possible.

I think you mentioned, in a recent ‘Interface’, that you would be reviewing ‘Rokkering to the Gorjios’ in due course.

Looking at your coverage of Ilona Lackova’s ‘A False Dawn’ in Interface 39, I thought you might be interested in the following quotes, both from the new edition and from the press at the time of its original publication.

Also, if you were thinking of printing an extract from the book, some of the Johnny Connors material would stand up well in contrast to the Ilona Lackova material. So would a number of other contributors to the book, I feel.

Quotes about Rokkering to the Gorjios

‘Jeremy Sandford’s book was something totally new. Before this most things written about Gypsies were either out-of-date romantic rubbish or racist; often all three together. So, as a young Gypsy, I found Jeremy’s book thoroughly enlightening. Here were Gypsy people speaking for themselves.’ Charlie Smith, Chair of the Gypsy Council (GCECWCR) in his foreword (pages 9-10).

‘Mr Sandford’s plea is urgent.’ The Observer

‘In Gypsies the shock warning is that unless there is a change in legislation, the Gypsy community, harassed by obnoxious policemen and an ignorant public, will be destroyed.’ The Times

‘This collection of documents brings vividly before us, often on the same page or in the same sentence, the astonishing vigour of Romany culture, its pride and colour, its wit and tenacity, and, alongside that, the “squalor of rubbish tips and refuse dumps … the endless series of evictions … the sprawl and concrete of our local authority sites” which now forms its real environment.’ New Society

‘The Gypsies have a powerful advocate in Jeremy Sandford, the author of Cathy Come Home and Edna, the Inebriate Woman.’ The Yorkshire Post

‘Sandford skilfully reveals the Gypsy at what is probably the moment of his greatest threat.’ The Sunday Times

‘As a work of research it is ideal.’ The Evening News

The blurb in the University of Hertford edition is, I submit, not completely right in its emphasis and should, I suggest, be closer to what follows.

Rokkering to the Gorjios: British Romany Gypsies speak in their own words of their hopes, fears and aspirations

Compiled and edited by Jeremy Sandford

A revised edition of a classic work celebrating Gypsy lifestyle and culture, which for the first time gave British Gypsies the opportunity to address non-Gypsies – Rokker to the Gorjios – in their own words.

Jeremy Sandford, already well-known as author of the television classic “Cathy Come Home”, at the request of members of the Gypsy Council, of which he was a member, travelled the length and breadth of the country in the early seventies, talking to Romany Gypsies and recording in their own words the stories of their lives, hopes, fears and aspirations. The book’s vivid picture of the Romany world features Gypsies living in trailer caravans, tents, on boats, in horse-drawn caravans and in houses.

Now reissued with a new introduction and a foreword and afterword by Charlie Smith, Chairman of the Gypsy Council (GCECWCR), it provides a vivid picture of the Gypsy way of life. Little has changed and the words of these Gypsies remain as valid today as when they were first spoken or written.

It will give children a more realistic idea of Gypsies than what they pick up from gossip in the playground and headlines in local papers and make them more understanding of their worries and concerns and tolerant of persons from other cultures including the lonely Gypsy child whose ancestors left India a thousand years ago – sitting at the next desk in their classroom.

Lavishly illustrated with stunning period photographs, this book is a testament to the startling resilience of Romany culture and poses questions about what the future holds in store for the Gypsies.

Suggestions for Further Editions

It is particularly exciting to me that the book may also be published in other parts of Europe. I understand that you’ll be the person to relate to about other editions and I would now like to outline, if I may, some things I hope might be possible in the new editions.

  1. The Irish Pavee woman on the cover; for a book in which Gypsies speak honestly and from the heart about their predicament to the Gorjios, someone with a frank and open countenance would be needed, such as a number of photographs in the book, for example on pages 38, 43, 44, 91, 107, 122 and 139. Much though I like the idea of her as a person, I do not think that this woman conveys an impression of honesty and forthrightness; rather the reverse, she seems to me to be a bit of a stereotypical ‘deceitful Gypsy’.

Furthermore, this book is by and about British Romany Gypsies and not about the Irish Pavees who are, of course, of different racial stock with a different language (Cant). Only one of the sixteen or so Gypsies in the book, Johnny Connors, speaks of Ireland and even this is within the context of having spent most of his life in England and his largely Romany ancestry. So I feel a Pavee is inappropriate to pin to our masthead.

Especially in the rest of Europe, the person on the cover of this book will be taken to be representative of British Romany Gypsies as a whole. The woman is not a Romany Gypsy and, even if she were, is I believe not likely to lead to sales of this book or respect for the Romany people.

b) Another thing that concerns me is that, on the title page, your designer has omitted the subtitle to the book! The subtitle is not printed till page 3, and even there is very small.

The Anglo-Romany language of ‘Rokkering to the Gorjios’ is only known to very few people and most of the general public throughout Europe will be mystified by it. That is why it is so important that the subtitle should appear with it. The best subtitle is probably ‘British Romany Gypsies speak in their own words of their hopes, fears and aspirations’.

Leaving out the subtitle will, I believe, lose us a huge number of potential buyers because the average member of the public will assume that, like its title, the book is in a foreign language and will not take the trouble to turn the page and discover the small subtitle that explains what it means and what the book is about.

Therefore I think it most important to have this subtitle on the front cover, as Anglo-Romany is not well-known in this country or in any other country where the book is likely to be published.

The subtitle should also, I believe, be much larger on the first page as we go into the book.

  1. As the son of a publisher and the father of a publisher, I was brought up with the truism that it is colour that sells books. Since colour was available (see back cover) it seems very ill-advised that it was not used on the front cover. I have one or two colour prints, which I will be happy to send, which would be ideal.

Back cover; I think both Charlie and I make the point that not much has changed for Gypsies in the thirty years since the book was compiled and I don’t think the phrases “rapidly changing” and “vanishing” in the current blurb really reflect what is in the book. I suggest that when it is reprinted it should be roughly along the lines stated earlier. And it might be good to also find space for a couple of good quotes from the press from when it first appeared or alternatively from reviews it has got this time round.

In view of these three points I would like to request that, before the book is published in any other country, there is an opportunity for further discussion about the cover and if possible that it be replaced with a design in colour, with a different illustration, and with the subtitle.

Anyway, none of this should qualify my gratitude to you for making the book available in print once again – and many thanks for sending me the website stuff.

With best wishes

Jeremy Sandford


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