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Press Release

(April 1999)

David Essex to be Guest of Honour

at First Film Premiere ever to be held

in a Tent at a Gypsy Horse Fair

Jeremy Sandford: 01568 760333

Gypsy Council: 01708 868986

Rock star David Essex, well known for his starring roles in ‘Godspell’, ‘Stardust’ and ‘That’ll be the Day’, will on May 13th be guest of honour at what will for sure be his most unusual film premiere ever.

The venue – the Romany Gypsy Horse Fair, held twice a year on Gypsy owned land at Stow-on-the-Wold, the picturesque small town in the Cotswolds, in a tent.

The film – ‘Spirit of the Gypsies’, a 75 minute celebration of Gypsy music and lifestyle, produced and directed by Herefordshire film maker Jeremy Sandford.

‘Spirit of the Gypsies’ follows a succession of Jeremy Sandford’s films, all of them very successful. His best known, ‘Cathy Come Home’, which he wrote and researched single-handed and was directed by Ken Loach, effected actual change in government policies and was recently voted the best single TV drama ever by Radio Times readers.

David Essex presents and introduces ‘Spirit of the Gypsies’ in a charismatic cameo ten minute sequence. After demonstrating his skill in controlling the frisky horse that is pulling his bouncy trotting gig, David joins Gypsies in a typical Romany fireside session. Stirring the embers with a stick, David speaks of the importance to him of his own Romany Gypsy and Irish Pavee Traveller heritage.

He proudly introduces us to his Gypsy mother from whose wisdom he claims he learned so much that has been important to him in life. David and Mum, Dolly, then dance together in a typical Romany Gypsy step dance session.

‘The film is a wild riot of horses, colour and music’ – that’s the verdict of film maker Jeremy Sandford who finished the final cut of the picture yesterday.

‘It features the talents of six well-known Gypsy performers and singers. They are present in the context where they normally perform; on the Gypsy sites, at a museum of Gypsy culture and heritage, and at the horse fairs which are so important for this scattered people as a place to get together.’

David Essex, who became an OBE in this year’s honours and is Patron of the Gyspy Council, says, ‘My mother taught me always to be proud and never to deny that you are a Gypsy. Gypsies are free range people and Gypsy songs are songs of the open road, of wandering and of liberty. A land without Gypsies is a land without freedom!’

To capture all the rawness and exuberance of British Gypsy song and dance at its best, Sandford brought over the award winning cameraman Nicholas Gifford from the Pas de Calais area of France. ‘I brought him over,’ says Sandford, ‘because he was the most accomplished of all possible candidates for the job.’ Other sequences were shot by the brilliant up-and-coming young cameraman from Chile, Jamie Lamprea.

Sandford says, ‘Nic was impressed. He is familiar with the Django Rheinhardt and Flamenco type music played by the French and Spanish Gypsies at places like the great Gypsy festival at Les Saintes Maries de la Mere. The music of our British Gypsies, similar in its romantic passion but putting down its roots in our own British tradition and very different musically, was a revelation to him.’

The film features the exotic caravans and artwork favoured by many of today’s Gypsies as well as the horse-drawn caravans still favoured by some traditional Romanies.

Sandford says, ‘We show the bustle and exuberance of the great Romany horse fairs and weddings and also the loneliness and solitude of some of the remoter ‘hatchintans’ or ‘park-ups’.

Among the many songs featured are ‘Romany Rai’, ‘Keep on Roaming’ and ‘I’m a Freeborn Man of the Travelling People’.

Prestigious Gypsy singers Ted Atkinson, Mic and Susie Darling, Mark O’Gallaidhe and Peter Ingrams are among the Gypsy artistes featured.

The 75 minute film was commissioned by the Gypsy Council who plan to distribute it throughout the British Isles. It is also available from Jeremy Sandford’s Hatfield Court Studios near Leominster in Herefordshire. The film was made possible by generous grants from Leader II, the Elmley Foundation and Arts for Everyone.

It is the Gypsy Council’s intention that the film will also be offered for sale, with a multilingual inlay, to Romany Gypsy communities throughout Europe. An approach has been made to the Centre des Etudes Tziganes in Paris as possible distributors. They are funded by the European Union to facilitate educational and cultural exchanges between the various Gypsy communities in Europe.

To trail-blaze Gypsy culture in Europe alongside the film, Sandford’s book ‘Rockering to the Gorjios’ (speaking our minds to the non-Gypsy people) is currently being translated for the Centre des Etudes prior to its publication in a number of European countries, stretching from Romania to Spain and Ireland. In this country it is to be published by the University of Hertford Press.

Romany Charlie Smith, who is himself a poet as well as being Chair of the Gypsy Council, says, ‘Romany Gypsies have been accepted as the European Union’s most important stateless minority. As a result funds have been made available for cultural exchange between the two million Gypsies of West European countries. This film will introduce our British Gypsies to their European cousins.’

Never before screened, David’s Gypsy mother Dolly is also featured in the film and you can certainly see where he got some of his singing talent from when she breaks into a brief but highly professional rendering of ‘I Should Have Been a Gypsy Long Ago!’

As already mentioned, the film’s premiere will be in a tent at the Gypsy Horse Fair at Stow-on-the-Wold on 13th May 1999. There will also be premieres in London, Herefordshire and other parts of the country in due course.


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