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Stop Anti-Traveller Racism At Leeds Common Place

No Racism at The Common Place | 24.02.2011 10:29 | Anti-racism | Culture | Social Struggles | Sheffield

(How much lower can The Common Place sink?)

Leeds has a large Traveller community, who like Travellers, Gypsies and Roma throughout Europe, get little or no respect. Despite being persecuted by the Nazis, and in spite of their recognised status under British race laws, they are still widely discriminated against and are subject to racial abuse and racist violence. They are perhaps the last group to be seen as a legitimate target for racist ‘humour’ and face increasing persecution both in the UK and across Europe.

To add to their many existing woes however, Leeds Travellers now face a new and perhaps unexpected foe - This Saturday, February 26th, The Common Place, Leeds supposed ‘radical’ social centre will be hosting ‘Gypsy Nightmare’ where the same sort of sneering middle-class idiots that previously organised ‘Chav’ nights, now invite you to come and take the piss out of an invented Gypsy ‘culture’ - Which has about as much to do with real Traveller culture as the Oxbridge boat race.

So we are told to expect a night of wild music performed by fake ‘Gypsies’ such as ‘DJ Shirley B**stard’ and ‘bizarre sideshows’ presented by ‘Madame Laycock’. To further take the piss guests are told to dress in their ‘wildest attire’ – presumably like ‘real’ Gypsies. Can’t you just imagine the sneering of art-school racists attempting to caricature people they clearly see as some sort of circus act?

The Common Place should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves for accepting a racist event which seeks to demean and belittle a minority group who already suffer widespread persecution. The Bookings Collective should be forced to resign for their insensitivity and made to attend Racial Awareness classes and the organisers of the event should be banned from future use of the building.

Despite already receiving complaints from members of Leeds Traveller community and from other Common Place users, the event is still scheduled to go ahead. So we are going to have to teach the organizers something that forms a part of real Gypsy culture, the constant threat of eviction. We are calling on all anti-racists, antifascists, activists, Common Place members, Travellers, and anyone who is sickened by the sneering racism of this event to help stop it taking place. Please come and show your opposition to the event and stand in solidarity against racism in all its forms.




‘Gypsy Nightmare’ contact:

Common Place: 0845 345 7334

You can also complain to Leeds Racial Equality Council at:

Please forward as widely as possible on lists, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.

No Racism at The Common Place
- Homepage:


comment transferred from northern imc:

24.02.2011 12:35

As someone who has help out (only very little) at the Common Place I find this article hard reading. The main reason the Common Place is going is so that Common Conversation has a home, a place giving free english lessons to refugees. If you have come to Common Conversation and seen the 50 or so people eating and chatting away with bus fares paid for than you will know how important the space can be. At most meetings there are about 5 people who stay up late on weekends trying to keep it running. I would love for someone to come to a meeting an raise these points but this feels more like a smear than an opportunity to engage. The bookings collective has two exhausted volunteers.

If more people were involved then we might have noticed that this event was controversial and had productive dialogue early on. I think there are lots of issues this raises and we could certainly have been dealt it better but the Common Place needs energy to be able to do this. Not an excuse but we are fighting a £15 000 court fee, environmental health threatening to close us down and down and only a handful of volunteers. We are also trying to deal fallout from having a cop as our company directors.


reposted from northern indymedia

24.02.2011 13:54

as someone involved in an autonomous social centre that is part of the same uk wide network as the common place i am both angry, disgusted and so very very despairing of this.

having known that the common place was financially struggling, i had previously been feeling quite sad at the potential loss of an autonomous space in leeds, and another one gone in the uk. but really, my sympathy and desire to help support the common place has been completely destroyed by this.

across the rest of the uk there are people working incredibly hard right now to mobilise for the upcoming eviction of dale farm, and within this to counter the virulent racism and stigmatising of gypsy and traveller communities across the world. and autonomous social centres are playing a key role in being part of uk wide radical infrastructure offering a home to events, meetings, mobilisations on this matter.

i cannot accept the comments made my nab. this just seems to be classic racism deflection. yes, the common place is skint, yes, there are environmental health problems, yes, there was a cop. these are facts, not excuses. and placing them within this context merely serve to shift attention from calling racism, racism.

equally, of course nobody would want the common conversations project to completely fall apart in leeds. but again, this does not mean that we should continue to support the common place. if people think the project is really that important, it will find a new home. and politically, using one "minority" group's needs to excuse the stereotyping of another "minority" group is deeply suspicious. capitalism pits "us" against "them" continously in order to create hierarchies and divisions.. we must refuse to play this game in any form.

this situation is more than "controversial", and it only ever needs one person to call out racism, and say no to an event of this kind happening.

not being based in leeds i cannot comment on how the community there should manage this situation. and in terms of the political positioning of the common place, it is evident that things have not been going well for a really really long time. maybe it's time to let one thing go, and for a new centre with considered politics, effort and community support to fill its place....



24.02.2011 14:53


We are really sorry for offending the Gypsy and Traveller community and everyone else who has been offended by the event title and event 'A Gypsy Nightmare'. The title or night has nothing to do with targeting the gypsy and traveller community. It's called a 'gypsy nightmare' because it's trying to describe the music we play and the other bands at the event. In the past we have been described as Gypsy Music many times in reviews and so have the other bands.

When we named the night we just thought about this musical link and I suppose the Romanticism of Eastern Europe back in 1400's. It is a one off event to raise funds for Royal Park School to stay open. An event we were hoping would make people enjoy the music we play and have some fun. Some fun at nobody else's expense. I know it's at a very late stage but we want to change the name to 'Madam Laycock presents...' and apologise for any offence caused to anyone. We have been in contact with GATE apologising and explaining why we chose the name.

Sincerely Sorry,

Madam Laycock and her Dabeno Pleasures

Madam Laycock and her Dabeno Pleasures (from Northern)
- Homepage:


24.02.2011 17:38


The CommonPlace would like to apologise for not acting earlier with regard to the racist implications of this event. We are happy to see an apology and explanation from the promoters, and see this as a sincere willingness to make amends

The promoters have responded to complaints and concerns they have received regarding the way the event is represented on their advertising. They have recognised, as have we, how it could give the wrong, and wholly unintended, impression. They are also considering splitting the funds raised from the event with a traveller support group, as suggested by one person who raised a complaint.

The name of the event has been changed and there is an open meeting tonight (8pm) to try and decide what else needs to be done.

Please read the full text here:

The Commonplace
mail e-mail:
- Homepage:

Divide and Conquer

25.02.2011 00:45

I work for Leeds GATE (see web link) and a few weeks ago I emailed the organisers of this event about the flyer I had seen in my local. I outlined the dreadful health status and homeless situation which Leeds Gypsies and Travellers face (a life expentency of 50) and spoke about the offence that could be caused. I got a good positive response from the organisers, who appologised. I do believe that they did not intend any offence by the title & theme of this night, ill-conceived though it clearly was.

We deal with Leeds City Council evicting families with babies, old people(many leeds born and bred) who have no safe place to put their caravan. Leeds has one Traveller site, which is full with a long waiting list. To live in a house for many of these people would be like a prison sentence.

I am amazed, impressed and encouraged to see such passion here backing the Gypsy Traveller cause in the Leeds area. However I am also suspicious that some are jumping on this cause in order to have a dig at the Common Place. Where are you when our families are being evicted? Where are your comments to the YEP when they publish a racist article? For years we have felt quite alone in this battle and not been backed (actively) by the left in Leeds.

So if you would like more information on how to help the cause and join 'Friends Of GATE' newsletter mailout, please contact me.

To Mark, all I can assume is that your wife is not from the Leeds area. I think Leeds people have risen above much of the divison between Gypsies and Irish Travellers, many families are married in to each other and English and Irish get on very well. How dare you say that Irish Travellers are just people who turn their hand to anything, what do you mean? 'Tinkers?' 'Settled people who came out of their houses during the Potato Famine?' These are total fallacies but all too commonly believed. Irish Travellers also have a rich history dating back over 1000 years, Gypsies originated from south central Pakistan (then India) and they were part of an army, not evicted from their land. Please don't start bring in divisions between the two groups, which I fear that is something that has held back the Traveller Civil Rights Movement for years.

(By the way, as I'm sure most of you are aware, 'Travellers' as the umbrella term should have a capital 'T', as should 'Gypsies' )

Thanks again to all those supporting us.


Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange

mail e-mail:
- Homepage:

A response

25.02.2011 12:10

I am one of the people outraged by the promotion of this event at The Common Place and the original poster. I can assure some posters that I do not sit at home all day on the internet since I do not have a home internet connection and had to walk two miles to make my post yesterday. As an active antifascist I certainly have better things to do than confronting lazy racist stereotyping at an event at a supposedly ‘radical’ social centre, and am sickened to have to do so. It’s not so long ago that I had to speak to someone previously involved in running The Commonplace about using the phrase ‘dirty pikey’.

Claire, I don’t know where you have got your suspicions about the hard-working anti-racists concerned about this event, but I hope that you will lay them aside. As for myself, I was fighting with council workers evicting Travellers as a teenager in Sheffield in the 1970’s. I have shared prison cells with Travellers, count them among my close friends, and my former partner is a Traveller. Like myself, she is also a Common Place member and an antifascist, and is absolutely livid about this and similar events. Unfortunately she is out of the country until Sunday, but I’m sure you’ll be hearing from her when she returns (she used to work at Cottingley Advice incidentally). The organizers of this event may have apologised to you when you complained to them several weeks ago, and you have not been the only person to complain, but they carried on promoting their event in exactly the same form as before. It was only when threatened with disruption to their event that they began to reconsider the wisdom of choosing such an offensive name. Despite apologising and saying that they won’t use the name ‘Gypsy Nightmare’ on the night, the event seems to be the same as before, complete with ‘gypsy DJ Shirley B**tard’.

The decision to host ‘Gypsy Nightmare’ at The Common Place was apparently taken by only one or two people, so for them to personalise this issue and to try and hide behind The Common Place, claiming that opposition to a blatantly offensive event is “an attack on The Common Place” or “a smear” is pathetic. I was one of the first members of The Common Place, and I imagine that most Common Place members are as appalled by the idea of a ‘Gypsy Nightmare’ as I am. The attempts by some posters on this thread to hide behind the people who use Common Conversation remind me of racist comedian Jim Davidson’s references to his mate ‘Chalky’. Common Conversation is run autonomously by hard working people who are nothing to do with this, anymore than those who attend it are. All right-thinking people would be disgusted by this event.

It would be good to see a sincere apology from The Common Place Bookings Collective for the offence they have caused, but for me the one so far offered agreeing with their mates the organizers is more about self-justification than contrition and it smacks of arrogance and even deceit rather than sincerity. The people concerned seem more bothered about being called on their behaviour rather than their behaviour itself. Let’s put this event in context, The Common Place have in the past blocked both an antifascist film day and an antifascist social, yet they were happy to accept an event called ‘Gypsy Nightmare’, they promoted it in all its offensive glory on the Common Place website and garish posters bearing the name were prominently displayed around the building, to claim the event somehow “fell through the cracks” is rubbish. Just how stupid would you have to be to think that an event called ‘Gypsy Nightmare’ would NOT cause offence? Everyone I know has reacted with immediate horror to this, and we’re supposed to be the ‘thick’ ones. Now we are being patronised for not seeing that it was all just a silly misunderstanding?

The language of the apology from the organizers at least sounds more contrite, but they had the opportunity weeks ago to amend the offensive name and nature of this event and chose to keep advertising it regardless. Are they saying that their music, the least offensive thing about the event, is a ‘nightmare’? Is ‘nightmare’ just a bland and random word or a word linked to 1400’s ‘Romanticism’? More likely, one of their number has been watching too much racist stereotyping on TV. Not every person who uses racist language or imagery does so with hatred in their heart, but it does not alter the fact of what they’ve done. This sort of lazy cultural stereotyping is nothing new and certainly not confined to Travellers. People should not have to be challenged about it, they should educate themselves. They are using what is supposed to be a ‘political’ and ‘safe’ space afterall.

Yesterday, I heard a lot of ‘How could we/they possibly be racist’ from supposedly educated people who should know better. Racism is racism whether it involves your friends or not and it should ALWAYS be challenged, as should the belittling and lazy stereotyping involved in this and other events. You shouldn’t need to be called on this.

Where the money made from this event goes is largely irrelevant, but if the organizers are ‘considering’ donating money to a Traveller support project they have been slow to actually make any commitment. I suggested that they should be making such a donation when I spoke to the author of their statement before it was issued yesterday. If the organizers have belatedly discovered something of the reality of being a Gypsy in Leeds and are genuinely willing to play a proper respectful benefit fair play to them. However, this night is an abomination, the apologies offered so far are way too little too late. They have caused deep offense and they continue to be offensive, and this event should in my view continue to be opposed.

Mark Barnsley

Leeds GATE

25.02.2011 14:01

Leeds GATE have certaily NOT offered our full support to the night, as stated in my comment above we raised our concerns, we felt that they had been listened to and in light of this being a charity fund raiser we were satisfied that the organisers had not meant to cause offence.

The organisers of the event are also NOT working with GATE to create a future funding event, this is not true.

I will paste the email conversation we had about a week and a half ago below..... Representatives of GATE will be outside the venue tonight and look forward to talking to all those involved, we were unable to make the meeting last night at such short notice.

....with the last one first (obviously) here is the email conversation


Thank you. I've had a look at the organisation, I really like the culture section and the Childrens writing and poetry and what your organisation is doing. Did you also do the TV Documentary? If you ever want us to do any gigs for you, please ask. And sorry again for offending anyone.


--- On Wed, 16/2/11, Claire Graham wrote:

From: Claire Graham
Subject: RE: Gypsy Nightmare
To: "Madam Laycock"
Date: Wednesday, 16 February, 2011, 9:54

Hi Mildred, thank you for your quick and honest reply. I am aware of Gypsy music and understand how yourselves have been connected with it in. Thanks for taking on the points I have raised. Here is a link that tells you a little more about the community in Leeds

Claire Graham (Advocacy Development Worker)
Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange
Ground Floor, Crown Point House
169 Cross Green Lane
Tel. 01132009042

From: Madam Laycock [mailto:]
Sent: 16 February 2011 00:16
To:; Claire Graham
Subject: Re: Gypsy Nightmare

Hello Claire,

I'm really sorry for offending you, others and your organisation. The title or night has nothing to do with targeting the gypsy and traveller community. It's called a 'gypsy nightmare' because it's trying to describe the music we play and the other bands at the event. In the past we have been described as Gypsy Music many times in reviews.

When we named the night we just thought about this musical link and I suppose the Romanticism of Eastern Europe back in 1400's. It is a one off event to raise funds for Royal Park School and if we plan another event at a later date we will think about using a different title as we really don't want to offend anyone.

Sincerely Sorry,

Madam Laycock and her Dabeno Pleasures

This is a link to a quick explanation of Gypsy Music,

--- On Tue, 15/2/11, Claire Graham wrote:

From: Claire Graham
Subject: Gypsy Nightmare
Date: Tuesday, 15 February, 2011, 16:58

Dear Madam Laycock, Dear Common Place,

I am writing to express my anguish for a night I saw advertised in my local pub last week. I do not wish to criticise your work I am aware of the fantastic work the Common Place does and that the evening is a much needed fundraiser for Royal Park School. I do however want to express my disappointment at the way ‘Gypsy’ has been used to advertise the above night.

Leeds GATE are one of very few voluntary sector organisation across the country that work with English Gypsies and Irish Travellers (both recognized ethnic groups Race Relations Amendment Act 1996 & 2000). As you probably already know the communities are faced with daily misunderstanding and stereotype. In 2006 GATE carried out a census in Leeds with over 1000 community members which found a life expectancy of 50 years of age. The community also suffer from high infant mortality and increased mental and physical health difficulties.

We do an awful lot of work trying to get the settled population ‘on our side’ lobbying the councils and local MPs to provide sites to deal with homeless families and dispel myths.

I believe the media has a lot to answer for with regards to many of these issues and I also believe that our fellow organizations with left leanings should shoulder some of the responsibility in challenging widely held poorly informed beliefs. ‘Gypsy Nightmare’ conjures up images of the exotic, other, the outsider, dark, mysterious, even dangerous. I don’t think its appropriate. I have also shown the flyer to a few community members who would agree.

I just wanted to raise this with you for consideration before you would go ahead and organize another night.

I would also appreciate an acknowledgement of this email, perhaps with your thoughts on the matter.

Claire Graham (Advocacy Development Worker)
Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange
Ground Floor, Crown Point House
169 Cross Green Lane
Tel. 01132009042

mail e-mail:

Let this be the end of all false speculation.

25.02.2011 18:34

To clarify re: GATEFriday, 25 February, 2011 15:23
From: "Madam Laycock" View contact details

Please could we just clarify that following a comment left on Indymedia which claimed GATE are fully backing this event and planning future events with Madam Laycock,

Madam Laycock did not post this comment. GATE do not back this event.

GATE will be represented by Claire on Saturday evening, who is welcome at the event where she will have literature about the organisation and happy to discuss any issues with anyone attending.

No future plans have been discussed or made between Madam Laycock and GATE. However, both are looking to take the positives from this situation, and will encourage others to do so.

Many thanks,

Madam Laycock

Mildred (Madam Laycock and her Dabeno Pleasures)

Event planned for Saturday 26th February

25.02.2011 21:47

This event has been cancelled. 
Serious complications have arisen at the last minute which we feel cannot be dealt with in the time available.
We hope to work closely with the promoters in the future on an exciting and inclusive event. 
We also hope to be able to help raise funds for Royal Park Consortium, and be in more frequent contact from now on with Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange (GATE).

- Homepage:

We fucked up about the proposed event "Gypsy Nightmare"

26.02.2011 11:24

As one of the Commonplace organising collective that night I wish to apologise not dealing with this matter earlier. I was at the meeting on Thursday and can confirm we were told Gate were behind the event. We were lied to on that night!

When the organising collective found out they had been lied to, by someone going round to GATE and checking personally, the process to get agreement to cancel the event was started immediately. No one tried to keep the event going. They all thought that 'we' had been lied to by the promoters so the event was off.

The first I knew about problems about the event was an email sent to the leedssocialcentre list on the morning of the 24th February with the general meeting that evening. Get in touch earlier if you have problems with a proposed event held at the Commonplace rather than leaving it to "the last minute". If you think 'our' overall politics' stink get more involved rather than sniping.




Display the following 92 comments

  1. I'll be there — Antifascist
  2. fairground nightmare... — bad name...
  3. Name — Bob
  4. With "gypsy DJ Shirley Bastard" — Sickening
  5. Royal Park School too?? — an on on
  6. Idiots! — af
  7. As above. — This isn't channel 4.
  8. About time — Leeds
  9. Not surprised, but not hard to sort out. — Nothardtosortout
  10. Roya Park school — CP Member
  11. This event cannot go ahead — Chapeltown Militia
  12. More racism from the common place? — @
  13. Apology — Not happy
  14. Apology — BB
  15. Sod the apology — Tom
  16. calm and reasonable response — robespierre
  17. Would Royal Park School welcome travellers? — Dello
  18. Apologism more like — Pissed-off activist
  19. Racism is wrong — I make mistakes
  20. To Robespierre — Anon
  21. FFS — Someone
  22. calm down dears... — Social centre volunteer
  23. Keep calm everyone... — Outraged of Tunbridge Wells
  24. Shifting the blame — Antifascist
  25. Not helping — Disillusioned
  26. Offence, hmm — Mark
  27. Common Place apology? Or denial? — Jock
  28. Common Place apology? Or denial? — Jock
  29. And this — ...
  30. Mark — Sam Lee
  31. Mark, you seem to be insinuating that Irish Travellers/Gypsies are...... — Anarchist
  32. Fellow Travellers — Old git
  33. Maybe its a generational thing — S
  34. Brief response to the Common Place non-apology — Caravan Club
  35. Raising funds to help a community!! — Ali
  36. deeply shocked — AF
  37. re GATE: — Tackle racism in the movement
  38. GATE LEEDS — David (repasted from Northern)
  39. An Axe to Grind — Ex-commoner
  40. Point missed again — Tackle racism in the movement
  41. Ex-Commoner — Mark Barnsley
  42. Antifascists at the CP — auntie fash
  43. personal attack — anti-racist
  44. Leeds GATE — Claireblue
  45. ps — anti-racist
  46. DodgyDave — ditto
  47. Promoted comments — IMCista
  48. GATE — Caravan Club
  49. FAO Claire — Leeds anti-racist
  50. The last straw — Mark Barnsley
  51. Support — GetagripAdam
  52. planks — concerned of gipton
  53. GATE — Leeds Lad
  54. Good Fucking Riddance! — Leeds anti-racist
  55. If this event has been cancelled... — Mark Barnsley
  56. 'Complications'? — Oops!
  57. decisions, decisions — Anarchist
  58. A moral victory — 26+6
  59. Good — Nod
  60. Still trying to shift the blame? — Tackle racism in the movement
  61. Ditto — Anti-racist
  62. Ditto — Anti-racist
  63. if only — me
  64. Stereotyping — Tackle racism in the movement
  65. Common Place — CAM
  66. Come clean — Antifascist
  67. Stop dodging the issue — Granny Smith
  68. The Common Place — A N Other
  69. OK, deep breath everyone... — Waiting for the threats and slag-offs...
  70. CP — Pat
  71. Threats?! — Antifascist
  72. So obvious — anon
  73. re: Waiting for the threats and slag-offs... — Tackle racism in the movement
  74. What a hypocrite — Stop trying to shift the blame
  75. Hypocrites — Leeds anti-racist
  76. Mixed feelings — Craig
  77. help — zywiec
  78. Just a fiasco? — Politically Correct
  79. Briefly — Okocim
  80. Zywiec — Getagrip
  81. Seems pretty obvious to me — Acts like a racist, talks like a racist, probably IS a racist
  82. "we hope to work closely with the promoters in the future"!!! — Gobsmacked
  83. Laycock's Lies — Pants On Fire
  84. Forgetting to breathe — Is it just me?
  85. Antifascist: contact me to talk about this — GPD
  86. Please put your hackles in — Trying 2 b helpful
  87. GPD — Antifascist (not the only one on this thread)
  88. Gypsies outdone in persecution — Getagrip
  89. The reality of the Common Place — Common as muck
  90. common as muck — tyskie
  91. Tyskie — RALMAO
  92. Hang on a minute Robespiere, are you having a laugh? — Bod Green


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