University of Leeds news – Representing Gypsy lives at the University of Leeds

A new exhibition at the University of Leeds explores visual, historical and fictional representations of the Gypsy and Traveller community.

Rights and Romance: Representing Gypsy Lives is the latest exhibition at the University’s Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery.

In the 50th year of the controversial Caravan Sites Act, this exhibition examines the changing perspectives on, and representations of, the Gypsy and Traveller community by those outside it – alongside the stories and voices of the community itself.

Opening on 1 March and running until 31 July, the exhibition focuses on the designated Gypsy, Traveller and Roma Collections held by Special Collections at the University of Leeds.

The community has played an integral role in selecting objects from the collection for display. Some of the items exhibited have been chosen by members of Leeds GATE (Gypsy And Traveller Exchange) and the Gypsyville heritage group, and are interpreted using their words.

Amanda, a member of the Gypsy community who was involved in sharing stories and selecting photographs and artwork to go on display, said:

“I really wanted to get involved with the exhibition so I could take my grandchildren to see their culture. We go to a lot of museums across the country, but we rarely see our heritage on display. I can’t wait to share this with them.”

The collection was gathered by Dorothy Una Ratcliffe (or D.U.R. as she was known). D.U.R. was not a Gypsy woman, and her collection reflects an outsider’s admiration for Gypsy and Traveller culture.

Dr Jodie Matthews of the University of Huddersfield, co-curator of the exhibition, said


“Dorothy Una Ratcliffe celebrated the various folk cultures of Yorkshire and further afield, and saw Gypsies as an important group in British social life.”


“The fact that Dorothy Una Ratcliffe gave her collection to Leeds University in 1950, along with funds to increase the collection, means that this archive of representations of Gypsy life is available for us to try to understand both positive and negative attitudes towards this community in the past.”


The Gypsy, Traveller and Roma Collections have been the focus of an important National Cataloguing Grant.

Rights and Romance: Representing Gypsy Lives, opens on Thursday 1 March at the Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery and runs until 31 July, 2018. Entry is free. For more details and opening times, visit

Further information

Images are downloadable from this Google Drive (please note captions and credits in the Word file in the folder).

The exhibition will be available for press previews from 22 February and Dr Jodie Matthews is available for interview. To arrange a visit or interview please contact Laura Beare, Marketing & Galleries Assistant Manager, on or 0113 343 9267.

Leeds GATE

Leeds GATE is a member’s organisation for Gypsy and Traveller people in West Yorkshire.

Our aim is to improve quality of life for our communities. We work in partnership to address the issues which affect our homes, our health, our education and employment, and our circumstances within UK society.



Gypsyville Heritage Group

The online Gypsyville Heritage group was established in 2014. It is a space where members can share their photos, stories and history. The group has over 4000 members, and is a key resource for family history research.

Treasures of the Brotherton

The Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery, situated beneath the iconic Parkinson tower, takes visitors on a journey through the University’s renowned Special Collections. The Gallery has been made possible thanks to players of the National Lottery – a grant of almost £1.4m from the Heritage Lottery Fund – and a generous private donation from the Brotherton-Ratcliffe family.

  • Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery is open 10am-5pm Tuesday-Saturday and 1-5pm on Monday. Admission is free. Parkinson Building, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT. Telephone 0113 343 9803 or email

Public events:

A varied programme of public events will be held to accompany the exhibition. Highlights include:

Full details of the events programme can be found at, or pick up a What’s On leaflet.