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Short films by Roma children in Leeds

'Our lives' and 'Our community' are short films made by Roma children about their lives in Leeds, using their own words and images. These films can be used in schools that want interesting audiovisual resources for awareness raising, to give a real sense of Roma children's lives in the UK.


Yorkshire Roma SOURCE commissioned these videos in 2012 as part of its aim to support the integration of Roma communities. Our thanks to the students and staff of Harehills Primary School in Leeds.

Making the videos - the producer's story

This is what Ciara Leeming, who produced the videos, says about herself and her work on this project:

Photo of young people at Harelhills Primary SchoolWhat we did

In order to get a real sense of Roma children's lives in the UK – and to create something which would appeal to and resonate with other young people – it was essential to involve them in the creative process.

Photographer Gemma Thorpe and I spent four mornings working with 10 Czech and Slovakian Roma children aged between six and 11 from Harehills Primary School in Leeds, having fun and getting them excited about taking photos and sharing aspects of their lives.

Photo of young people in a workshop at Harelhills Primary SchoolWe played camera-related games, drew pictures and made collages, dressed up and took portraits of one another, and the children took us on tours of their school and neighbourhood - taking photos and recording video and audio commentary as we went.

We also sent each child home with a disposable camera, to show us their families and friends, and selected two of the older group members for short one-on-one interviews to talk about their lives in Leeds and the integration process. I then went through all of the content we had generated, edited it and turned it into three short pieces of multimedia.

Photo of a young person at Harelhills Primary SchoolWhat I think

We were hugely impressed with the children we worked with, who were bright, polite and fun to work with, and we were amazed by the warm, supportive atmosphere at Harehills Primary School - I have never seen a school quite like it.

These are children who may well have been written off educationally in their home countries simply because of their ethnicity, yet here they seem to be thriving and to have high aspirations, just like any other child.

Photo of a young person at Harelhills Primary SchoolI think this is the point I would like to get across to viewers of these films – and indeed my related documentary work – the fact that Roma people are no different to anyone else and can achieve when given opportunities and a voice. I want people to see them as individuals and recognise the great diversity that exists across and within these communities, and for them to be given the chance to integrate into our towns and cities and enrich them through their culture.

Ramona, my Roma friend and collaborator, has complained bitterly to me about the culture of low expectation that exists when it comes to Roma – something she believes rubs off on many in her community and holds them back. She told me recently in an interview:

Photo of young people at Harelhills Primary School"People often seem to think Roma people have some kind of disability, I think they're saying that all of us have special needs. They never ask why we don't know something that we should, they just accept it. If an English child passes a GCSE in school people say 'well done'. "

"If a Roma person gets one it's 'aaahh miracle' – the news of the week. It's something incredible for people to realise that we can do it. But I want us to be treated like the rest of the population is treated, and for people to realise that we can achieve."

Photo of Ciara Leeming

About me: Ciara Leeming

My background is in newspapers but I’m now also trying to use photography and audio to tell stories in a different way.

I worked for several regional newspapers before going freelance in 2006. I took up photography a few years later and now supply features and images to a range of editorial clients, including The Guardian and The Big Issue in the North. I also sometimes work on arts commissions and participatory projects with young or marginalised people, and undertake independent documentary projects.

My interest in Roma was initially sparked by living in a neighbourhood of Manchester which has become home to significant numbers since Romania joined the European Union in 2007. In 2011 I collaborated with Ramona, a young Romanian Roma woman to document her life and journey, in a book we called Elvira and Me. I am now funded by the Arts Council and Side Gallery in Newcastle to continue and expand this work over the coming year. The project's development can be followed at

See also:  and

Page last updated: 04/05/2016 15:36:56

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Dave Brown, Head of Migration Yorkshire

Email: Dave Brown

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