|Title ID||1120||Collection ID||46|
|Title||With the Gypsies in Kent|
|Keywords||Cultural Heritage Ethnic Groups Everyday Life Family Farming Gypsies Handicrafts Labour Landscape Rural Areas Trades Transport Workers|
|Format||16mm Black & White Silent|
|Duration||13 min. 15 sec.|
|Copyright & Access||Copyright restrictions apply, contact Screen Archive South East for details|
The nomadic lifestyle of a Roma family is documented in this film as they travel in and around Canterbury during the harvesting season.
The films opens with shots of a small multigenerational gypsy family who have set up camp in an orchard. The father of the family loads a wooden wheel from the waggon (vardo) onto the back of a cart advertising 'iron and metal dealer Canterbury' before working as Farrier, shoeing horses in a sleepy hamlet. The family move in procession aboard their two horse-drawn waggons and horse-drawn cart through the quiet streets of Canterbury, towards the Cathedral and past the city wall. They are next seen back in the countryside - young twin girls sit in a field as their mother (?) picks potatoes and the horses are retrieved from a grazing site. A young boy stands patiently in the campsite as his mother (?) washes his arms. The whole family return to the fields where they join others picking hops, collecting them in large sacks and wicker baskets. The film proceeds with scenes of the family travelling along rural roads and setting up temporary sites. During their stops they enjoy al fresco meals centred around a table laden with miscellaneous crockery and loaves of bread, watch with amusement as the teenage boys wrestle in the grass, and converse with each other whilst the grandfather (?) whittles a clothes peg. Some of the group then leave the campsite with buckets for collecting water. Back on the land a tractor turns the soil, enabling the women to collect potatoes in their harvesting aprons. The film concludes with a final image of the family sitting in their campsite, followed by a shot of the film-makers John and Bill Barnes removing movie cameras (Cine Kodak Model K) from their open-topped car.
Brothers John and William (Bill) Barnes were enthusiastic amateur film-makers during the 1930s, documenting contemporary life in Kent. Screen Archive South East houses other films made by the Barnes brothers including In the Garden of England (1938?) which uses a year-in-the-life format to illustrate seasonal work on a Kent farm.
In the 1930s hops covered approximately 20,000 acres of Kent and were picked by hand - on average six people were required to harvest each acre of land. This demanded a large workforce, one which was comprised of workers brought into the county for 4-6 weeks during September. The pickers were mainly represented by families from the East End of London, but they also included extended gypsy families who travelled and worked together, following the seasonal patterns of agricultural work. The financial reward for this labour intensive work in the late 1930s was one shilling for every five bushells collected (equivalent to one of the very large wicker baskets seen in the film). It was an annual event which came to an end in the 1960s when hopping became automated. This technological development had a direct impact on the changing fortunes of the gypsy population - their mobile lifestyle became less tenable as the seasonal, temporary farm work dried up and they followed an increasingly settled lifestyle. Screen Archive South East holds a number of contemporary films from the region about hop farming including Kent Hop Farming Part 1 (early 1930s), Hoplands of Kent (1930s), and In the Hop Fields of Kent (ca. 1937). It also has a film entitled The Romany Museum at Selborne (1990s) which explores the history of the gypsies, paying particular attention to their traditional waggons, equipment and tools.
Other images of Canterbury between the world wars can be seen in the Screen Archive South East films The Canterbury Tour (ca. 1923) and Canterbury and Miscellaneous Scenes (1929?).