The Herald and Glasgow Times


Glasgow's Govanhill is the most multi-cultural area of Scotland and has long been nicknamed "Scotland's Ellis Island".

One of the reasons it's so diverse is thanks to the several Roma communities that have been settling there since 2007. Despite a long history in Scotland and more than a decade in Govanhill, the presence of the Roma still causes controversy. In the last few national elections, Govanhill has been the only area of Glasgow and, on one occasion, one of the only areas in Scotland, to have had a far-right candidate stand. The area is seen as an easy target by the far right thanks to racial tensions in the area and problems that stem from ingrained poverty but that are more easily and readily blamed on the Roma. I've been covering Govanhill since 2007 and have made it a central tenet of my reporting to always have a Roma voice in stories of Roma people. The communities are so marginalised the media can publish anything - and in Glasgow some horrific stories have been published - about the Roma without consequence. This leads to a lack of trust in the press and so Roma community leaders don't want to comment. It becomes a miserable, self-perpetuating cycle. In March this year when there was an outcry about a sketch in the comedian Jimmy Carr's Netflix show I wanted to let Roma voices respond. I went to Community Renewal, a charity in Govanhill, and asked if they would speak. They were furious but they trusted me to centre their voices and give them a platform. One girl told me that her ambition is to be a journalist so I've kept in touch with her and plan to support her. Roma people in our city deserve every opportunity - including the chance to speak for themselves. The pandemic was a particularly difficult time for Glasgow's Roma populations and I made every effort to tell their stories during the worst of the lockdown. Many of the city's Roma left while shameful stories misrepresenting them were published in tabloid papers here. I became aware of a report being carried out into the Roma experience of the pandemic because it looked at press coverage and cited some of my writing. I covered the report in the paper to provide a counterpoint to some of the negative coverage and spoke to an academic with experience of Roma issues to round out the piece. I also use my column regularly to highlight issues around the Roma communities in the city. The relentless child abuse rumours are one of the topics people find very hard to discuss but simply won't go away. I don't like to speak for a community but one the occasions it can't speak for itself, it's vital the media does so, carefully and with tact, which I believe is what I achieve here. I've recently been asked to join the board of a UK-wide Roma charity because I've become so trusted to tell these stories.