Rev Martin Burrell, chaplain for Gypsies, Travellers and Roma in St Albans Diocese writes about a music project run by Luton Roma Trust
“The children on the music project are drawn from 12 extended Roma families and they meet on Tuesday at a children’s centre in Luton. We have a Roma musician, an accordionist, but the children perform music from all over the world. We sang at Luton Airport on December 20 and on Friday the families sang at the Sacred Songs event at the Carnival Arts Centre in Luton.
Most of the families come from our two Roma Pentecostal Church in Luton which are supported by Luton Roma Trust. We work in partnership with Worldbeaters Music, a London based group which reaches out to minority ethnic communities and Building Blocks Children’s Centre in Luton. Luton Music Service is providing instruments.
The whole point of Near Neighboursis bringing hard to reach communities together and our plans are to take the children into care homes in Luton to sing to the residents. I am 65 years old and I will probably be the oldest person that they know. For the old people in the homes, this may be the first time they have met Roma children. I am a former professional clarinettist, and I know how music crosses barriers and brings people together.
Our aim is to get the older boys to take up a leadership role with the younger children taking part in the project. This project is only a small part of the work that we do in the Luton Roma Trust. The families have little or no English and are often illiterate. Along with my Roma colleague from Bulgaria, we are working to help the families and most of our time and energy goes into helping them find employment and housing. When the children are engaged in the music, their parents are taught English by a Romanian teacher.”
Luton Roma Trust is currently helping over 500 Roma people, most are from Romania.
Luton Roma Trust upholds the biblical principle to unequivocally welcome and support every ‘resident alien in our midst’
The music project was funded by Near Neighbours, and Bedfordshire and Luton Community Foundation London Luton Airport.
The Common Good Fund, a new Church Urban Fund grants fund and an extension of the Near Neighbours programme was launched recently. For more details see https://www.cuf.org.uk/common-good-fund