Open Letter to Nick Rosen

March 18, 2008

Dear Mr. Rosen,

Reference is made to your recent article in the Ecologist entitled “Going off-grid” in which you made rather discriminatory remarks about Gypsies, and I quote: “
There's that other great class of off-gridders, too: mobile home and van dwellers. There are 130,000 camper vans in the UK, and many more parked overseas that are British-owned. I am not including foreign vans, but there are easily another 5,000 van dwellers in the UK. And that does not include the most feared and controversial of van dwellers, the gypsies (who may live close to the land, but – as sites littered with broken fridges, old sinks and nameless pieces of metal testify – don't always take care of it).
The old image of gypsies in wagons pulled by carthorses is no more; these days they are as likely to have a Mercedes Sprinter as their main vehicle and a Mitsubishi 4x4 as a runaround for the wife. But the carthorse-owning fraternity still exists. They refer to themselves as 'horsedrawn', and they are the least visible residents of the off-grid virtual city, hidden down green lanes and other ancient rights of way. A few are probably gypsies, but most are radical exsquatters and road protesters, or simply the rural poor.”

As the Director General of the Romani Institute and the General Secretary of the Gypsy Union, a world-wide membership organization for grassroots Romani-Gypsies, I wish to protest in the strongest manner against your racially discriminatory remarks, which could, probably, even be seen as “incitement to racial hatred” (something, maybe, for the officers of the law to decide) and demand herewith an open public apology forthwith.

When you use the word “Gypsy”, whether spelled, as it should be when referring to an ethnic group, with a capital initial letter – such as shame that the majority of supposedly trained journalists do not seem to know this – or with the small initial, the wrong way of writing it, as you have done, you refer to Romani, as per the Oxford Dictionary. A book that many a journalist in this country and abroad should read, methinks. Would you dare to write “Jew” or “Muslim” with a small initial? You most certainly, and rightly so, would not. Why then do you, and other journalists insult us, the Gypsy People, a recognized ethnic group, in the same way as the Jews, by again and again using the word with a small initial?

Again, on behalf of the Romani People, I demand, in my capacity of the above, that you publicly apologize for the derogatory statements that you have made in your article in the Ecologist about the Gypsy People and that you do so forthwith.

With that sweeping statement of yours in the article you have made every Gypsy who still travels in a trailer (and yes, the time of the horse-drawn wooden wagons is gone) out to be dirty, filthy, and more even. Have you ever visited a proper Gypsy family home, whether trailer or house? I should think not. We have a Cleanliness Law very akin to that of the Jewish People and we are not dirty, filthy layabouts.

Why do you not have the courage to call a spade a spade and refer to those that leave trash behind as to what they really are, namely in the main, either Irish Travellers or so-called New (Age) Travellers. Yes, I know, and I am the first to admit that there are also a number of the Romani that nowadays leave trash behind on stopping places, unfortunately, but to tar everyone then with the same brush would be the same as to claim that all Jews in New York are criminals simply because there are or used to be Jewish crime syndicates.

I shall leave it at that here, Sir, and look forward to reading your apology in the Ecologist and not only there, I should hope.


Michael Smith
Director General – Romani Institute
General Secretary – Gypsy Union

Tatchipen Media
International Romani Media Association
plus other relevant organizations and bodies


Nick Rosen's email, for anyone who may wish to also tell him what they think, is

© Michael Smith (Veshengro), March 2008