Anonymous donation makes Traveller film possible

June 11th, 2022 7:05 AM

By Jackie Keogh

Supt Ger O’Mahony presented the Garda Community Award to a group of eight Traveller girls for their work on a film called Wheel of Dreams. From left: Lavie Olupona, Elizabeth Burke, Britney Mongans, Alicia Dvis and Karima Amhadi. Not included are Rosie, Jessie and Helena.

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A GARDA Community Award was presented to eight Traveller girls who have spent the past 10 months scripting, editing and producing their own film.

Lead artist and filmmaker Toma McCullim said an anonymous donation to the Community Foundation for Ireland made the project possible.

Although the film – entitled Wheel of Dreams – is still in post-production, Toma said winning the Garda Community Award was ‘a proud moment’ for everyone, especially Lavie, Karima, Alicia, Brittany, Elizabeth, Rosie, Jessie and Helena.

Toma, who was the production designer on the award-winning Float Like a Butterfly, said support for the project also came from the staff of the West Cork Traveller Centre, including Charlotte Donovan, family members and the community.

Since last June, the girls have worked with female creative professionals to explore the world of filmmaking, and they also secured parts as extras in the TV drama Holding.

The project allowed them to develop their artistic voice and they enjoyed working with mentors such as spoken word poet Felispeaks, musician Clare Sands, and filmmaker Aoise Tutty.

Toddy Hogan of the West Cork Traveller Centre said: ‘To see how the girls – who range in ages from 12 to 16 – have grown in self-confidence from the start last June to now has been nothing short of transformational.’

She said it was also gratifying to see how the wider community acknowledged the contribution these young women are making to West Cork.

According to Toddy, Traveller girls and women have ‘a rarely-heard voice.’ She said that is due to a combination of traditional roles and cultural expectations, stigma, prejudice and discrimination in the wider community, as well as a lack of engagement in formal education, which leads to difficulties for young Traveller women to volunteer, access work or training.

Toddy believes the film project has the potential to be widely replicated as an innovative means to support young marginalised and socially-excluded individuals.

One of the project highlights was a trip to Leinster House, organised by Social Democrat TD Holly Cairns. There, the girls had a chance to meet with Senator Eileen Flynn who encouraged them to ‘believe in themselves’ and cited the affirmation: ‘If you can see it, you can be it.’

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