Roma Archive and Cultural Centre


COMPAS charity recognises the importance of retention of cultural and linguistic heritage. The Roma still remain one of the most vulnerable and underrepresented communities in the UK. Therefore, we want as well support human right education and democratic citizenship education.

Since 1990s, estimated number of 200,000 Roma people from Central and Eastern Europe moved into the UK, but there are little or no resources that would enable conservation and development of Roma heritage. This is particularly an issue when it comes to:

  • children and young people not having an access to books, audio-visual records and other resources that would enable them to find out about their rich history, culture and language
  • schools not having any or very limited resources when celebrating and promoting Roma identity amongst their pupils. There are also no museums or educational places that schools could take their pupils into for a school trip.
  • There is very limited number of resources for academics and researchers working with the Roma community


Because of all those reasons, we have decided to initiate the Roma Archive and Cultural Centre (RACC). The mission of RACC will be:

  • to preserve heritage of European Roma emigrants
  • library containing magazines, books and other resources about Roma, published in the UK and in the countries of Roma origin
  • to preserve memory and oral history of Roma people living in the UK
  • to provide experts for lectures on Roma culture and history, Roma language lectors
  • to create a hub for schools and other institutions (but also members of public) to visit to and find out more about Roma heritage


Baripen - Introduction to archive

This project is about identity, pride, remembrance and solidarity, and about informing, securing and sustaining Compas Charity’s guardianship of the Paul Polansky archive which contains substantial primary material connected to Roma people in the WWII era Lety concentration camp; and to the experiences of Roma people in Kosovo during the 1990s Balkan war (including of those who were relocated by the UN to the area of a former lead mine).

Our aim is that by preserving, reflecting on and sharing their heritage, UK Roma people, young people especially, have pride in the shared and distinct heritage of their families; confidence to integrate into their local communities; and develop knowledge and skills to increase employability and achieve their ambitions, whilst the project also ensures that Compas Charity can effectively understand, preserve, and share access to the archive.

Led by the archivist, the team will assess the condition of the archive and ensure it is correctly stored. They will produce a schema and valuation of the archive contents and provide a comprehensive strategy for conserving, digitising and sharing access to it. The project team will create a contemporary companion collection describing the experiences of Roma people now living in Peterborough and exploring their views about the archive.

The current condition of the archive will be assessed and it will be moved into proper archival storage.

We are also interested in how the events documented in the archive connect with particular groups in the UK, especially veterans of the armed forces. We know that a military defence hospital unit operated from Peterborough during the Balkan conflict and hope that, during this project, we could further research that potential connection to events captured within the archive. We are hoping that project research may bring us into contact with former forces personnel who have experienced the Balkans war of the 1990s or who were connected to the medical defence hospital unit which operated in Peterborough at the time.

The project will leave as its legacy a podcast, digitised material from the archive, display materials, digitised oral histories, artworks and a resilient organisation and community with increased awareness, knowledge and skills to protect, secure and share an archive of international significance.

Project activities will be extremely likely to touch on the situation of Roma people who were, during the 1990s Balkan war, resettled to the environment of a former lead mine. We anticipate this will prompt raised awareness of the consequences of dangerous substances in the human environment and relevant to academic study and movement building.

The project will enable Compas Charity to effectively digitise the archive in the future. Digitisation would enable online access to Roma and other people, national and international academics, policy-makers and educators to access the archive without need to travel to access the physical material. This could contribute to reducing travel across Europe and across the UK.