A new media training course for Travellers has been launched to equip communities with the necessary skills to speak to journalists.
Travelling Voices is a course that has been designed to equip Travellers with the skills they need to speak to the mainstream media.
The high-profile evictions at Dale Farm and the ongoing plight of Roma across Europe, have fuelled a surge of media interest in Traveller and Gypsy communities. At the same time, some members of the Traveller community are reluctant to speak to the media for fear of being badly portrayed.
'A lot of Travellers are suspicious of the media, especially after programmes like My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding that portray the communities in a very negative way,' said Shanterlena Knowles editorial assistant at Rural Media, the publisher of the Travellers' Times.
'We want to help them put their side of the story forward.'
The course will teach how to interview and be interviewed, how to make and edit films. It's free for Travellers and funded by The Big Lottery.
Knowles said she hopes more Travellers will take up the training opportunity: 'At the height of the Dale Farm eviction story we were getting seven or eight requests a day from the likes of the BBC and Sky News and on the odd occasion when a Traveller was interviewed they often weren't doing themselves justice.'
Knowles says she still gets three or four calls a week from people who want to interview Gypsies or Travellers but that they currently struggle to find enough willing speakers.
Damian Lebas, one of the media trainers and a Traveller himself, thinks there are currently too few Travellers who are confident about speaking to the media: 'We need to make sure communities can speak for themselves, at the moment the media will tend to speak to a generic person who knows about Gypsy issues rather than someone from the community who is directly affected.
'I was recently on BBC North speaking about issues facing Travelling communities in the North West and I've not lived there; it would be better if people from those communities were coming forward,' he added. 'Media networks are getting better at seeking out a voice from the Travelling community but the problem is that a lot of the issues are very specific to a regional area. We need those people speaking out.'