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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA

Live Gypsy Jam sessions return to the Coliseum with special guests Voice Assembly

By Steve Cooke

On Saturday 12 March Oldham Coliseum Theatre and Roma-led charity KaskoSan present the second live jam session of the Gypsy Jam series. Led by Richard O’Neill and Juice Vamosi, Gypsy Jam performances are live and lively sessions exploring the rich lyrical and performance traditions of the Roma and Romani Gypsy cultures.

For the live jam session on 12 March Richard and Juice will be joined on stage by Voice Assembly. Together, through re-imagining traditional Roma and Romani Gypsy music and lyrics, Richard, Juice and Voice Assembly will bring to life their individual musical inspirations, and share stories and sounds in a live and lively jam session.

Led by singer songwriter Kadria Thomas, Voice Assembly promote wellbeing through a unique methodology of music and song, bringing voices together from all over the North West of England. The choir have performed and run workshops locally, nationally and internationally.

The Gypsy Jam sessions form a strand of the Coliseum and KaskoSan’s long-term work to support Roma people in Oldham and provide a platform for new Romani Gypsy, Roma and Traveller talent.

Richard O'Neill says: “Gypsy music and storytelling has always brought people together right across the world and we are so pleased to have the opportunity to do the same in Oldham with Gypsy Jam.”

Richard O’Neill is a multi-award-winning storyteller, author and playwright born and raised in a large traditional nomadic Romani family, whose history in England and Scotland goes back hundreds of years. Richard continues the tradition of travelling across the UK and mainland Europe, delivering storytelling sessions and storytelling skills workshops at schools, libraries, festivals, universities and theatres. He has a particular interest in using literature to promote inclusion and social mobility.

Juice Vamosi is a Roma (Gypsy) activist, interpreter, film maker, marketing consultant and Gypsy party MC. He grew up in a poor Roma community in Southern Hungary. He was the first of his family to earn a university degree and to advise presidents of the World Bank and the EU. In 2010, he built the KaskoSan social network, the first global Roma brand. As a charity since 2014, KaskoSan supports Roma families in Oldham, Bradford, and Bolton.

For Gypsy, Roma Traveller Month 2021, Richard, and Juice recorded a jam session on the Coliseum stage, using acoustic instruments and shared music-making practices, in which they discussed the history of the Romani Gypsy and Roma people and explored the connections between their linked but distinct heritage. Originating in India, the story of their roots takes us through the middle east and North Africa, the Byzantine Empire, to contemporary Europe and Britain – and for Richard and Juice, to the North of England.

In September 2021, the first Gypsy Jam performed to a live audience featured special guest rapper and world record breaking human beatboxer, Testament.

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