This film is part of Free

A Romany Summer

With their battered vardo, scruffy kids and assorted horses in tow, Cocker and Ellie are on an “endless odyssey”, visiting Appleby Fair, trying to eke out their own chosen life.

Documentary 1977 43 mins

From the collection of:

Logo for Yorkshire Film Archive


A documentary on a travelling Romany family from the acclaimed TV series Once In A Lifetime. Sir Montague 'Cocker’ Smith, his wife, Ellie, and their five children wander around the country lanes of Yorkshire, rarely staying in one place for more than 24 hours. The interviews with Cocker and Ellie reveal much about the attitude and lifestyle of this traditional, by no means representative, Romany family, pursuing a nomadic life that has all but died out in the UK.

This is a film by the highly esteemed documentary maker Barry Cockcroft, who also wrote a book to accompany it. The Romanis are among the most oppressed peoples in history, being slaves in much of Europe until well into the nineteenth century, forcibly assimilated in several European countries, and killed in their hundreds of thousands by the Nazi genocide, the Porajmos. Persecution has continued, as the 300,000 Gypsies, Roma, and Travellers in the UK still fight for adequate provision of places to live, with the kind of unauthorised encampments seen in the film illegal, and the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 making life harder still. Cocker and Ellie seem to have gone off the radar around 1986.