Susan Townsley: Raising Awareness for Gypsy Travellers

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Susan Townsley is a passionate volunteer trainer for MECOPP’s Gypsy/Traveller awareness-raising training sessions. As someone who was born in a tent in Stanley, and who lived in that tent all year round, she has firsthand knowledge of the issues facing the Gyspy / Traveller community. 

"My mum gave birth to four of us at home in the tent. I was raised in Perth and have lived here all of my life;  I now live on the Doubledykes Gypsy/Traveller site in Inveralmond.

"I married 47 years ago, and prior to taking this role, I was a homemaker. I have three kids and 10 grandkids so they've kept me busy! 

As someone who was born in a tent in Stanley, Susan has firsthand knowledge of the issues facing the gyspy / traveller community. "In my new role, we usually do about 3 or 4 sessions a year – sometimes more than that. The sessions are aimed at anyone working with people – from police, to social workers, nurses, councillors – and the aim is to raise awareness of the issues that Gypsy/Travellers, particularly carers, face trying to access services.

"Typically, the sessions are about 3 hours long but each one is always different. We get as much out of it as the people attending do – I’ve learned a lot about how to access different services, what all is out there, and feeling more confident speaking up."

Susan enjoys getting out and about in her car, and loves going for a run in Perthshire, as long as the music is turned on! You'll find her relaxing with friends at the Bingo - "I usually go twice a month – I never win but it’s fun all the same." - and enjoying a bite to eat at Broxden Farm. 

"The meals are good and cheap – and the portion size is great! It’s great for people who use wheelchairs like me because it’s nice and wide."

Susan will be using her experience to address the audience at the WOW - What Now? Event to be held in Perth Theatre on Saturday 5th October.  As one of the speakers in the WOW Bites Sessions, she will talk about the difficulty she has had as a Gypsy / Traveller who is in a carer's role, and will shine a spotlight on the inequalities that exist for her community.  The event is free, but you must book a space on the Horsecross website >>>


Tell us the weirdest / funniest thing that has ever happened to you at work? 

I still laugh about this. It was me and another trainer, we were doing an awareness session for another local authority. The other trainer is terrified of lifts but this day she got in with me. The lift went up but the door wouldn’t open! She started screaming – even though all we had to do was press the button! Even the people waiting for the lift were laughing.

Awareness sessions helped me to find my voice and speak up about things that aren’t right.

What signals the start of your days off?

I don’t feel like I ever have a day off! I may not have a training session to run but there’s always work to be done in terms of improving things for Gypsy/Travellers. My family don’t call me Theresa May for nothing!

What might people be surprised to know about you?

I used to be shy when I was younger and would never speak up at a meeting. That will be a surprise to people who know me now as now you can’t get me to shut up! A lot of people who knew me years ago would never have dreamed that I would one day be talking to councillors or politicians in parliament! Doing the awareness sessions helped me to find my voice and feel able to speak up about things that aren’t right.

What is at the top of your bucket list?

I’d love to go in a hot air balloon. I’d love to go up there and see the whole of Scotland beneath me.

What is the worst job you’ve ever had?

Definitely picking brussel sprouts! It was so wet. You had to get the thick stalks and they were always wet. You also made very little money. Picking daffodils would be the next worst job – there’s a sap that comes off them and gives you a rash.

Who or what inspires you?

Michelle Lloyd. She started the Gypsy/Traveller Carers’ Project and the training sessions, and really helped the Gypsy/Traveller community a lot. She is always full of support for anything you do.

Tell us about the day you’d love to live again?

It would be back to the Rewind Festival! I drank too much at this year’s festival so I’d love to go back and drink water this time so I actually remember the acts!

The best part is definitely meeting different people. You meet every kind of person.

What’s the best part about your job?

The best part is definitely meeting different people. You meet every kind of person. I love talking to people and you learn so much from meeting others. I’m there to train people about issues facing Gypsy/Traveller carers but I learn so much too.

Complete this sentence; the best things in life are…

Free. It’s true. The best things in life are your family, your kids and your grandkids. To enjoy them is free.

Booking Free Tickets for WOW - What Now?

WOW What Now? Logo perthAll events are free to attend but you must book tickets to ensure you have a seat! There are three seperate events requiring booking with links below:

  1. Take One Action Film Festival : Book Here >>>
  2. The Big Thinkin including Christina McKelvie Keynote and WOW Bites : Book Here >>>
  3. The Saltire Society's Outstanding Women of Scotland : Book Here >>> 
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