Celebrating Travelling communities in “Parade of the Pipers”

Richard O’Neill is a sixth generation master storyteller and author from the Romany tradition. He is the co-author of ‘Parade of the Pipers’ from the new collection of contemporary fairy tales from Collins Big Cat.

Growing up, I developed a fondness for the story of the pied piper. I was captivated by the narrative of an outsider who used their extraordinary talents to address a town’s dilemma. This tale resonated deeply with me, as I saw parallels between the pied piper’s role and that of Travelling storytellers, musicians, and artisans. Throughout history, these individuals have brought not only their skills but also fresh ideas and news to settled communities.

Beyond simply telling an engaging story, we had a broader purpose in mind. We wanted to shed light on the issues of overworking and consumerism, themes that have persisted throughout history. Interestingly, Travelling people established the earliest recycling businesses known as rag and bone collectors. Through their resourcefulness, they taught us valuable lessons about finding alternative ways of living and challenging the status quo.

We hope we have breathed life into characters who embody the resilience, creativity, and unique spirit of Travelling communities

In exploring the lives of Travelling communities, Michelle and I sought to offer a different perspective on the concept of quality of life. We believed that the Travelling community in the book exemplified alternative ways of living that emphasised spending time with loved ones and nurturing relationships. Their traditions and values hinted at the possibility of better ways to exist beyond the confines of a consumer-driven society.

We want “Parade of the Pipers” to serve as an ode to the rich heritage and vibrant culture of Travelling communities. We hope we have breathed life into characters who embody the resilience, creativity, and unique spirit of Travelling communities and we hope to inspire readers to appreciate the invaluable contributions Travelling communities have made throughout history.

Picture of Richard O'Neill

By championing positive representation and celebrating the alternative perspectives brought by Travelling communities, we hope that “Parade of the Pipers” will help to foster understanding, respect, and appreciation for diverse cultures.

Richard O’Neill, co-author of “Parade of the Pipers,” embarked on a literary journey alongside his friend and fellow writer, Michelle Russell. Together, they aimed to fill a void in literature by presenting Travelling communities in a positive light. Recognising the diversity within these communities, O’Neill and Russell believed it was essential to provide representation through their book – Look Inside here.

Other Articles

Light Night

In Light Night, I wanted to write about a character who, like me, finds the dark days of winter difficult. A lot of people do find winter hard, and it can sometimes be a lonely time. I wanted to let readers know that if they feel like this, they’re not alone. And I wanted to share the joy of our special light night in the park.   Read More

Teaching every child to read!

We are determined to teach every child to read, so we have developed different programmes to ensure you can meet the needs of all your leaners.  Read More

Meet Nadine Cowan, author of the new Black history series from Big Cat

I’m Nadine Cowan and I write and illustrate picture books with Black main protagonists to combat the low figures of Black children in children’s literature from diverse and underrepresented voices/creators.  Read More