THE first in-person Irish Traveller Pride Awards since the beginning of the Covid pandemic featured winners from across the country, with Limerick rap artist William Casey, better known as Willzee, taking home the Music, Arts and Culture award.
The awards ceremony was the opening event on this year’s Traveller Pride programme which will run nationally and locally over the next fortnight, generating huge positivity in the Traveller community and helping to build better relations between the Traveller and settled communities.
Willzee’s Traveller Pride award was the culmination of a very successful period for the Limerick-born artist after his first full length album, Kuti’Gris, was released.
Willzee has sought inspiration through the raw and expressive UK rappers such as Mic Righteous, with whom he finished writing a track, and from local artists. He has already won several accolades such as the Bank of Ireland ‘Begin Together’ Arts Award and the Next Generation Artist Award as well as featuring in exhibitions by TG4, Gorm Media and RTÉ.
Now entering his second year of a community and addictions course at the Technological University of the Shannon (TUS), he is passionate about working on projects in the Traveller community and inspiring others to do the same.
Willzee has several ventures lined up such as coordinating a project with Traveller women throughout the summer to create a showcase in September celebrating their culture and heritage. He is the curator of music, visual and performance workshops, where six young men from the Traveller community will be introduced to artists including Steo Wall, Enda Gallery and Hazey Haze to show them a broad variety of the industry.
Through various workshops, organised in partnership with GAFF Limerick City and supported by Creative Ireland, he aims to sow the seeds for the next generation of artists as he continues to reach new heights and build on his reputation.
Speaking at the presentation event, Geraldine McDonnell said it was one of the highlights of Traveller Pride Week which provides an annual focal point for celebrating Traveller culture and life in Ireland.
“The Awards recognise individuals and groups who have made a particular contribution to the community and to wider society. They also serve to challenge many of the racist stereotypes that are unfortunately still too common amongst many members of the settled community,” Ms McDonnell added.
Equality and Integration Minister Roderic O’ Gorman said that
Traveller Pride Week is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the rich cultural heritage of the Traveller community and their ongoing contribution to Irish society.
“I am very pleased that my Department has provided funding to support, strengthen and expand Traveller Pride Week. The array of talents, skills and dedication displayed at the awards are impressive and inspiring,” Minister O’Gorman added.