Police commissioner wants to SCRAP Appleby Horse Fair

Police commissioner wants to SCRAP Appleby Horse Fair as angry residents fear ‘pitched battles in the streets’ with travellers arriving from across the globe for Europe’s biggest gipsy gathering

  • Peter McCall vowed to talk to the Home Office to help with the annual gathering 
  • Commissioner said Appleby Horse Fair was costing Cumbria’s police ‘a fortune’ 
  • Residents in a nearby village are angry their home is becoming an ‘unofficial fair’ 

Cumbria’s police and crime commissioner said he wants to stop the annual Appleby Horse Fair

A police chief has branded travellers flocking to Appleby Horse Fair every year a ‘problem’, saying ‘if I could stop it, trust me, I would’.

Cumbria’s police and crime commissioner Peter McCall was addressing fed-up residents in Kirkby Stephen when he made the remarks.

Townsfolk were seething over their village becoming an unofficial horse fair while the main Appleby event takes place.

Mr McCall was holding a surgery inside a small office when villagers gathered and turned it into a full-blown public hearing, reports the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald.  

He said: ‘If I could stop it, trust me, I would. We would all like to just be rid of the problem but my view is that we have got to manage it the best we can.

‘What we don’t want is pitched battles in our street.’  

It comes as the annual influx was branded ‘the worst year that [residents] can remember’.

Mr McCall added he would be talking to the Home Office because Cumbria needs additional funds to police Appleby Horse Fair – which he says ‘cost a fortune’.

‘I don’t believe it’s a fair charge to local Cumbrian people. This is a national thing and it happens every year on our patch,’ he said. 

Europe’s biggest gipsy gathering usually plays host to around 10,000 gipsies and travellers, as well as 20,000 other people for several days of trade, competition and festivities

Dating back to 1775 (though travellers say it goes back further), Appleby first became a major date on the gipsy calendar in the 1900s.

Pictured: Travellers show off their skills by racing their horses across the Cumbrian town’s roads at daring speeds

Europe’s biggest gipsy gathering usually plays host to around 10,000 gipsies and travellers, as well as 20,000 other people for several days of trade, competition and festivities

It’s day two of the famous Appleby Horse Fair and thousands have arrived for the event which is seen as an opportunity for travellers to showcase their wares and swap notes about life on the road

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Marion Birbeck, who lives close to a school in Kirkby Stephen, said police did nothing after travellers arrived on her land.

She said: ‘They were in the field racing around, they had broken our padlocks, they had smashed the fence.’

Police had received just 20 calls to the 101 number as of Tuesday, but residents believe many crimes were going unreported. 

Pub landlord John Alexander said: ‘People are not reporting these crimes because when the gypsy communities are involved we really believe the police won’t do anything about it anyway, so why bother ringing?’ 

He added: ‘It’s called Appleby fair, it’s not Kirkby Stephen fair, but it is becoming more and more Kirkby Stephen Fair. We have not got the policing that we should have.’   

A town council meeting heard residents were subjected to intimidating behaviour and all police had done was ‘stand around in pairs watching it’.

The fair temporarily transforms the Cumbrian town of Appleby-in-Westmorland – which usually has a population of 2,500 – and always takes place at the beginning of June, running from a Thursday to the following Wednesday

Many of the travellers arrive on bowtop caravans – also known as vardos – which are highly decorative wooden wagons from the British-Romani tradition

One tradition that was stopped last year due to bad weather made its return this year, as horses took a dip in the River Eden to cool off. The ritual began in the 17th century as a way of washing the horses and making them more presentable for potential buyers

Town council chairman Joan Johnstone said she sympathised with the outnumbered police officers.

She added: ‘They don’t want to incite it by challenging them, but to local people it looks like they’re doing nothing.’ 

Europe’s biggest gipsy gathering usually plays host to around 10,000 gipsies and travellers, as well as 20,000 other people for several days of trade, competition and festivities.  

The fair temporarily transforms the Cumbrian town of Appleby-in-Westmorland – which usually has a population of 3,000 – and always takes place at the beginning of June, running from a Thursday to the following Wednesday.

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