Questions raised over future of Appleby Horse Fair following safety concerns

The Appleby Horse Fair Multi-Agency Strategic Co-ordinating Group said this year's fair had been a success Credit: PA

A meeting has been held in Appleby for residents to air their views on the annual horse fair in the town.

The gathering at the Town Hall comes as Appleby Fair Communities Group say residents and those in the surrounding area feel ignored by councils.

It is now calling for a referendum in Appleby and nearby Kirkby Stephen to change the status of the event and how it is funded.

The famous fair is currently categorised as a gathering and therefore is not organised.

This means there is not a person or organisation who is responsible for running the event.

Instead it is overseen by the Appleby Horse Fair Multi-Agency Strategic Co-ordinating Group.

This includes representatives from the police, councils and the Gypsy and Traveller community.

Costs associated with Appleby fair, like paying for the police, is funded by the tax payer.

Members of the local community group say it is not reasonable that taxpayer money goes towards the cost and they claim residents are more negatively impacted than positively.

The Appleby Horse Fair Multi-Agency Strategic Co-ordinating Group said this year's fair had been a success.

Yet there were a record number of arrests, fines and weapons seized.

On the Saturday of the fair there was a stand-off between a large group of men armed with weapons and sticks, which was prevented by Cumbria Police.

The clash has resulted in two arrests so far.

Opponents in Appleby say the fair was "out of control and not safe" and are urging for a change in how it's run to prevent future problems.

Appleby Horse Fair is a key event in the Gypsy and Traveller calendar Credit: PA

The town's Fair Communities Group said: "We did not want this to escalate to this point but after years of being ignored... we have been left with no other alternative.

"We have requested for years that the event is controlled, managed and policed in line with any other event in the country.

They said thee event "is not subject to normal health and safety rules events such as Glastonbury must (rightly) adhere to.

"Why wouldn't our councils want a safe, managed, self-funded event? All we are asking for is a safe, self-funded, managed, controlled event with attendees limited to match the size and facilities of our tiny town."

Billy Welch is a representative for the Gypsy and Traveller communities.

In an interview with the Travellers' Times, Mr Welch said the national media rushed to take pictures of the rubbish left by the fair, but a few days later it had all been cleared.

Following the meeting held last night (7 July) Mr Welch said it was constructive.

He said: "A few people were there with some good legitimate concerns which is something to look at for next year. A few people had some good ideas for taking the fair forwards.

"The fair's continuing evolving and we look to try and tweak things and evolve things. A good way of doing that is having the pre and post-fair meetings and listening to people."

If the Appleby Fair Communities Group gets a support a referendum with the following questions will be asked:

  • Should Appleby Horse fair be allowed to continue in the current format as a gathering with no organiser or organising body.

Yes - Appleby Horse Fair should continue in its current format and remain an unorganised gathering.


No - Appleby Horse Fair should become an organised event with an organiser responsible for ensuring safety, manageable numbers, policed in line with the laws of the land (low level crime not ignored) and compliance with legislation.

With regards to funding the question will be:

  • How should Appleby Fair be funded?

Local taxpayer - Appleby Horse Fair should be funded through revenue generated from local tax.


Self-funded - All costs relating to Appleby Horse Fair should be covered by the attendees who come by choice to enjoy the event.

A final question the group is asking for is:

  • Appleby Horse Fair should be suspended until arrangements are made to comply with the wishes of the community.



Andrew Connell is a Councillor in Appleby. He told ITV Border: "By the nature of these things the majority of those who speak have something to complain about, but that's the way things work.

"The important thing is is that they say what they want to. say and when they've got specific questions these are answered."