Appleby Horse Fair kicks off as pubs shut and police prepare for Wild West

A wild event has kicked off for its 2023 edition that sees a whole town shut in the name of ponies.

Appleby Horse Fair sees punters come from far and wide to take part in the festivities in what is hailed as the biggest traditional Gypsy Fair in Europe.

The massive event in Appleby-in-Westmorland sees some pubs feel obliged to close and has even rubbed a number of locals up the wrong way.

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Many local businesses make the decision to shut for the event, while others prefer to ride headfirst into celebrations.

Some businesses in the Cumbria town are expected only to serve locals and weddings.

Meanwhile, locals have labelled the event the “Wild West” following a perceptions survey shared with the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald.

Some 89% of the 500 respondents said that the event left them feeling unsafe, with the data being regarded by event organisers as the first comprehensive local feedback data gathered in the festival’s 250-year history.

A further 93% of people felt that the local taxpayer should not have to pay for the policing and clear-up costs associated with the event.

The Appleby Fair Communities Group carried out the survey, which it hopes will help create an event that is “safe for all”.

The event sees tens of thousands head to Appleby-in-Westmorland for the world-famous event.

Around 30,000 visitors are expected to head down for the weekend’s festivities, 10,000 of them from the gypsy, Roma and traveller communities.

The event takes place just outside of Appelby, which in regular times has a population of 2,500.

Events see people ride horses through rivers and fields in what is a mainstay in the calendars for many travelling communities.

Over the years, many efforts have been made to shut the event down, although none have so far succeeded.

The Multi-Agency Strategic Co-ordinating Group (MASCG) which includes Cumbria police, Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service, the Environment Agency, Highways England, the North West Ambulance Service, and a gypsy and traveller representative said in a statement: “Local authorities including local councils, the police, highways, North West Ambulance Service, the RSPCA and more, are committed to working to make this occurrence as safe as we can for all involved.

"The MASCG’s principal objective is the preparation, delivery and co-ordination of a multi-agency operational plan to support a safe and enjoyable fair.

“At its core, the MASCG serves a simple purpose — rather than all of the agencies working alone as individuals in response to the fair, the MASCG brings these agencies together to work in co-ordination with one another to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of each agency.

"The first priority of all agencies working within the MASCG is public safety.

"A consultation regarding the future for the Appleby horse fair is currently ongoing, which will look at a number of areas raised within the survey including whether there is the potential for the fair to be a ticketed event in future.”

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