TV show has engendered greater understanding of the traveller community (From The Westmorland Gazette)
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TV show has engendered greater understanding of the traveller community
11:06am Thursday 14th June 2012 in Opinion
FOR the second year running, Appleby Horse Fair has been hailed a huge success by all those involved.
Like last year, the gypsies and travellers who flocked to the event from all over Britain and beyond had to put up with stringent policing and highways restrictions, but the controls did not detract from the celebratory nature of the characterful gathering.
Invetivably, there were spots of trouble - but no more than you might expect from any other event of this size. In the end, the significant niggles were more to do with technical hitches such as electrical and gas faults causing pubs to close temporarily rather than human-inspired trouble.
Indeed, there was a record low of arrests for drunk and disorderly and public order offences, with 26 people detained - down from 48 last year and 62 in 2010.
Tensions inevitably rose when the River Eden was closed to traditional practice of horse washing for a while because of rising water levels over the weekend; but even this hiccup - although criticised by some travellers - did not lead to trouble.
Also, the RSPCA reported there was a welcome drop in animal welfare complaints.
Of course, it would be inaccurate to describe the event as perfect as there are still ongoing issues to be addressed. In particular, locals had concerns about where some gypsies grazed their horses and there were the inevitable complaints about rubbish piling up. However, Assistant Chief Constable Michelle Skeer, who was in charge of policing the event, has promised such issues would be addressed next year.
Such complaints have to be taken seriously, but they should not be allowed to detract from the general view that this was one of the most successful fairs of recent years.
The thousands of travellers, their local resident hosts and the 200 officers drafted in to police the event all deserve credit for their contribution to this.
Altogether, around 40,000 people converged on Appleby for the fair - the numbers bouyed by the popularity of the TV programme My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding. It would seem the programme has also engendered a greater understanding in the traveller community.