I have just returned from my second trip to Appleby Horse Fair, an annual event that has been fixed in the calendars of Romany and Irish Traveller families since the 18th century.
The fair is much more than just an opportunity for Romany and Travellers to conduct business (mainly buying and selling horses) and to meet up with friends and family. It is a proud celebration of their history and culture and by persistently honouring this longstanding tradition, they are taking a stand to preserve a way of life that is threatened with extinction in the UK. Used to being the outsiders in their everyday lives, at Appleby Horse Fair, for one week every year, Romany and Travellers represent the dominant culture; here, they are able to proudly display their cultural traditions to settled visitors.
Visiting and, importantly, staying at Appleby is a vibrant, humbling, and slightly crazy experience, that I would recommend to anyone interested in Romany/Traveller culture. I have made friends who have helped me to pitch my tent in the middle of the night, shared their culture and history with me, showed me the importance they place on their relationship with their horses, and sang to me by the campfire until the early hours of the morning. It is an amazing experience, and I plan to meet up with my friends and become part of the landscape of Appleby every year.
I can’t see how anyone could come away from the Appleby experience and still believe that this culture is not worth preserving.
Posted By Susan Craig-Greene
Posted Jun 12th, 2011