BFGW: As Appleby horse fair was in “chaos” during mass brawl, is this proof that prejudice against travellers is warranted?

As fans of hit Channel 4 show Big Fat Gypsy Weddings – and also Gypsy Brides US, which airs on the Discovery Channel – will know, travellers often encounter prejudice when, for instance, they try to book venues for parties or wedding receptions.

In both shows, members of the travelling community frequently bemoan this state of affairs, claiming that it’s unfair and is out and out discrimination. Unwarranted discrimination at that.

However, again in both shows, we’ve seen time and again that while some travellers are entirely peaceable people, many others are not, and unfortunately, the cliché about travellers equating to trouble is all to often true…

Which is of course how clichés come about in the first place; empirical evidence and recidivist behaviours which perpetuate the cliché.

This weekend has sadly proven to be no exception, as the annual Appleby horse fair in Cumbria descended into “chaos” after what’s described as a “mass brawl” broke out, and police were called to deal with not only that, but also an incident involving a firearm…

It seems the havoc began when one traveller was furious to be told he couldn’t take his horse into the River Eden – which is a tradition during the fair – because the river had become dangerously swollen during the recent heavy rain.

An onlooker to the incident told The Sun, “The traveller was so furious that he couldn’t take his horse into the water that he went in instead.”

Thereafter, it seems one fight after another then broke out, and at 11:15pm, armed police responded to several reports of witnesses hearing what were suspected to be gun shots.

Assistance Chief Constable for Cumbria, Michelle Skeer said, “We responded to a suspected firearms incident last night and will remain in the area today to provide reassurance to the public.

“The feedback received this morning has been very positive with the regards to the police responding and dealing with the incident swiftly and professionally.

“We appeal to anyone who as any information to come forward and speak to us.”

The Cumbria Crack website reports that since the morning of Saturday, 24 people have been arrested, primarily on charges of being drunk and disorderly, affray and drink driving.

ACC Skeer added, “As the weekend draws to a close, our focus now turns to ensuring that people can leave Appleby safely.”

So, what I want to ask you is this; are travellers proving that prejudice against them is warranted? Or are travellers no more or no less likely to present a problem than any sectors of society at a large gathering?

Let us know your thoughts, but in the meantime, here’s a clip from series two of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings in which one traveller believes the police are targeting his fellow travellers who are on their way to the horse fair…

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.


  1. Dave on June 11, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    If you just ask them they will say…….”oh it a Tradition
    to go to Appleby horse fair”
    the simple thing to do (if you were bright) would be not to go

  2. Jo Bass on June 11, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    I think the only way to fairly answer this question is to look at statistical evidence of arrests at any and every large gathering, including music festivals, street carnivals etc I suspect that the number of arrests and reasons for arrest will be similar for any large gathering where alcohol is consumed. There are good and bad in every community and culture. We need to be careful not to demonise this community, pandering to racism and prejudice perpetuated by sensationalist media. Gypsy Romany Travellers and Travellers of Irish Heritage have ethnic minority status and as such are protected in law from racist harrassment.

  3. Mrs L on June 11, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    Again an isolated incident makes the headlines. Tens of thousands of people attended the fair during this week, Ive been there myself for the week and have been for the last 20 years, my father-in-law for 30 yrs before that. 99.9% of those visitors; including romanies, travellers & general public day visitors respect each other and a very, very small minority cause a problem. The fair DID NOT descend into chaos, in fact it was one of the best years for many a while and your headline is offensive, untrue and only adds to the prejudice. The few arrests made were mainly for drink related disorders and driving offences which happen in every town in every county on a Saturday night. This week I have done business with Spanish Gypsies, Swedish “Painthorse” enthusiasts, Australians, Indians, Pakistanis, Candadians, Scotch, Irish, Welsh, Americans & “New Age” travellers.The vast range of cultures both within the Gypsy and non Gypsy community that attend the fair is amazing. The worse aspect this year was the mud from the heavy showers. It is a tradition to go to the fair, it is NOT a tradition to get your head kicked in. Stick thousands of people in a small village for a week and you are always going to get some disorder, but the overall majority of all the people at the fair are respectful. Whilst it isnt perfect there are a lot of people who work really hard to promote respect and understanding. Over the top journalistic reporting of a one sided prejudiced view doesnt help…..

  4. Michelle Atkinson on June 11, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    I was at the fair this year and i didn’t witness any trouble whats so ever! Yes the travellers were abit upset they never got to go in the water on Saturday due to fast flowing water, yes one guy did go in who was drunk but he didn’t cause any trouble apart from showing off.

  5. Alex lowther on June 22, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    50000 people 28 arrests? Unfair article does the local football thugs get this discrimination?

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