Pride and prejudice – Jaw-jaw not war-war as Appleby Fair discussed in Kirby Stephen
Following much negative media coverage of this year’s Appleby Horse Fair, veteran Gypsy campaigner Amanda Reed (nee Cunningham) was contacted the Travellers Times and asked if she could attend the follow up residents meeting in Kirby Stephen to report on this crucial meeting and to show support for Billy Welch.
The meeting had been organized on behalf of the residents of Kirby Stephen and surrounding areas by Phil Dew, the Cumbria County Councillor for Kirby Stephen... writes Amanda Reed. It was to discuss the residents’ concerns about Appleby Fair and the impact on their village in the weeks leading up to the fair, and when the Fair was on. Anti-social behavior, litter, council tax, stopping places and an alleged assault on a local business-man where all on the agenda.
I met up with Billy Welch and his right hand man Bill Lloyd, a couple of hours before the 7pm meeting. We all sat and talked over a coffee and the conversation flowed. We talked about the fair and its history and how busy it had been this year. Official figures supplied by MASCG (Multi Agency Strategic Co-ordinating Group for Appleby Fair) say there was 1,091 caravans, an increase of 17%.
It was clear from the start that Billy and Bill had been friends for many years. As we talked, it was easy to see they had a lot of respect for each other and had built up a lot of trust over the years. They told me a bit of their story and how the friendship between both families had started with their Fathers many years ago.
Billy is a traditional Romany Gypsy and very proud of his family's history with Appleby Fair. He is not the self-appointed representative of the Gypsy and Traveller community as Cllr Phil Dew has described him in his letter to the Cumberland West Moorland Herald (19th June – link has been removed from the newspaper’s website) . Billy Welch had inherited his role in Appleby Fair from his Father. It was not a case of just handing it over. Billy had served a long hard apprenticeship and had earned the respect of the Gypsies and Travellers community over a long period of time. His father had taught him well. I know if he had not, Billy’s elders would have soon let him know. He could have been replaced at any time.
It was only when we were reminded of the time by Bill that we realized how much talking we had done. We set off back to Kirby Stephen and parked up. It was only a short walk to the grammar school where the meeting was going to be held. Most of the seats in the school hall where already taken when we arrived. I was surprised at the number of people that had turned up. I had looked in all the shops and business in the Village earlier that day, I had not been able to find any posters advertising the meeting. I did see one in the CO-OP and newsagents advertising the meeting in Appleby on the 16th July but none for the Kirby Stephen residents’ one. Billy and Bill sat on a couple of spare seats on the front row and I got myself a chair. I placed it at the front, just to the side, at the opposite side of the room. I was directly opposite who I believed to be the local reporter. We had arrived just in time and the meeting soon started.
Phil Drew introduced himself and said the numbers who had turned up showed the strength of feelings about Appleby Fair. He explained that the meeting was to ask questions, discuss remedies and to try and find constructive solutions. It was not a name-calling exercise. He asked the audience to try and be as restrained as they could but said he knew feelings were quite high. He hoped that everyone would get a chance to express their opinions. Phil Dew then introduced the representatives who were sat at a long table in front of the school stage. There was a seat for everyone and their names were displayed at the front of the table where they were sat. There was no seat for any Gypsy or Traveller representatives on the table. Billy had told me earlier he had not been invited to the meeting although he is a member of the MASCG panel.
Mathew Neil, the Deputy Chief Executive of the district council and the Chair of MASCG, was the first to speak. He told the audience that his role is to make sure the fair is as safe as possible for all concerned. It is also to minimize the effect of the Fair in Kirby Stephen and outlining areas. He said it was clear there had been problems in Kirby Stephen and he hoped it would be a fruitful discussion.
He added that work had already started on Appleby 2019. He pointed out that Billy Welch and Bill Lloyd were sat in the audience. He explained that the role of MASCG, is to discuss and coordinate all the different agencies and their responses to the fair. He also wanted to stress MASCG do not organize Appleby Fair. There is no organization that runs or licenses the Fair. He talked about an alleged assault on a local businessman who had been involved in a road traffic accident with a child. Billy Welch and Bill had put out a statement condemning the people involved within five minutes of it happening.
Police Superintendent Mark Pannoni was the next to speak. He had been involved with the fair for twenty Years in various ranks. Appleby Fair was the biggest event in the police calendar in Cumbria and he works with police from all areas, including Ireland. He said 15 people were arrested to prevent them coming into the area and this year there had been only eight arrests at Appleby. It was clear Kirby Stephen had experienced problems, he said, but overall crime and disorder was down on last year. He said he was committed to listening to people’s concerns. He asked the residents to contact the police next year and report all crimes. The police could not do anything if they had not been informed, he said. The police were already looking at options to improve the situation for the residents next year. Stopping places are never the same two years running and nobody had anticipated a 42% increase in Kirby Stephen. He anticipated that some of the questions would be: Why the Fair cannot be stopped? Why Fair Hill cannot be opened earlier? Why People are allowed to camp on the roadside? He explained he would be happy to answer those questions at a later date. He said he wanted to engage effectively but had to balance the needs of the 10,000 Gypsies and Travellers, the 30,000 visitors as well as all the local residents.
Nigel Butcher the Highways Manager was the next to speak. As he approached the podium he was reminded by Phi Drew that they were running late. He said that the County council uses the highways act and traffic managements act to formulate the traffic management plan that is updated every year. Each restricted site is assessed to measure the forward visibility in all areas. Since 2011 there has been a permanent traffic regulation order in Eden and south Lakeland to maintain road safety and movement of Traffic. Although it is a permanent traffic order it is only in place when the signs are put out between 1st April and 30th May. Mr Butcher said he was excited to be there to look at ways to see where the plan could be improved.
Cllr Drew thanked the speakers and said this was now the residents opportunity to speak. Bill Lloyd, who is a representative for Gypsy Travellers on the MASCG committee, put his hand up and asked to be given a chance to speak. Phil Drew Told him he had one minute. Bill wanted to get a couple of points across. He said that within five minutes of him and Billy Welch finding out about the assault on a local businessman they had condemned it in the strongest possible terms. He spoke about the people who wondered how an event of this size could take place without an organiser. He told us about the people from the mill towns of Lancashire and Glasgow who would have a week’s holiday in Blackpool. 20,000 people came from Glasgow alone. It was a major event in Blackpool. It was not organised but it happened every year. The point he was trying to make was that if twenty thousand people want to do something there is not the power in our constitution to stop it. It is still a free country. He added that he believes the charter is irrelevant. As a representative for Gypsy and Travellers, Bill had been trying to hold the fair back since the year 2000. He is aware the Fair is attracting all different people from all over the country and no longer just Gypsies. He would prefer to go back to how the fair was twenty years ago before the Market Field opened, he said.
The first person to speak from the audience was the headmaster of the local school. He said this year the damage and hassle had been relatively low. There had been a problem with a horse in a field it was not supposed to be in, some broken windows, a tap left running and a couple of camps around the village. His main concern was the school children who had to pass through the town at home time. There had been lots of people and horses outside the pubs and a low police presence.
A representative of the town council spoke next and said they were aware of the increase in numbers in KS. She explained the residents felt like the town had been taken over. There is a perception, "they police the fair different from the locals ". It was causing a lot of unrest and they need to do something in future
The next person was a man who has lived in Kirby Stephen for two years. He said last year his wife had been involved in a car accident with a Traveller. The police turned up very late and did not keep her up to date with the investigation. His wife was not there tonight because she had given up on the police. The reality is it is happening and everybody is intimidated, he said. There was a ram raid at McCall’s. We cannot prove who did it he said but his car had been damaged and another stolen on the same night. It is totally out of control. Why can’t it be like other festivals where it is in a set location? They have their festival and leave, he asked.
Supt Pannoni responded by first telling the resident that he was correct, he did not know who was responsible for the ram raid and he questioned why the resident had mentioned it. There were loud groans from the audience and some started shouting out. He also asked what he could do to restore the resident’s confidence in the police. One man shouts out that they should treat all criminals the same. He goes on to say he has listened to the G/T representative and the difference between the people from Glasgow, is the people from Glasgow had respect for themselves and others. Not like the people here who had no respect for themselves or others. It was not a minority but the majority. The minority he said have to sort out the majority
The next man to be given the microphone, says something that comes through to him is the potential conflict between the police policy on safety and the resident’s view that they should be upholding the law. He cannot help wondering if safety means that they modify what they do. Supt Pannoni answers saying the man has hit the nail on the head with regards to the challenges of policing effectively. He explains the role of the police has changed over the years. Ultimately he focuses on safety, Vulnerability and making sure anybody who may bring harm to the community is dealt with first. An audience member shouts out about unauthorized camps. She was not offered the microphone so it was difficult to hear her. Supt Pannoni responded by saying. If he has a choice between safety and dealing with minor infringements like unauthorized encampments that are not causing a safety issue then he has to priorities.
The next resident was given the microphone and told us about visiting the town to use a cash machine. He had felt intimidated by the number of people in the town so had decided to use the CO-OP because it was much quieter. As he walked back to his Car he saw one of the visiting people urinating in a bus shelter. There had been a policeman nearby who drove up to the shelter and spoke to the man and then drove off. The resident has the time and date on his bank docket and has the registration of the police Vehicle. Why wasn't he booked? The resident wants to know. Supt Pannoni says he could not tell him why the man was not booked. Which again drew loud groans from the audience. He asks the resident to give him the details after the meeting and he will find out.
The next person who has been given the microphone introduces herself as the Chair of the Malstan Parish meeting. She talks about the statistics given and the volumes of people this year. Something, she says, that is also clearly of concern to the G/T Representatives , as well as the residents of the local community's .The lady asks what, if anything, can be done by any of the agencies concerned to control the numbers ? Supt Pannoni tells the lady that from a police perspective they do not manage the fair. He felt there was also a lot more Horses and Bow Tops this year. As far as telling people they cannot come because it is full, that is quite a challenge when there is no organiser.
Bill Lloyd is the next to speak. He says that an allegation from a previous resident speaking that there was a mass breakdown of law and order is alien to the ones who manage the 40,000 people who come to the Fair. It appeared to be from another planet. Bill and the police talked every day sometimes twice. It genuinely seemed to them that the fair had been relatively trouble free. A big surprise to all including the police was the level of reaction. They could do nothing if they were not told. A lady shouts from the audience: "What about preventing it though!" Bill explains the Police cannot be everywhere. They plan their resources but they cannot say where the next problem is going to be. All they can do is make sure the resources are available quickly. Nip things in the bud as soon as they start. Bill believes the problems could be solved by better management and improving policing. We all need to know what exactly has happened. Times. Dates. Who it happened to etc. Not hearsay. Then they can act. He tells the audience if you are intimidated talk to the police. Say why you feel fearful. They will treat it as an anonymous complaint if you want them to. Bill tells them the Police will listen.
Cllr Dew takes the microphone and says he would expect the local police officers to report back what was going on themselves. Phil Dew had been into town every night during the lead up to the fair. It looked to him like nothing much was happening for a long time despite there being officers there. The next man to be given the microphone was a young man who has lived in Kirby Stephen all his life. He asks if there are only 15 reports of crimes, does that mean a policeman has to be told when to do his job? Does it mean unless we say we have a problem here, they will just stand about and do nothing. Can they not nip it in the bud earlier and try and implement on the spot fines for anti-social behaviour? Most people think they need to localise the camps. If we know where the majority of people are then we can organise and police better. They were in the pubs on Saturday night and they were a joy. There were about sixty of them in the pub he was in. He had gone there because his girlfriend works in the pub and he felt nervous about her safety. There were no problems and she said they were all a good crack. He tells us about the fields nearby where some of the people stay. It is the same people who come every year. They are trustworthy. (Few quiet groans from the audience). We know them and they know us. He thinks this is the kind of thing they need to work towards instead of arguing amongst themselves for no reason.
Superintendent Pannoni says there seems to be a recurring theme that the police are not doing their job. ThE Police cannot prevent it on their own. They have some statutory obligations. As members of MASCG they want to make the Fair as good as it can be. The police are not in a position to stop it. We Can't he tells them. What they can do is try and prevent it t having an adverse effect on the residents. The Police can only do that with their support. That is all he is asking for. We need to look at and think about what we can do differently next year. A Man shouts out from the audience. Can he just say that the officer said earlier that they work with police from all over the country including Ireland? So why did the police not know how many people were coming? Cllr Phil Dew says there is an issue about intelligence and internal reporting. He asks Supt Pannoni if he can answer as it was a concern he himself had. Why didn't they know?
The Supt asks which people they are talking about? The resident says they have been told there was a large increase in the numbers compared to previous years. The police must have heard they were coming up from Thwaites Brewery surely. (Thwaites Brewery was where a large unauthorised camp took place with lots of reports of unruly behavouir - editors note). The audience laugh then clap). The Supt tells the man there is no evidence that the people from the Brewery where at the fair. "They were there," said a man from the audience. (The audience laugh again).The Supt says they do not know until they get to the fair how many are coming. His priority is to make sure there are no criminals coming in. If they do get in they try and work with others to arrest them to prevent them getting into Appleby. They then have to priorities safety so people stay safe during the fair. It is not his Job to organise the Fair, but to police it, in the most effective way they can with the resources they have.
A resident of Sowerby speaks next. He is delighted to hear that the police in a democratic society see to all of the community's needs. It strikes him that the needs of the Travellers are that they act in any way they see fit. They use the street as toilets and let their horses do what they do. He does not see how there need has a priority over the need to uphold the law and safety. It was clearly not happening in Kirby Stephen.The Supt completely understands the point he is making. It is something he is going to look at, and think about what we can do differently next year. A man from the audience starts speaking. He is not offered a mike so apologises if people are not able to hear him. He tells the Supt about the horse fair they had outside Kirby. Apparently it went that well that they are doing it again next year and there will probably be more.
Cllr Dew tells the Supt his biggest concern is the complete loss of confidence in the Cumbria Constabulary. It is the lasting legacy of this year’s fair. That is not a good position for them to be in. That is why he think all these questions are important. They have to have an assurance that the police force are capable of doing the job that they expect them to do. He thinks it is a very important issue. Supt Pannoni interrupts and tells Phil Dew it is very challenging for him to hear, Phil Dew says that Kirby Stephen residents had collectively lost complete confidence in Policing. (audience start shouting out that they have - then give a loud applause). The Supt answers that he knows it is a serious concern and he has to listen to it. However there are other communities that have different views. It is clear something has gone wrong in Kirby Stephen. That is why he wants to work closely with the community to make sure that next year they have a different experience. He wants to make clear that what has happened there is not happening in other parts of the county
The lady from the Kirby Stephen Post Office speaks next and she tells us that she has been in Kirby Stephen for a few years now. This year we were concerned that we may get some problems. . She lived near to where the people were stopping. They had never had any problems over the years and they did not have any this year. She gives them water when it should be the council giving them water (quiet groans of no from the audience). They had been no problems in the post office either. There is rotten eggs in all communities just like in the Traveller community. The problem is with the Police. She reminds the Supt about his opening statement. He had said his priority was dealing and protecting our community. You ask why we have lost faith in the police? It is because like the other lady said you treat us differently to how you treat them. You said you made eight arrests. She thinks there would be that many arrests in Liverpool City centre on a Saturday night. Yet the police have been planning this all year and have only made eight arrests. She asks how many Travellers where involved in the assault on the local businessman? She reckons there was more than eight. More importantly she thinks that Supt Pannoni’s officers are scared. (Very loud applause).
Again the Supt explains about the arrests. There were eight arrests in Appelby and fifteen elsewhere. That is because there was only twenty three arrestable offences committed. (loud groans from the audience). He told us he has to work within the law and priorities. Where arrestable offences where committed, they arrested. The reason the arrest figure for Appelby is low is because the vast majority of Gypsies and Travellers and visitors did not commit any offences. That does not mean other legal incursion have not happened. The strategy is to act forcibly when there is inappropriate behaviour taking place. It is not a case of the police not arresting people because they are scared. It is simply a case of not that many offences where committed. When you think of the numbers that is a credit to the Gypsies and Travellers and the people from other communities that attended. As far as been scared that is simply not the case. (Groans from the Audience).
A lady who lives on the high street is given the Mike and says she would like to ask a question. She tells us all she has not slept properly for three weeks. This is because of the horses galloping up and down until the early hours. The noise is horrific and the lady was on curfew from about eleven at night. There was no one there. If she had rung 101 who would have come? The place was trashed at night and there was a lot of petty crime. She cant say who did it and neither can the police. The crimes on cars and other vehicles was quite profound this year. Someone tried to syphon her petrol. I knows she cant prove it but it has never happened before in ten years. She asks who would have responded if she had rung at two in the morning? The Supt accepts noise is nuisance. However a horse fair means you are going to hear the sound of horses. A man starts shouting that it is Appleby Fair and not Kirby Stephen fair. (There is lots of noise and some people are shouting). The Supt explains that riding a horse at two in the morning is not an offence. (Again lots of noise and shouting). A man shouts out "the police need to stop it". The Supt says the impact is clearly a concern for the residents and if they tell the police at the time, then they can do something about it. Which is why he keeps asking that in future, if something is happening then report it.
Another man stands up and shouts out that he was stood at the side of an officer when a ten year old child was riding a horse up the main street. He asked the officer what he was going to do about it and the officer had just shrugged his shoulders and said what can I do? Another man asks is it right that horses have been banned from Appleby Town Centre? If so why can they not have a ban in Kirby Stephen? Is there another event in the United Kingdom, with over 40,000 people gathering, that is not an organised event? He respects the Traveller representative who stood up. But if he wants it, you bloody well organise it, you pay for it, and you control the numbers ( Loud round of Applause). He suggested changing the days of the Fair. He had visited the services at scotch corner on Sunday night and there were hundreds of Travellers making their way home. He says we have them for ten days before. He suggest they have tickets. The Gypsy and Traveller organisation could make lots of money, so they could pay for the clear up. The ones that don't want to pay, don't go. He say it needs bringing into the twenty first century for God’s sake. (Loud applause cheering and whistling).
The next man with the mike wants to know how many people where arrested for the assault on the local man? (loud mumbling from the audience). Supt Pannoni tells the man no one has been arrested yet, (Loud groaning), and there are good legal reasons for that he adds . He cannot discuss those reasons further. The man asks will there be arrests? He cannot say there will be arrests. (Again loud groans from the audience). One man shouts out that it is an arrestable offence that they have not arrested anybody for, so therefore the Supt last statement was a lie! (loud applause). The Supt says he has to have specific defendants that he has reason to believe committed those offences. A man shouts out that there was an officer at the scene. The Supt explains there was an officer at the scene but he was indisposed at that time. The man says it all feeds into the feeling that we have all given up. Everyone here knows that happened. You are now telling us that they may not be any arrests. The Supt tells the man they need to have enough evidence against a specific individual to be able to arrest. (loud groans from audience).
The next resident tells us a few days before the official date of the Fair he had driven through the town centre. There was a vehicle in front of him "obviously a Traveller". He stopped in the middle of the town centre. There were horse drawn vehicles on the other side. The place was at a standstill while he went shopping. The resident then drove on the road to Brough. There were horse trailers with their ramps down in the middle of the road. There were horses in the road and there were no police anywhere to be seen. Maybe the police could consider having a mobile patrol on that road constantly. He would also like to say that it is a shame that nobody is there from the RSPCA or other animal bodies (The RSPCA were present at the Appleby Fair as was Redwings Horse Sanctuary – they go every year – editors note). As an Horse owner for over thirty years, he added, he believes that the state of some of the horses is a disgrace and something needs to be done. Bill Lloyd responds by saying the RSPCA attend lots of MASCG meetings. They also have limited resources. Bill tells the man he will do his best to make sure there are good RSPCA patrols next year.
A local resident is next and says it is probably a good idea to give the copper a rest. He has worked out that they have over £500, 000 worth of tax-payers money here. That should be a fair lobby for you all to listen as you are paid for by us he tells the panel. He says there is intimidation and deliberately causing of highway frictions when the posts are put in then taken out on the road through Brough. There must be dash-cam footage in this day and age. There is actually an email and telephone number that you can ring. He has used it himself for people who want to remain anonymous because they fear intimidation. There was a local lady who was returning home at midnight and found the road blocked, he tells us. She was not the only one and she was in fear for her life. He understands the panel would not have known about it until he told them. He thinks it would be a good idea for all the councils, all of the bodies to have a central email system. It is not beyond the realms of man, he adds. Then all of these people can be told what it is. If they want to just log and report all of the problems they are having. He thinks that would be a start. He points out that MASCG have used £225,500 of the council money and they are an unelected body. He would like the Highways manager to tell him .Why it is not policed ? When the posts that have cost the council tax payers £225.000 are removed, and the land is camped on? Why are people not been moved on? It is not the Kirby Stephen horse fair, it is the Appleby Horse Fair. Mathew Neil, Deputy Chief Executive of the district council and the Chair of MASCG answers. As far as the cost of the various organisations it will be set out in the annual report that is being prepared he tells us. It will be published on the website. A lady from the audience keeps shouting out for him to "answer the question". With regards to the posts he says there is an encampment protocol. Some sites that were high risk where moved on and the police did it with all due haste (Audience become very noisy and some shout out). Cllr Dew takes the Microphone and asks the Highways manager if he can say a few words. The posts that are put in, are one of the things that wind him and the residents up, as well as the policing he says. What is the point of them? Phil Dew asks the highways manager to explain how the posts and the A658 works. The Highways Manager answers that the number of post that are put out has been reduced. Since 2016 they have been reduced by a thousand. The cost of the posts where £10,000. The posts first came into use in 2015. They are a method for reducing and restricting roadside parking. MASCG may discuss other options in future. A lady says she would like to say that the A658 is not a safe place to camp. It is a very busy major road. Usually if there is a problem on other roads the traffic is directed through Kirby Stephen .If that had happened it would have been absolute carnage.
A man shouts out that the only suitable place for people to camp is on Fair Hill. A lady asks how many posts they put out and how many do they get back? Cllr Dew answers and tells the lady they had got back 1000 posts from 2500. The posts, he tells us, are relatively inexpensive . It is putting them out and collecting them that cost the most. A lady says that in previous years there has always been a police support officer at the police station for the week before the Fair and while the Fair is on. So people could go and voice their concerns. They did not have that this year. Why? The Supt tells the lady they will have that back next year. A couple of ladies start having a discussion and one says they did not have many complaint last year so maybe that is why.
A man who has been a resident of Upper Eden for thirty years is the next to speak. He says he thinks it is time they look forward now. We have all got a lot off our chests. Now it is time to try and make things better next year. It would appear from what they have heard that we cannot stop the invasion. He apologizes, and says ingress . We cannot stop it, apparently. He knew there was trouble brewing because of other areas. He wants to take the emphasis away from MASCG because it costs them too much. We should not be paying for that he tells the audience. He would like to turn his attention to the two brave men in the front row. Mr Billy Welsh and Mr Lloyd. As self-appointed leaders, not managers, you don't organise but you are recognized as the leaders of that community. He suggests they are the people with the most responsibility for putting this right and making sure it does not happen again. He tells them not to ask him how, that is there problem. It is their problem because it is their fair. You sort that out and we will be happy. He can remember when they used to welcome the bow-tops. They loved that here he says. He goes on to say that the age profile has changed dramatically. There seems to be a huge number of kids drinking themselves silly and making fools of themselves. He thinks they are also making a fool of Billy.
Billy takes to the podium and thanks them for allowing him to speak. He tells them he is genuinely concerned. He is from old stock. Genuine Gypsies and Travellers. His family have been coming for centuries. He is as genuinely concerned as they are. He is sorry they have had problems this year. Hopefully it is a one off. He knows they have genuine concerns. He has been sat listening to them. There was a massive influx of people and he thinks some people panicked a bit. As a Gypsy and a representative of his people we have the same concerns. He believes that the Fair is getting too big. Because of that, the fair is attracting some of the wrong type of people. He has been predicting this would happen for twenty years. He believes the problem is they have opened too many fields in Appleby. The council are giving local land owners licenses so they can allow caravans in. It is just expanding and expanding and expanding. There are people coming to the Fair now who me or my father would not allow on to Fair Field. They have somewhere to go now and that is the problem. He promises he will work hard with MASCG and the police to try and resolve the problems. Billy and his people are worried that this will happen again and he does not want it. He tells them he is able to speak to his people and they will listen to him. He can persuade the genuine Gypsies. Over the last twenty years it is not just Gypsies and Travellers that are coming. They have bow-tops and caravans but a lot are from the settled community. They do not know the rules. We have unwritten laws in the Gypsy and Traveller Community. That is why people have been coming back for generations and they have never been any trouble to you. The problem is now we have groups of people coming who do not follow our laws. Laws that are understood by all of our people. There are too many people flooding into the fields that have opened up because the land owners have been given licenses by the council. That is why there is a problem. We predicted it would cause problems long before MASCG existed. It is not fair on the Gypsies and Travellers . It is not fair on the local residents or the people in the towns. There are too many coming because there are too many fields open. He thinks they need to stop it getting any bigger. We need to make it more manageable. Try and get it back to how it was twenty years ago. A lady from the audience asks what he has done to stop it getting bigger? Why has he allowed it to happen? Billy tells the lady he has not allowed it to happen. The Gypsies and Travellers have tried to reign it back in and stop it growing but they have been completely ignored by the authorities.
Supt Pannoni speaks .After listening for the last 90 minutes it seems to him the key is that the people perceive that there is a complete lack of respect by the people coming to the area. He wants to focus on one issue. The issue about perception has been mentioned to him a few times. People think that lots of Gypsies and Travellers do not respect other people. He asks what the residents can do to prevent that lack of respect in their own community.( Load mumbling from the audience).
Billy Welch speaks and tells them his people are proud and honourable people. They go back thousands of years. They are not society's rejects. Billy tells them some of his history. We have a very ancient culture and language that go back a thousand years. Billy tells them he can speak to his people and they will listen. He tells them it is the settled people letting the fields out. It is the settled people filling them up and it is the settled people giving them the licences. It is the Gypsies and Travellers who are getting the blame. It is out of his hands. He also tells them about the peaceful protest they had in Appleby in 2010. He had asked the men to march through Appleby in complete silence with their hands by their side. He did not want to intimidate or frighten the residents. He had told the men to show respect to the residents and a lot of them where on the Gypsies side. All 10,000 did as Billy asked. My people do not burn there bridges. They have been coming for hundreds of years. They have stayed in the same places on the way there and back for generations. Cllr Dew speaks and says he will take note of it and hold MASCG responsible for trying to do something about it.
Another man stands up and says he would like to cast doubt on the licensing issue and the reasons they cannot stop it. He has heard often enough the Police objecting to licences as there was too much provision of alcohol. It seems to him it would be highly appropriate for them to say it has got too big and they need to bring the licensing under control. Another man speaks and thanks Billy for his comments. He says that the extra 17% that are coming, are coming because they can do anything they bloody want. They can act in any way they want. A phrase we hear is when we are in town we are in charge. He would like them to understand that is exactly as it feels. Cllr Dew asks is there anybody else who would like to speak. He says there are some at the front who have not spoken. A man stands and asks the Gypsy representatives could they not provide their own stewards in conjunction with the police
A lady walks to the podium at the front. Right she says. I know all about the Gypsy community. I was born and bred in Kirby Stephen. I worked as a barmaid for seventeen years. They were nice they were respectful and we all respected each other and we enjoyed seeing them. We do not enjoy this lot that come. And now on to the one thing that nobody has answered. Do you know when they are defecating in the streets what happens to it, she asks? She has worked it out. They have to phone the council who come with high pressure washers. They wash it all down the sewers. And do you know where that comes out? Below Hodgkin's Mill. So we have raw sewage from humans and Horses, going all the way down the River Eden, through all the villages and down to Appleby. They could be carrying parasites and bacteria. They will not use the toilets in Kirby Stephen. They wreck them. It is also been done on top of grass. So when it is been done on top of grass it has gone down into the water table. Then were the hell does it go. Because you tell me. You are spreading raw sewage all over the county. So what are you going to do about it? It is a health risk. You are putting Kirby Stephen on par with refugee camps in third world countries. The worst bacteria that is carried in water is cholera. Most of the audience are laughing quietly while she is talking.
A man asks about the stewards idea as they may get a better response from the Travellers if they steward it themselves. Bill Lloyd says that is a fair point and maybe they should put it to the licensing people. He says that on Fair Hill that is run by Billy, there is never any bother. We steward it. We run the original fair. It is well managed and well stewarded. Two years ago there was a bit of bother and they were thrown off. As far as Bill is aware the other fields do not have to provide stewarding as part of their licensing agreement. He thinks it should be something they look at next year. Because of fairness, if someone wants to carry out a legal activity and other people are doing it, how are you going to decide who cannot do it. People have to be treated equally. They cannot have stewards on the A658 but they can look at it for the camping fields.
Cllr Dew starts winding the meeting down. A lady says, they have said they will be reviewing the feedback and looking at how things can be improved in Kirby Stephen. Can we be assured at this meeting that both Cllr Dew and a representative of Kirby Stephen town council will be involved in those discussions? Mathew Neil says involving other councils is something they are looking at. He cannot go into detail, but MASCG has discussed setting up a forum with all three levels of local authority so everybody can feed in to that.Cllr Dew points out that all MASCG members are officers and there are no elected members at all. It seems to HIM and others that, that is the problem. A lady at the back speaks. The lady has a farm just near Kirby Stephen. For the last few years she has had no problems because there has been nobody stopping nearby. When there was people stopping, she had nothing but trouble with them. The lady reported it to the police but nothing was done. If they come back, what are you going to do if it happens again? Can she be assured she is not going to experience the same thing she did before? Supt Pannoni tells the lady that part of the challenge is each year they do not know where people are going to go. What he is hearing loud and clear is we need to look at our style of policing. We need to be in a position were once we know what is happening. Which means you telling us. and us responding in a better way than what you say we are not currently doing. Wherever people come next year, and however we influence that there is work to be done so we can respond to your need. A man from outer Eden gets the mike. It appears to him there on the A685 where his company is based the vehicles stopping there are motorised but never move. They are not transient. They stay there all the time. They are staying there all week then commuting. It is like there holiday cottage for the week then they are commuting in. Supt Pannoni replies that it is not what they want in Kirby Stephen. Next year we are going to have to look at moving people on.
A lady says she has a business in Appleby would like to talk about two things. Can she just ask. the fair is from Thursday to Thursday on Fair Hill . There is nobody there on Sunday night or Monday morning. So why can we not have it from Monday to Monday on Fair Hill? The next thing is it beyond the wit of man to charge people coming to the fair to cover our costs? She does not think the cost should be picked up by the rate payers and tax payers. Usually when you go to an event or attraction you expect to pay, she says. I think the visitors just pay for car parking. We cannot afford social care for our elderly. How much is it costing Cumbria as a hole to put this on and police it? Cllr Dew replies it is £240,000. The lady explains that the villagers are having to pay for their own street light now because we cannot afford it out of our council tax. She is not saying she knows how to achieve it but she does not see why if the Gypsies and Travellers and the people who visit the Fair want to go why can they not pay? (Visitors to the fair who camp do pay the land owners that own the land they camp on – editors note). Bill Lloyd answers the lady. The point about Monday to Monday for the Fair is a local political anomaly. The biggest problems they have started when they opened Market Field. The Fair used to run from Thursday to Thursday and the main day was Tuesday. The second Wednesday was always Fair day and everybody went. Tuesday was always the big dealing day. Now by Sunday evening and Monday morning everybody has gone. When the Market Field opened it brought a whole new crowd of visitors that are not Gypsies or Travellers. They all started coming on the Saturday because that is when tourists like to come. Once that happened we asked to move the whole fair back. If it was going to be the Saturday then we should have a week. MASCG did not want that. It is three or four days of intense policing in Appleby then it is all over. To move it back to Monday to Monday it would cost more. Appleby Town Council would not like it. Because of the scale it is now it would be a major disruption. As Far as the cost of the fair, Bill Lloyd accepts it does cost the rate payer, but it is all of Cumbria that pay for it, not just the small towns. People who stay on Fair Hill, which he regards as the original Fair, pay a lot of money to stay on there. It has stewards, toilets, litter picking and insurance. It has all the stuff. That is the organised bit of the Fair. The rest of it, he does not know.
Cllr Dew speaks and tells the audience that Eden District Council pay £80,000 - "that's us," he says. Cumbria County Council pay £45,000. The policing costs are spread further afield. The may charge on Fair Hill but where does that money go? It does not come to us, he says. Billy Welch speaks next and says that, like any other major event, they have to provide toilets, skips, stewards and liability cover. When the Fair is over they clean it up. Any damage done is repaired by the Gypsies. We leave the fair as we found it. The traditional Fair does not cost the Tax payer or the Rate payer a penny. In fact Appleby Council make two thousand pounds profit from the Gypsies. That is what we pay the Council to rent it for the week. The Gypsies pay for the Fair. They pay for the clean-up. It is the traditional Fair he is talking about.
Cllr Dew asks for one more comment. A lady speaks and says, in regards to policing, what is there plan for next year? It is very dangerous on the A685. Both the lady and her dad had made various calls to 999. There was police stationed on that Road. There was people and Horses in the road. Cars parked in the middle of the road. Police are sat watching from there vehicles and doing nothing about it. Supt Pannoni says the plan will be different from this year. He does not want to make the plan until everybody has had their say. He likes to hope that the same things do not happen next years as they are not acceptable. Cllr Dew thanks the audience and closes the meeting.
When the meeting was over I approached Cllr Dew and asked if I could speak to him about the meeting... says Amanda Reed – our TT community reporter. I also asked if I could record the conversation he agreed to both. We went into the corridor just off the school hall. I told Cllr l Dew I was appalled no representatives from the Gypsy and Traveller community had been invited to attend .I was disgusted that neither Billy Welch or Bill Lloyd had been given a place at the table and both had been forced to sit in the audience. Cllr Dew explained it was MASCG who had invited the representatives and not him. He had only organised the meeting
I told Cllr Dew I had been in Kirby Stephen for a couple of days and I had stayed here when Appleby had been on. I was surprised that nobody had made any effort to invite anybody to represent the Gypsies and Travellers and to speak on their behalf. Billy Welch had come to the meeting under his own steam and put his head on the line to speak on behalf of his people. I thought just out of respect, and because he is on that committee and because you are all here talking about Gypsies and Travellers, then whoever has organised this meeting should have gone to some effort to make sure there was someone at that table from our community. You all know who the main fella is. I was one of the ones that stayed in Kirby Stephen. I spent money in your shops, I went into your pubs and caused no trouble and when I went home I took my rubbish with me. I work and pay my tax. I am a council tax payer and i own my own home. I fully understand why the residents are angry.
I asked him why he had not allowed me to speak when i had put my hand up more than once. Cllr Dew said he did not know who I was. I explained it did not matter that he did not know who I was. It was a public meeting and I had wanted to speak. Was it because i was not one of the residents he wanted to speak? He had not recognized most of the people he said. I pointed out he knew most of their names when they stood up to speak. He says he allowed Billy and Bill to speak and he did not have to do that. I told him I did not think he was allowed to stop anybody speaking at a public meeting. I invited them to come to the front, he said instead of them speaking from the main body of the audience.
I told Cllr Dew about the many cultural events that take place in my home city. The West Indian carnival and the Pride march are just two. When I visit some of those events, there are policemen in stab proof vests, carrying large guns, I said. They are there to keep us safe from people who want to do us harm. It is paid for by tax .I asked were the Police and Crime Commissioner was, who had made the inappropriate comments about the Gypsies and Appleby Fair. He had visited Kirby Stephen on the Wednesday of Fair week. He had promised Billy and Bill previously he would be there. Again Cllr Dew said it was MASCG’s responsibility to invite people, not him. Cllr Dew apologises for not allowing me to speak and again says he did not know who I was. I said he should speak to the Highways Manager as we had both been laughing when he kept ignoring me. I felt he had excluded me and was cherry picking the people he wanted to speak.
One thing that had bothered me was the things the residents had said. But none had produced any evidence. It was all hearsay. We want to stop problems just as much as him, the residents and the Police. He says they have not provided evidence as nobody takes any notice anyway. That is why i am questioning it. The police are saying the same. He says that because people have made an effort to come then that shows what’s happening. I explain I have also made an effort. I have come all the way from Leeds but he didn’t give me a chance to speak! Again I explain that when they are phoning 101 or 999 they are not providing any evidence that is why the police cannot act. That is why people are not been arrested. They need evidence. Everything else is hearsay.
I do not judge him and the settled people by what I see on Jeremy Kyle. So he should not judge us all the same. We have been coming here for hundreds of years. We have evidence of that. You had a man in there who has only lived in the Town for two years and already he is wanting to get rid of Appleby Fair. Well who is he? Because he is having his say. Cllr Dew asks if it is ok if he goes to see his people now. He understands what I am saying. He had no intention of stopping me from speaking, but again says it was because he did not know who I was. I gave Cllr Dew my name and number and asked him to contact me when he had more time to speak. The interview ended and we both went back into the school hall. When I went back into the Hall i approached Mathew Neil the Deputy Chief Executive of the district council and the Chair of MASCG. He was just on his way out. I asked him why he had not invited anybody to represent the G/T community to the meeting. Billy Welch and Bill Lloyd had come of their own accord. He said he would put it to the committee and left.
It was a beautiful summers evening and we walked to one of the pubs in town where we had arranged to meet up with Billy and Bill. As we walked I thought about the lady who had said they were unable to get care for her elderly because there was no money. You, she told the Supt are using all our council Tax. I had spent eight years looking after my father who was bed ridden. He had been a strong fit independent man. He was a very proud man who had lost the use of his legs and needed help with dressing and toileting. He had worked from the age of nine and his hands where twisted and bent with arthritis. He was unable to hold a spoon to feed himself. My mother was also in remission from cancer, so was unable to look after him full time because of the lifting. I lived fifteen miles away and had to work to pay my mortgage and bills. I had to fight tooth and nail to get him and my mother help from the Council and social services. I had been given the same excuse. There was no money.
It was only after a long fight and me providing them with evidence of the amount of money the Council and Social services where wasting in my father’s street alone, they soon found the money for care. That was not my only problem. Because of the rumours, media coverage and racism that Gypsies and Travellers suffer, it was difficult to find people that would come into my Mother and Fathers home to care for them. Although they did not know us there were some that would not have anything to do with us and it made things very difficult. We did eventually find a lovely young lady named Rachel. She has become a friend of the family and was given a seat in the family car when my father was buried. He had told us she had become like a daughter to him.
When we reached the pub we got our drinks and sat at the bench outside. Billy and Bill soon joined us. We talked about the meeting and what the residents had said. When the meeting was over and I had been interviewing Cllr Dew a lot of the residents had approached Billly and thanked him for coming. He had told them a lot of things about the fair that they did not know. Some had said he had opened there eyes. Billy was annoyed with himself because he had forgotten to mention that the money from Fair Hill also pays for some of the Police. We all agreed we wanted to try and put things right. It was obvious the people did not know a lot about the Gypsies and Travellers and the Fairs history. We discussed the different things we could do. I suggested an evening event where some of the people could come and meet Gypsies and Travellers and hear there stories. I thought it would help to bring the Gypsies and the residents together in a less hostile environment so they could get to know Billy and his role in the Fair better.
While we were talking a lady approached us. She said she was glad she had caught up with us as she had been at the meeting and believed that Billy was the only one that spoke any truth. Not everybody had the same opinions about the Gypsies and Travellers. There were lots that supported them but felt they could not speak for fear of reprisals. We mentioned the idea of the Gypsies and residents getting together and she thought it was a brilliant idea. She went off for about ten minutes and came back to tell us she had spoken to someone who would be more than happy to provide a venue for us to hold the event. The person is also a supporter of the Gypsies and Travellers and did not have any trouble with them this year but did not feel able to speak out at the meeting. We thanked the lady and told her we would be in touch. After our drinks we all shook hands and went on our way.
By Amanda Reed/TT News
(Main photo © Natasha Quarmby/Fields of Light)