‘The media rush in and take pictures before we have a chance to clear up’ – Billy Welch

17 June 2022
Billy Welch brother in law Henry

The true story of the Appleby Fair clean-up operation which you will not read in the national press – exclusive to the Travellers’ Times

There has been the usual coverage of rubbish at Appleby by the National media.

It happens every year when the fair ends and without fail the tabloid newspapers flock to cover the mess left behind by ‘the Gypsies’ when the fair ends.

Travellers’ Times interviewed Billy Welch, Gypsy lead on the Appleby Fair organising group, as he was organising the annual clear up, which involves a team of Gypsies picking up bags of rubbish left by caravans and any abandoned debris.

Mr Welch runs the Appleby Town Council-owned Fair Hill - one of the main Appleby camping fields.

“It takes a couple of days and by Wednesday you wouldn’t know the Fair had been there,” said Mr Welch.

He said the National media liked to come on the Monday and usually took photographs of a field, owned by local farmer Jimmy Winter, where the market is held.

“They rush in and take pictures before he has had a chance to clear it up, which he also does within three days, and pretend it is Fair Hill, where the Gypsies and Travellers stay.

Billy Welch – ‘They like to sell papers by stigmatising us’ © Bela Varadi
Billy Welch – ‘They like to sell papers by stigmatising us’ © Bela Varadi

"It causes us a lot of problems for us, but they like to sell papers by stigmatising us and presenting a stereotype which doesn’t square with the clean, responsible Gypsy community we really are,” said Mr Welch.

Another myth Mr Welch was keen to bury was that Fair Hill was a huge expense to local ratepayers.

“Gypsies and Travelers organisations organise the whole thing. We pay for the lease on the field, for liability cover, for policing, for skips and roll-on, roll-off containers, pay for the toilets and for men to work on the hill as security and when it is all over, we pay to clean it all up and leave the place exactly as we found it.

“In fact, I believe it even makes a small profit for Appleby Town Council,” he added.

Chair of the Appleby Horse Fair Multi-Agency Strategic Co-ordinating Group (MASCG), Les Clark, of Eden District Council, said: “I’d particularly like to note that, this year, we have had a tremendous amount of good feedback about the work of our clean-up crews who have been working long hours to try and ensure Appleby and the surrounding area is kept clean.

“We have received hundreds of comments about their work which has started early each morning with litter picking and continues throughout the day, clearing rubbish and cleaning toilets, followed by cleaning The Sands area each evening.”

Mr Welch has already started work on 2023 Appleby Horse Fair.

By Mike Glover for the Travellers’ Times

(Lead photograph: Billy Welch and brother-in-law Henry taking part in the clean-up operation)

This article was amended on 20/06/2022 to clarify that Billy Welch was talking about the costs of Fair Hill - and not Appleby Fair as a whole