Cumbria

Appleby Horse Fair cancelled over coronavirus outbreak

People wash horses in the River Eden on the second day of the annual Appleby Horse Fair Image copyright OLI SCARFF/AFP
Image caption Thousands gather every year for the event in Appleby

The largest gathering of Gypsies and travellers in Europe has been cancelled, for only the second time in 250 years, because of coronavirus.

About 40,000 visitors regularly attend the Appleby Horse Fair in Cumbria, which would usually take place in June.

Organisers said it would be "irresponsible" to go ahead with the event and have urged people to respect the decision to postpone it until 2021.

The fair was last cancelled during the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak.

Image copyright OLI SCARFF/AFP
Image caption Organisers said they were confident people would respect the fair's cancellation

Billy Welch, Gypsy and traveller representative on the event's co-ordinating group, said: "This will be only the second time the fair has not taken place in the past 250 years. However, it will be back and it will be better than ever.

"Whilst we are extremely disappointed to have to make this announcement, it would be irresponsible for the fair to go ahead at a time when everyone must do everything they can to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

"It is not just disappointing for the Gypsy and Traveller community, but for the settled community too and the local economy.

"But people's health must come first, which is why the fair cannot take place.

"When the fair was cancelled in 2001, the Gypsy and Traveller community respected the decision and stayed away and I am confident of the same response now."

Image copyright Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Image caption Horses are ceremoniously washed and paraded in the River Eden during the fair

Chair of the co-ordinating group, Les Clark, added: "The fair taking place would increase the likelihood of Covid-19 spreading amongst the Gypsy and Traveller population, the population of Appleby and the wider population, putting lives at risk.

"I urge people to help us spread this message in their communities. We don't want anyone - Gypsies and Travellers or visitors - to set off for the fair having not heard the message."

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