The North West Gypsies Not Told about Appleby Fair

In June every year, if you live anywhere in Cumbria, Lancashire or indeed in Northumberland and Durham in the North East of England, and you live in a relatively rural area you will notice an annual phenomenon: Lots of horse- drawn carriages on the roads, sometimes groups of two or three of them together. You have to slow right down and can only pass them safely when you can be sure there is no on-coming traffic for half a mile ahead!

All of the horse-drawn carriages with heir colourful bow-tops travelling from far and wide are gypsies travelling to Appleby Fair- the largest Annual Gypsy Gathering in Europe. Only this year, it has been cancelled because of the Coronavirus outbreak. Alas, the other day, some gypsies still travelled to and arrived in Appleby, a picturesque town in the Eden Valley in eastern Cumbria. Did no-one tell them that Appleby Fair was OFF?

BBC North West Tonight, which is meant to be so right-on with minority and ethnic groups that it reports regularly on Gay Pride in Manchester and recently, reported extensively on the Black Lives Matter protests in Manchester and Liverpool did not report on a very important piece of news that might impact directly on the 10,000 plus Gypsies living in North West England- the cancellation of Appleby Fair due to Coronavirus. Certainly, as it is the most important such gathering of Gypsies in Europe, it is possible that North West Gypsies who watch BBC North West Tonight might have been informed that in 2020 their big annual gathering is off?

Appleby Fair’s organisers cancelled this gathering back in late March and BBC Look North (Newcastle) reported it so at least Gypsies in the North East of England and northern Cumbria got some warning. Yet there were still Gypsies turning up. Is this because their Regional Television programming just would not tell them because of the Programmers’ “No! We CANT report on Appleby Fair! Appleby’s just beyond our Patch”. So hundreds, possibly thousands of relatively poor people from an overlooked ethnic minority in the North West of England needlessly travelled on horse-back for several days to an event that was cancelled- simply because of BBC North West’s dogmatic refusal to cover anything beyond its transmission boundary. Shameful!

Published by northwestisnorthwest

My name is Ian Pennell and I am a freelance Book-keeper: I live near Alston, in the North Pennines in north-east Cumbria. I have friends who live in northern North West England - near Lancaster (which is where I went to University and used to live until 17 years ago) and in other parts of Cumbria. I have two Website Campaigns that seek to promote more localised Regional TV coverage for large rural areas across the North of North West England and North East England. . A big problem is that the Regional Television Bulletins for the North West covers the southern third of the Region about 90% (plus a part of Derbyshire which is NOT the North West of England), covers the middle third of North West England poorly and covers the northern third of North West England not at all! When I was studying at Lancaster University, I used to watch BBC1 North West Tonight because it covered areas up around where I was brought up- in northern Cumbria as well as more immediately locally around Lancaster. Then I came home one day, turned on BBC1 North West Tonight wondering why they were silent on Cumbria and discovered why: Most of Cumbria had been chopped off the weather-map! . People living in the westernmost part of North West England (around St. Bees Head) have local BBC news on their televisions which is 90% about North East England! In rural and northern Northumberland too, Regional TV, as is received by viewers, tends too often to be Tyneside/ Wearside/ Teesside- focussed with little news locally. Communities in North Northumberland have strong links across the Border into south-east Scotland and towards Edinburgh but none of the Regional TV News- services serving Northumberland today ever goes across the Scottish Border for significant happenings of interest to North Northumbrians. I have also done walking in the area, including around the Cheviots in the past- and the Northumberland/ Scottish Borders/ East and Mid Lothian area is vast- but it is largely overlooked by mainstream Regional TV! . North Yorkshire, the largest county in England also falls in the gaps between coverage from BBC Look North (NE/ Cumbria) or ITV1 News Tyne Tees in the north of the county, and the Leeds-based BBC1 and ITV1 Regional TV- services in the south of the county: North Yorkshire is a huge, yet beautiful county, which I have visited and explored in the past, yet is poorly covered in Regional TV. . Based near Alston, near the Cumbria/ Northumberland boundary I am well-placed to discuss Regional TV in all these large rural areas, in which collectively some two million folk live, yet they are poorly covered by the Regional TV News- services set up to serve them. These huge areas are an hour to two hours' drive from where I live: North Lancashire and South/ West Cumbria are to the south-west, Northumberland and the Scottish Borders and Lothian are to the north and north-east, and North Yorkshire is to the south-east of my home near Alston. I am well-placed to draw attention to deficiencies in Regional TV coverage for folk in all these areas. The North Pennines, where I live, is arguably another large area that touches on the other three where Regional TV coverage falls through the gaps completely (and that is despite the North Pennines running north to south down the middle of the BBC1 NE/ Cumbria Region). . In two websites, one for northern North West England and the Isle of Man (a country in it's own right that does not have it's own TV service!), and another Website focussing on Northumberland, North Yorkshire and the North Pennines I make the point that Regional TV that informs viewers of important things in their local area is a Public Service, funding for which should be given a higher priority (and if necessary via statute through the BBC's Charter), than funding for Soaps, Films or Sport- which are for leisure. I also give viewers the tools to fight effectively for better- and more geographic-appropriate Regional TV where they live- and to seek it through alternative (often little-known) local TV services, some of which may only be available on the Internet.

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