The North West’s Gypsies would do well to watch ITV Border Lookaround

11th August 2021

In this article I discuss the fact that the Gypsies and Travellers of North West England are failed by both BBC North West Tonight and ITV Granada Reports when they refuse to cover Appleby Horse Fair- the largest gathering of it’s kind for Gypsies and the Romany community in Europe. It is a very significant event of interest to Gypsies and Travellers who live in North West as well as North East England.

Watching BBC North West Tonight it is clear that they are a bit better at covering the northern North West of England than ITV Granada Reports (there were four news-items featuring Lancashire this evening on BBC North West Tonight), but neither of the North West’s main Regional TV News providers can be said to cover Cumbria well, or even adequately. Even for the general population at large, I would advise that if you live in northern Lancashire and South Cumbria what you should try and get, even though its not the default ITV Region, is ITV News Border; you should watch the ITV Border flagship Regional News programme Lookaround. ITV Border covers Cumbria extremely well (i.e. the northern half of North West England, tonight there were five news- features concerning Cumbria on Lookaround) which can complement news from BBC North West Tonight which covers areas further south. So, if you live somewhere like Carnforth or Morecambe you can (in a way) help yourself to Regional News that covers Cumbria and Lancashire, rather than Manchester and Liverpool, i.e. it is more geographic- appropriate to where you live and the places you frequent: That much can be established.

Now, this evening, one of the news- features on ITV Border’s Lookaround was Appleby Fair, which starts tomorrow. There was not a peep about it from either BBC1 North West Tonight or ITV Granada Reports. And yet Appleby Fair is the largest annual gathering of Gypsies in Europe, which means that Gypsies and the Romany communities across a large part of North West England would wish to be informed about it (in the way that Manchester United supporters would wish to be informed of the fixtures for their favourite team in advance). So, when Appleby Fair is happening and information about the gathering (i.e. the weather will be wet) is conveyed they would want to know. However, BBC North West or ITV Granada touch it because Appleby is 15 miles north of BBC North West’s transmission area and 25 miles north of ITV Granada’s transmission area. Last year, when Appleby Fair was cancelled neither the two main North West TV News providers mentioned the fact that Appleby Fair was cancelled because of the Coronavirus Pandemic- and a number of Gypsies made a wasted journey (many on horses and on the roads at considerable risk to themselves). This I covered in an article on this Website last year (

Thus, given the links that many Gypsies and the Romany Community in the North West of England have with Appleby-in-Westmorland, in the beautiful Eden Valley in eastern Cumbria- and with other Gypsy folk who live there- many of whom will live in Cumbria or even southern Scotland (and who will have converged on Appleby from the opposite direction) it would be fair to say that the Gypsies of North West England have stronger links with Cumbria, have more interest with what happens there and -through years of going to Appleby Fair and meeting folk from Cumbria and southern Scotland- have more interest in places further north than do the rest of the population of North West England.

So, if you know Gypsy or Romany families or if you are one from one yourself I would advise switching over to ITV News Border- which covers Cumbria and southern Scotland- and to watch ITV Border’s Lookaround and then watch BBC North West Tonight if you live anywhere north of the M62 Corridor. If you have Sky TV you can get the Sky technician to programme your TV with a Windermere (South Cumbria) post-code so that you get ITV Border and BBC North West, if that is not practical then you can watch ITV News Border from the Website (, assuming that you have a Computer and Internet. If that is not affordable, and Gypsy communities are amongst the poorest in the land, try rigging your aerial up and pointing it north if you live anywhere from Lancaster northwards (you may be able to get the signal from ITV Border on your television). If you live further south and are too poor even to get Sky TV or Internet then your only course is to write an angry letter to BBC North West to say “We want Cumbria News!” and to demand of ITV Granada that the ITV Border signal is made available in the North West for folk who are too poor to get either Sky TV or the Internet!

Appleby Fair is extremely important to Gypsies, it’s like Glastonbury Festival is to young folk who like raves and music festivals! To maximise their chances of hearing about it Gypsies need to watch the Regional News- service liable to cover it! To find out about the people you love and the friends that you have made- and their communities- further north it is important that Gypsies and the Romany community have access to an appropriate Local and Regional News- service. If you know Gypsies who would like to have news about Cumbria- and particularly about Appleby Fair- who live in places like Wigan, Bolton or Preston (i.e., too far south to get the ITV Border signal straight from their aerial) then let them know how they could obtain ITV News Border. And if they cannot afford it then the best Christmas present you could give a poor Gypsy family is a Sky TV subscription- and get the technician installing it for them to programme their TV so that the Gypsy family gets ITV Border and BBC North West!

It is quite legitimate for Gypsy and Romany viewers of Regional Television in North West England to want to watch ITV News Border and Lookaround. After all, ITV Granada Reports would never even consider covering something from northern or eastern Cumbria- so far north and BBC Regional News Programmers for the North West need to be given a little shock- an “Oi. Your coverage of the northern North West is Not Good Enough!”. Gypsies and Romany groups in Lancashire, northern Greater Manchester and immediately north of Liverpool can still get North West Tonight for more Immediate Local news-coverage whilst getting ITV News Border and Lookaround from Sky TV (or the Internet)- so that they get the Cumbrian coverage about the communities of friends further north and- more importantly- get their coverage of Appleby Horse Fair- when it is and what to expect there. A Windermere post-code in the Sky Digibox will make BBC North West and ITV Border the default TV Regions for Sky Television viewers.

If Programmers for ITV Granada get an even bigger shock at losing viewers across a significant chunk of their transmission area in the process, that is good news. They might realise that they need to do something about it- preferably by fitting Cumbria into their news coverage! If BBC North West Tonight’s Programmers get that message and decide to cover all of Cumbria (which they are more predisposed to do than ITV Granada Reports‘ Programmers) in news-coverage that can only be good news for the Gypsy community in North West England- and other viewers in northern Lancashire and South Cumbria. That will- in turn- put more pressure on ITV Granada to cover Cumbria or- better still- provide an opt-out for viewers in Lancashire, South Cumbria and the Isle of Man in which they cover all of Lancashire, Cumbria and the Isle of Man in news-output.

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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