Images from a Gypsy Horse Fair
Photography & Text: © Anna Rubingh
Every year, in the first week of June, English and Irish Gypsies & Travelers gather in the Cumbrian town of Appleby-in-Westmorland in the North of England for the Appleby Horse Fair. They have done so for hundreds of years. This annual gypsy horse fair is not just about buying and selling horses, it's an event most gypsies and travelers look forward to all year long, a gathering where they meet up with their friends and family.Thousands of Gypsies and Travelers spend a long weekend at one of the campsites around Appleby, meeting up with each other, showing off their horses, racing them on Flash Lane and riding and driving them through Appleby town to wash them in the River Eden which flows through the town centre.
And while many Gypsies and Travelers today travel to the fair in modern caravans many are still proud driving their traditional (gypsy) horse pulled bowtop caravans and carts to the fair from all over England with the trip to the fair honoring their old traveling tradition. The Appleby Horse Fair is a gathering where old meets new and modern times meet ancient traditions, an extrodinary mix in which gypsies try to stay true to their gyspy culture and heritage, something that isn't always easy in a modern society with many prejudices.
In addition to Gypsies and Travelers the annual Appleby Horse Fair is visited by a lot of non-gypsies and tourists as well, Gadjos as the gypsies call them, which means somebody who is not gypsy. Traveling up to Appleby on a small local but busy train full of Appleby Horse Fair visitors an elderly woman told me: "I'm in my eighties but I still visit every year, it's a lovely day out" Every year she travels from her home town on the Yorkshire east coast by train to Appleby to visit the fair. "People come from all over the country and even from abroad to visit." she says, "It takes me almost 3 hours to get there by train but it's worth it, the fair, the journey by train, everything" And she is right, the train from Leeds up to Appleby crosses the beautiful Yorkshire Dales before it arrives in the green and lush Eden Valley in which Appleby is situated. But that's another story, a story you'll find here: Settle-Carlisle Railway