Appleby Horse Fair 2020 will not take place this year, in line with Government advice about avoiding large gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The message comes from Billy Welch, who is the Gypsy and Traveller representative on the Appleby Horse Fair Multi-Agency Strategic Co-ordinating Group – the collection of public sector organisations who come together to help co-ordinate the Fair.
Billy said: “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 – along with other events across the country – cannot take place.
“When the Fair was cancelled in 2001 during foot and mouth, the Gypsy and Traveller community respected the decision and stayed away and I am confident of the same response now.
"Everybody in the UK needs to pull together now and do their best to beat this terrible virus.
“This will be only the second time the Fair has not taken place in the past 250 years. However, the Fair will be back and it will be better than ever.”
Appleby Horse Fair is an annual gathering and an event with no organiser which sees tens of thousands of Gypsies and Travellers, as well as visitors, travel to Appleby-in-Westmoreland.
Chair of the Appleby Horse Fair Multi-Agency Strategic Co-ordinating Group, Les Clark, said: “We appreciate Billy Welch and the Gypsy and Traveller community stepping forward, recognising the situation we are all facing and making this announcement.
“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. It would also put further strain on the emergency services and other public authorities who are already working at close to capacity coping with the impact of the global pandemic.