Celebrating the cultural heritage of Appleby

24th August 2021

Children from Appleby, home to the annual Appleby Horse Fair, had the opportunity to develop their creative talents as part of a project celebrating cultural heritage and the town’s long association with the Gypsy and Traveller community, thanks to £1,000 from the Westmorland Arts Trust.

Appleby Horse Fair, which usually takes place in the first week of June, is unique in Europe and, as well as attracting around 10,000 Gypsies and Travellers, over 30,000 visitors flock to the town to soak up the atmosphere and watch horses washed in the river Eden on Appleby’s Sands.

Pupils in Years 4, 5 and 6 at Appleby Primary School worked with local artist Karen Babayan in collaboration with police community support officer Sally Ewbank and volunteer Shirley Simpson to produce a series of striking panels displayed on the crowd barriers there to protect pedestrians during the Fair.

Pupils learned about the history of the fair, Gypsy and Traveller traditions as well as the work of the Multi Agency Strategic Co-ordination Group, which organises the annual event. This learning inspired the panels and children’s mural, which has been created in relief print and collage.

Kate Adams, Treasurer of the school PTA, said:  “The workshops were a great success, the children very responsive and proud of their achievements. The children have learned drawing, printing, and design skills. Experience of working with an artist can be life-changing; children who are less academically able, excel themselves in creative environments. This project has encouraged stronger community cohesion. We printed 20 magnificent panels, which are now sited on the railings at Bongate by the war memorial. These have been very well received by the local and traveller community alike.

“The Horse Fair is here to stay, and this has been the first project of its kind to encourage local children and through them, their families, to gain a deeper understanding of the travellers who have come for the fair and at various other times of the year.”

Karen Babayan, who worked with the pupils said: “Creating this important work for the town took thorough planning, meticulous preparation and three days of intensive workshops where each and every pupil contributed. The result is stunning. We are grateful to Appleby Town Council and Westmorland Arts Trust for their financial support of this project. The panels will last a number of years, installed during each new fair for our community and visitors to enjoy.”