Blog entry by Astrid Dinneen
Anyone in the world
By Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor Claire Barker
As the summer fast approaches many of us will see our Traveller children and their families disappear for the last weeks of term or dot in and out as they attend the most notable horse fairs around the country. The horse fairs are a valuable and treasured part of the Traveller culture and should be shared and enjoyed in our schools that have Travellers as part of their school community.
The season always opens and closes with Stow Fair which is held in May and October. It takes place at Maugersbury Park and thousands of Travellers come to the showground to trade and parade their horses. This particular fair has been an annual event since 1476 when a Royal Charter was given for a fair to be held.
Locally, in Hampshire, Wickham Fair is always held on 20th May unless that day falls on a Sunday and then the fair will be on 21st May. This year it is an extra special event as this is its 750th anniversary. King Henry III granted a Royal Charter to Wickham in 1269 to hold the fair and markets in the town. It was not a Gypsy Horse Fair at this time but in later centuries it became one of the main English horse fairs for Travellers. A condition of the Charter was that a fair had to be held every year on that day so during World War II a local Traveller placed a carousel in the Square to keep the tradition of the fair going so it could continue after the war.
Appleby Fair is the
big event of the year for Travellers and it happens in the first week in June
and goes on from Thursday to Wednesday with the main events happening on the
Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Like Wickham
and Stow fairs it was also granted a Royal Charter. King James II granted a charter to Appleby in
1685. Many Romany historians claim this
fair is older than five hundred years with some claiming Travellers from the
Roman times travelled to Appleby to trade and parade.
The fairs and the
events surrounding them form a vital heartbeat in the Traveller
communities. It is a time when
Travellers from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England come together to share
their traditions and values. They trade
together buying and selling horses and goods.
They eat together and socialise and there is lots of catching up with
families from far and wide. The fairs
are often times for family weddings, baptisms and birthday celebrations as the
whole family is together. Many young
Travellers meet their future partners at the fairs.
Romany, Irish Travellers, Scottish Travellers, Welsh Travellers and Showmen come together to ply their goods and catch up on the year’s events. However, the Showmen tend to be at the fairs as service providers running carnivals and catering wagons for all of the Travellers.
Many of the families will take pictures and share them on social media and this provides schools the opportunity to discuss and find out about the fairs and the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.
If you have a child from a Traveller community in your school and they are absent for a fair, take the time on their return to ask them to share the magic and experiences they have had. Explore their world together and create a greater understanding of one of Britain’s oldest communities and what they hold dear.
[ Modified: Thursday, 9 May 2019, 9:47 AM ]