IN 2023, Appleby Fair saw the highest number of arrests and animal welfare incidents since 2015, partly attributed to hot temperatures and a higher presence of authorities. 

Despite last year boasting 'the best year yet' due to its prominence in reemphasising the cultural significance of the Fair with guests such as the Archbishop of York in attendance, the 2023 Fair was marred by the death of a 15-year-old boy. 

As presented in the Multi-Agency Strategic Co-ordinating Group (MASCG)'s recently released evaluation report for the 2023 fair, condolences were extended to the family and friends of Denis Ward.

The teen died six days later in James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough, after he suffered a head injury during the Fair. 

Appleby Fair is believed to date back to around 1775 and is significant in its cultural value as it is believed to be one of the largest annual Gypsy, Traveller and Roma gatherings in Europe. 

Whilst there is no formal organiser of the Fair, MASCG was established in 2008 as a co-ordinating strategy for agencies to work together during the event and pave the way for an action plan for the next year's Fair.

Last year, on its busiest day - Saturday - the Fair is considered to have drawn in approximately 20,000 people and hundreds of horses to the town, which regularly is only home to 3,200 residents.

The report indicates that in 2023, "there were 288 reported incidents of animal welfare", resulting in nine horses; two dogs; thirteen puppies and two chickens being held at the end of the Fair, a figure which has increased from 193 the year prior. 

This increase was attributed mainly to the greater presence of animal welfare organisations and hotter weather.

Yet, the successful focus on ensuring animal welfare, particularly for horses, was mentioned in the report. 

Eighteen awards were handed out on June 9 for the best horse health, happiness and overall horsemanship, not allowing a few welfare issues to "overshadow the love and care that goes into looking after horses".

The Fair itself saw a notable increase in arrests compared to previous years, with 42 recorded in 2023, compared to 18 in 2022.

Police also recorded 89 more incidents than the year prior. 

Similarly, the rising figure is attributed to building upon previous years 'proactive approach' with extensive measures being implemented in the run-up to the Fair. 

Looking ahead, MASCG is still considering the 'recurring' notion as to whether the Fair could become a ticketed event.

The benefits of this would include raising funds to cover policing and street cleansing costs.

However, while a report has been commissioned to offer independent strategic advice on this, the findings are yet to be received.

In response to the event, suggestions from communities, town and parish councils, and local businesses, MASCG identified several areas for improvement.

A series of improvements have been suggested, including the earlier clean-up of horse manure, increased policing, communication with residents and considering measures to reduce congestion in the town centre.

MASCG also suggests better signage for horse tethering, more bins and toilets, and support for Royal Mail in delivering parcels.