Trot on for Adelaide! London charity drive a massive success

10 December 2021
The sound of the hoffs! London charity drive a massive success

On a chilly Sunday, the first Sunday in December 2021, over 100 ‘lots’ (horses and carts) met in Wapping, East London, to take part in the London Christmas Drive.

Jack and Lee
Jack and Lee filling up with snacks and refreshments in Wapping before the drive starts. They came to see friends and family and for a day out. The Gypsy Cob is called Banjo (c) Mike Doherty

The Travellers’ Times went along to the starting point in the back streets of Wapping, which were chocabloc with horse boxes, carts, horses and Gypsies and Travellers and friends from all over the UK, to find out what was going on.

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Wapping. Top photo by Mike Doherty, bottom photo by Donna Holpin

The drive was organised on social media to raise money for charity and a also a chance for everyone to get together and have a good day out.

VIDEO: Take part in the drive yourselves pulled by Stormzee, a Gypsy Cob/Trotter, video courtesy of Chris Powell

The drive started in Wapping but ended up in Borough Market, south of the River Thames. The route took in all the major sights of London, including Buckingham Palace, a busy West End and Piccadilly Circus and Soho.

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Freddy James with Smokey Joe, a mini-Gypsy Cob. Photo by Mike Doherty
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Sarah Carter and Dean Sparks from Maidstone prepare Smokey Joe for the drive. Photo by Mike Doherty
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Sarah Carter: "We are here for a nice get-together and to have a little meet-up just before Christmas and have a bit of fun. I'm just glad that the weather has held up!" Photo by Mike Doherty.
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Smokey Joe in action. Photo by Katie Jones

There where various stops along the way, some planned and some not, giving a chance for Christmas shopping Londoners and tourists to marvel at the ‘lots’ and take pictures and selfies with the horses.

VIDEO: Take part in the drive yourselves pulled by Stormzee, a Gypsy Cob/Trotter, video courtesy of Chris Powell:

I see the horse drives as the “new/old,” … says Romany Gypsy Sally Barter.  They are one of the elements from our culture which has had a big revival in the past few years.

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All photos above by Donna Holpin

They are definitely growing in popularity as some of our traditional fairs are at risk of disappearing altogether.

VIDEO: Take part in the drive yourselves pulled by Stormzee, a Gypsy Cob/Trotter, video courtesy of Chris Powell:

 

It’s a community led national movement and these drives are often held for charitable reasons to raise funds for an unwell child or in memory of a respected figure from the Traveller community.

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Four Star, Claire Tales, Johnny Ackston and Toby the Jack. Photo by Mike Doherty
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Photos above by Mike Doherty

They are well-organised, self-policed to ensure safety, and publicised on social media and I feel they highlight the best of one of the most important aspects of Gypsy and Traveller culture which is our horses.

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Photos above by Donna Holpin

It’s also an opportunity for the men to do some horse dealing. You’ll see the best horses in the country, well cared for (contrary to media portrayal of Traveller horses) and immaculately turned-out horses and carts plus a level of real horsemanship that you would not find anywhere else.

VIDEO: Take part in the drive yourselves pulled by Stormzee, a Gypsy Cob/Trotter, video courtesy of Chris Powell.

Young and old show off their “lots”. It’s an opportunity for the community to get together and present a positive image to the public.

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All photos above by Mike Doherty

There’s a real sense of pride and they are definitely a colourful sight to behold driving in unison through the busy streets or a town or a city and can cause quite a stir.

VIDEO: Take part in the drive yourselves pulled by Stormzee, a Gypsy Cob/Trotter, video courtesy of Chris Powell.

Even if you can’t make the drives in person, you can follow them online and on social media. there is massive online and social media following already.

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All photos above by Mike Doherty

Be it loss of friends and family members, lack of cultural events like fairs and weddings and increased discrimination on social media from people with just too much time on their hands, the community have adapted and found other ways to come together and celebrate our culture.

VIDEO: Take part in the drive yourselves pulled by Stormzee, a Gypsy Cob/Trotter, video courtesy of Chris Powell:

That feeling of being amongst your own and togetherness is what makes things like this so successful, everyone wants to be part of that.

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All photos above by Donna Holpin

Travellers have certain events and places where they meet and they come from all over the country to do that. The drives, and the social media promotions, videos and pictures, are an example of Travellers taking the old and adapting it to the new.

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All photos above by Donna Holpin

The 2021 London Drive raised nearly £2,000 for a sweet little girl called Adelaide, who will need lifelong care and love by her family and friends.

VIDEO: Take part in the drive yourselves pulled by Stormzee, a Gypsy Cob/Trotter, video courtesy of Chris Powell:

Adelaide
Adelaide

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(Lead picture by Mike Doherty, words by Mike Doherty and Sally Barter, photos by Donna Holpin, Mike Doherty and Katie Jones and Adelaides family, Video by Chris Powell, horses and carts by over four hundred Gypsies, Travellers and friends.)


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