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Identifying healthcare needs of Travelling Showpeople

Published: 17 March 2023 at 09:30


Cambridge Festival talk will introduce new research into ‘little understood’ community

New research has found that Travelling Showpeople experience high rates of arthritis, muscular-skeletal conditions and other health conditions due to the nature of their work – and also face difficulties accessing health services due to seasonal travelling.

The findings of research by Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) and the Showmen’s Mental Health Awareness Charity into the complexities of access to health and healthcare needs of Travelling Showpeople will be presented during an event at ARU’s Cambridge campus later this month, as part of the Cambridge Festival.

Travelling Showpeople are defined in law as members of a group organised for the purposes of holding fairs, circuses or shows. Challenges facing members of the community include working long hours in all weathers, problematic access to health services when away travelling and a lack of understanding by healthcare professionals about the physical and psychological demands of the profession.

Travelling Showpeople commonly experience high rates of arthritis and muscular-skeletal conditions, diabetes, heart disease as well as stress and anxiety and depression. However, early findings from ARU’s research indicate that they also show significant resilience, rooted in shared community values of inter-generational care and solidarity.

The talk, part of the Cambridge Festival, will examine findings from a study of the health experiences and health status of Travelling Showpeople in Manchester and Cambridgeshire. The community was only included in Census data for the first time in 2021, and there is a lack of evidence about their healthcare requirements or how health professionals can best support them when travelling for work.

A report and recommendations for inclusive health practice and guidance for health professionals will be published later this year. The project is the first known UK study of the health needs and experiences of members of this often poorly understood community.

Margaret Greenfields, Professor of Social Policy at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said:

“It has been acknowledged by a number of public bodies that there is a lack of research into the unique lives of Travelling Showpeople and their health needs. Our research is the first known exploration into the experiences of this specific group and aims to find out more about the physical and mental health needs of the community, how they can be better supported while ‘on the road’, and how more appropriate and effective services can be tailored to their needs.”

Sheldon Chadwick, Founder and Chair of the Showmen’s Mental Health Awareness Charity said:

“It was amazing to get out to so many Yards and fairgrounds and speak to Showmen about their physical and mental health. It was inspiring to learn more about the resilience and strength of my community, and I look forward to using this research to help develop better services and more appropriate support.”

Professor Greenfields, research assistant and PhD student Sophie Coker, and Sheldon Chadwick of the Showmen’s Mental Health Awareness Charity, will present their research at ARU between 4pm and 5pm on Wednesday, 22 March, with the talk to be followed by a panel discussion with representation from the Showmen’s Mental Health Awareness Charity. 

The talk will be accompanied by a photography exhibition by Mary Humphrey entitled “Images from Showmen’s Lives” consisting of photographs taken as part of this research project which capture the joys and hardships of the community’s life as they bring funfairs to different locations. The study has been supported by ARU’s Quality Research and Safe and Inclusive Communities funding streams.

For more details, and to book places, visit https://aru.ac.uk/community-engagement/cambridge-festival/a-showcase-of-in-fair-health-a-study-into-the-health-and-well-being-needs-of-travelling-showmen


Photograph by Mary Humphrey