LOCALS have said they are “scared to leave their houses” as a mass event for travellers got underway at the Rutland Showground in Leicestershire this weekend.
Residents of Oakham have described the town as “in a state of panic” after reports emerged of travellers drag racing on nearby roads and physically and verbally abusing shop staff.
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An estimated 1,500 adults and children are attending the Rutland event
Police are entering the event with the organisers permission to ensure Covid safety
Speaking to The Sun, residents claimed some attending the event had attempted to steal shop items or break into premises, while others had allegedly begun fighting in the streets.
One resident told The Sun: “We’re scared to leave our houses. They have blocked one of the bypasses with their trucks and some local staff in shops have been physically and verbally abused.
“The residents of Oakham are scared.”
An estimated 1,500 travellers have arrived at Rutland Showground for a Christian religious event called the festival of “Light and Life”.
Images of the event show hundreds of caravans parked at the fields by the Rutland Showground.
But members of the nearby historic town of Oakham claim anti-social behaviour linked to the gathering has caused deep distress.
One resident who was walking their dog near the gathering, saw cars racing along the Rutland bypass.
He described the scene as “something out of Mad Max”.
He told The Sun: “I saw a top spec Range Rover turning out of the site and hit almost 80mph in seconds.
“Behind was a Mustang doing the same.
Police have received information from local residents of anti-social behaviour
Hundreds of caravans have arrived at the Rutland Showground for the festival
“It was mayhem and it was only at about midnight that the trailers stopped arriving.
“This morning they were arriving again.”
Others took to social media to question whether the mass outdoor event should have been allowed given the national spike in Covid case numbers.
One asked the Rutland Showground: “How have you allowed a huge event to take place which threatens a community which has obeyed the rules and kept covid levels low?
“This beggars belief. Time to shut the event down.”
Some working in Oakham also took to social media to describe the physical and verbal abuse they claimed to have received.
One shop worker wrote online: “It was very upsetting to see my colleagues and I face physical and verbal abuse when they were simply trying to do their job.
“They were not wearing masks nor were they socially distancing.
Police have confirmed they are working with event organisers to ensure Covid safety
“The town is now in a state of panic. This was all for the sake of money and it’s disgusting.”
But Rutland Agricultural Society CEO Kevin Tighe has said it is only a “minority” of attendees who have been “causing a disproportionate amount of antisocial activity”.
He said: “The Rutland Agricultural Society had accepted a booking of its showground site on the edge of Oakham from St Hilda’s Church Darlington to run a Christian Festival.
“This outdoor event is self-contained using no onsite facilities other than a set of fields of around 45 acres.
“It is being managed by 90 pastors supported by a team of 40 stewards. In addition, we have a team of security staff on site.
“We required the event organisers produce an event risk assessment which covered a with a range of issues including the management of covid risks.
“To the best of our knowledge this is being implemented.”
He added: “The event which has around 1,500 adults and children in their own motor homes and caravans has also attracted a minority who have been causing a disproportionate amount of antisocial activity.
The festival is taking place outside the historic market town of Oakham
Many attendees have arrived with their caravans, with reports of some road blocks
“We are working closely with the organisers and liaising with the authorities to minimise and contain this antisocial activity.
“We regret the disruption that has been caused and apologise to all those affected.”
Supt Adam Slonecki, from Specialist Support at Leicestershire Police said: “We can confirm we have received information from local residents in Oakham and Rutland in relation to anti-social behaviour in the area.
“This relates to a private event which is a legally authorised event on private land between Light and Life and Rutland Showground.
“With permission from the organiser we will be regularly going into the event and continue to engage with the event co-ordinator to ensure they are covid safe.
‘We would like to reassure residents that we have extra foot patrols, a dedicated roads policing car and a specialist drone team operating in the area.
“In addition, local officers will be engaging with local businesses and licenced premises.
“We continue to work with the event goers and organisers to ensure disruption is kept to a minimum.
“Anyone with any information is visit https://www.leics.police.uk/ro/report/ quoting reference Log 186 of 19 June 2021 or to call 101.”