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Reading safety fears

MP wants to make festival a 'fire-free' zone

  • 25/09/2009
  • Ruth Barnes
Festival crowd

Reading Festival boss Melvin Benn is meeting with the police and Reading West MP Martin Salter today, as the MP questions the safety of the event.

Salter called the meeting as he says he has received many complaints about camp fires lit on the final night of the event, as well as what he says was 'disgraceful behaviour' this year.

He wants the whole festival to be a 'fire-free zone', but told the BBC that the fires themselves weren't his biggest issue: "Angry mobs running around, stealing other people's tents and possessions and throwing them on the bonfires to keep the fires burning.

Then I've got to ask the question whether or not is it sensible at all to allow any sort of campfire in the middle of a campsite of 80 000 people."

"It's a lethal cocktail, drunken young people, fires and insufficient security"

MP Martin Salter

Mr Salter is questioning the crowd safety and security of the event after seeing the fires, which were recorded and broadcast on YouTube: "I was not happy with the comments by the police or the festival organisers who were seeking to downplay the concerns of the fans, and the media coverage of the event.

Almost implying that some of the complaints that were coming forward were exaggerated. Well, that's simply not the case."

The MP says in the current set up it's a 'minor miracle' there weren't more injuries this year: "It's a lethal cocktail, drunken young people, fires and insufficient security to deal with the situation.

I am a supporter of the festival, I want it to be a great success but I want it to be a safe event for young people as it always used to be."

Supt Stuart Greenfield, of Thames Valley Police, said: "The last evening of the festival was particularly busy for police and festival security teams in terms of public disorder.

"We worked closely together in the face of some hostility to restore calm and order.

"We take the safety of festival-goers very seriously and early meetings are taking place with partners to review this year's event and to plan our response to the next festival."

Organiser Festival Republic has not responded to Mr Salter's comments.

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