Travellers who descended on market town for religious festival leave site after four days of 'chaos'

·4 min read

Watch: Four days of mayhem as festival goers descend on showground

Travellers who brought chaos to a market town in England's smallest county during a four-day Pentecostal celebration have started to leave the site they descended on last weekend.

Around 1,500 travellers pitched up at Rutland Showground in the East Midlands for the mass Light and Life festival.

Residents and local businesses made hundreds of complaints to police over the following days as the travellers caused "absolute carnage" around the quaint town of Oakham, Rutland.

Reports of drag racing, shoplifting and antisocial behaviour were all filed, with shops forced to close their doors and schools warning children not to walk alone.

Local MP Alicia Kearns demanded “more protection” from police officers after some residents said they spent the entire weekend locked down in their own homes as they were too scared to leave.

The owners of the showground apologised over reports of anti-social behaviour from attendees of a Christian festival being held on its site (swns)
The owners of the showground apologised over reports of anti-social behaviour from attendees of a Christian festival being held on its site (swns)

Leicestershire Police confirmed two arrests had been made in connection with the event, which finished on Thursday.

On Friday a large number of caravans remained parked at the showground while convoys of cars began to leave the site.

Police officers blocked vehicles from re-entering by forming a barrier at the gates.

Oakham resident Carl Ford, 55, said: "The vast majority of them have been well behaved but a small number of them have caused absolute chaos.

"We will be glad to see the back of this event, which hasn't been well marshalled from the start.

Aerial view of the huge religious festival near Oakham in Rutland where 1500 traveler's descended for a week (swns)
Aerial view of the huge religious festival near Oakham in Rutland where 1500 festival goers descended for a week. (SWNS)
On Friday many of the travellers have began tidying the site after the event, with dozens offering to litter pick both inside and along the roads around the Rutland showground (swns)
On Friday many of the travellers have began tidying the site after the event, with dozens offering to litter pick both inside and along the roads around the Rutland showground. (SWNS)

"Last weekend was the worst but police did start clamping down on things over the following days.

"I saw somebody say it was like something from Mad Max and that was no exaggeration for that opening weekend.

"Most people have been locked down in their own homes again until this all passes over.

"They don't seem to be showing any urgent signs of leaving yet either, although some of them have been heading off today. I just hope they take their mess with them."

Another resident, who did not want to be named, said earlier in the week: “I work on the street and live quite close by to the showground.

The group arranged portaloos and large skips to remove all their rubbish (swns)
The group arranged portaloos and large skips to remove all their rubbish. (SWNS)

“I’ve heard how they’ve been weeing in people’s gardens and then running through the high street banging on windows.

“It’s been chaos and then there’s the added traffic and all of their rubbish that they’re just leaving around.

“They just seem to be dumping their rubbish and running riot around the town.

“It’s a quiet place and we’ve only got a little high street but they’ve still found ways to cause havoc.”

Police manned the gates at Rutland showground to ensure no festival-goers returned to the site (swns)
Police manned the gates at Rutland showground to ensure no festival-goers returned to the site. (SWNS)

The Rutland Agricultural Society hosted the event in 45 acres of fields for 1,500 adults and children in their own motorhomes and caravans.

Leicestershire Police said they received more than 100 calls regarding the event, predominantly about antisocial behaviour and COVID breaches.

Superintendent Jonny Starbuck said: “Initially we received over one hundred calls to police in relation to this event, mostly these calls to police were to notify us that it was happening and ask us if we were aware of the event.

A mass exodus of vehicles took place on Friday with police guarding to prevent any return visitors  (swns)
A mass exodus of vehicles took place on Friday with police guarding to prevent any return visitors. (SWNS)

“"There was considerable anti-social behaviour reported and we have made two arrests. Since the policing operation was put in place we have seen these calls to police drop to 20.

"We are aware of non-payment for food and shoplifting from local businesses and we are working with them to ensure the right action is taken.

“Mainly, we have had reports of anti-social behaviour and a few reports relating to COVID compliance.

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“We understand that anti-social behaviour can have a significant impact on the local community and I would like to thank them for working with us on this matter and I would encourage them to continue to report incidents to us.

“Again, we want to stress that this is a legal event and the majority of the people visiting are there to enjoy their faith.

“There are only a few who are determined to engage in this negative behaviour. We will deal with those who commit crime swiftly and robustly.”

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