Police off the bill at rock festival

Author: JOHN McKIE

This weekend’s Reading Rock Festival will require all the peace and love it can muster – there will be no police officers on duty.

Thames Valley Police has withdrawn after a financial dispute with the promoters, Mean Fiddler. It is thought to be the first British festival – certainly the first time in the 23-year history of the Reading event – that there will be not be a police presence. Security guards will have to make citizen’s arrests and then take the miscreants off the festival site, where the police will deal with them.

The three-day festival, which attracts 50,000 music fans, is one of the most prestigious events on the rock calendar. This year’s bill includes Neil Young, Bjork, Paul Weller and Courtney Love’s band Hole.

Mean Fiddler said the police asked for a 258 per cent increase in its pounds 41,000 fee to pounds 141,000. Thames Valley Police argue that policing the privately-run event costs pounds 250,000. The police said they were willing to reduce their fee to pounds 117,000 but that Mean Fiddler would not go above pounds 50,000.

Ian Blair, Thames Valley Police’s assistant chief constable of territorial policing, said: “This is a private festival which costs a quarter of a million pounds of public money and they’re only paying pounds 41,000. If we give in, I will never get another penny from any festival or football club in Britain.

“Last year, we had 300 crimes and 150 arrests at the festival and we made around 100 arrests in 1992 and 1993.”

Mean Fiddler’s festival director, Melvin Benn, insisted “there was nothing to worry about”, stressing the peaceful nature of the event.

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