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Page last updated at 07:46 GMT, Tuesday, 6 July 2010 08:46 UK
Reading Festival security is stepped up
by Jenny Minard
BBC Berkshire Reporter

Reading Festival pictures
Reading Festival was first held in 1971

Steps are being taken to make Reading festival safer this year after the reported troubles in 2009.

Festival organisers are increasing the number of police officers, stewards and security staff on site.

They will also ban alcohol being brought onto the site from 6pm on the Sunday night.

And BBC Radio Berkshire found out why those measures are being put in place and talked to some of those caught up in the troubles.

"It was an incredibly safe festival generally. Everything worked," said Melvin Benn of Festival Republic.

"Unfortunately, although we have always had some high jinks on the Sunday evening, last year that turned nasty, really for the first time," he says.

"The nastiness has never been there and caught us by surprise."

Intimidated

Someone who felt the affects of that was Charlotte from Slough who said she felt intimidated when she attended the festival.

"Everything just got really crazy. I wasn't expecting it at all. All the people just turned into hoodlums and ran around burning tents and stealing stuff from people's tents.

"It just got really scary, I was only 17 at the time and I've never experienced anything like that before.

"So we just packed up our tents and stayed awake all night just chatting to the people in the campsite next to us because they had a big campfire which they had cooked their dinner on.

"Then they threw all their bags and tents on it, everyone around ran to the fire and threw their aerosol cans on it so when they exploded it was really horrible.

"And someone tried to get my tent and throw it in the fire but it had all my stuff in it and I told them to go away.

"So we put our stuff in our bags and stayed awake until the first train the next morning."

The Libertines
The Libertines are reforming specially for the festival

Increased security

So Reading Festival organisers will double the security presence to 400 people.

Melvin explained the decision.

"In the past Thames Valley Police have generally resisted making arrests for what they perceived as being hi-jinx.

"They are aware that the people there are at university, or a lot of them are at university, and that hi-jinx to a certain extent would potentially spoil their future life, their future career because they would get a criminal record.

"The police have been really good about that in the past and this year they are very clear and I'm standing with them on this.

"They will not tolerate it and arrests will be made. People need to be aware of the consequences of arrests being made and they will be vigorous about our desire to catch people causing trouble and seek prosecutions against them because this is affecting a lot of people.

"Based on last year, their misbehaviour stepped beyond hi-jinx and actually should be punished."

Troubles

Siobhan Morse, who has been to the festival six times, also witnessed the troubles at last year's festival.

"People throw things on fires," she said. "They don't have any consideration for any safety.

"The police try to intervene but then some festival-goers turn on them. And they are here for your safety but yet you're preventing them from doing that.

"I think having a presence throughout the festival will halt any idea of them starting trouble and fires, but you know there is only so much you can do.

This year Siobhan is just going to the festival, which starts 27 August, 2010, on the Sunday instead of the whole weekend.

"After that I've had enough," she said. "I don't want to do it anymore. I'd rather just go and have fun and be safe."

Melvin Benn
Festival Republic's Melvin Benn says they will take resonable steps to keep people safe

Alcohol ban

Festival organisers have come under criticism with some suggesting an alcohol ban on the Sunday will not make much of a difference and that festival-goers will just stash alcohol for consumption on the night.

"It's not necessarily the big issue. Last year it was that an awful lot of the traders on Richfield Avenue had significant surplus stock of quite cheap cans of beer and were selling them at knock down prices.

"People were buying them because they could buy a case for the same price as four beers. They couldn't drink that amount because it's just too much volume.

"They ended up using those cans by throwing them.

"That's the intent there - to minimise the amount of really cheap cans that can be brought on late at night, which subsequently are used as missiles."

So will this year's festival be safer than previous years?

"I can take all reasonable steps to ensure it is safe," Melvin said. "But I can't guarantee absolute safety; no one can guarantee absolute safety.

"Believe me the plans being undertaken are very robust. They have been worked through with the council, they have been worked through with the police and we are very determined to stamp out the nastiness that occurred last year."




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