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Rutland businesses forced to close or take extra security measures following concerns of Light and Life festival at Rutland Showground, Oakham



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Business owners have been forced to lock their doors amid fears of violence and anti-social behaviour.

Thousands of travellers have sparked a third day of chaos after descending on Oakham for a mass Pentecostal Christian Event,

The festival of Light and Life, which is being hosted at Rutland Showground in Oakham until Thursday (June 24) has resulted in numerous calls to the police after reports of significant problems in and around the town.

Aerial view of the Rutland Showground where around 1,500 travellers have descended for a Christian Festival
Aerial view of the Rutland Showground where around 1,500 travellers have descended for a Christian Festival

The event has impacted businesses throughout the county as they were forced to weigh up whether they should stay open or close their doors to protect staff members.

Knights of Oakham in High Street took the decision to close the shop today (June 21) following a number of event attendees pounding on its windows.

Anna Bath, co-owner, said: "We felt to close was the best decision to make sure our staff and store is safe.

"People have been bashing on the window all morning but there's no sign of the police."

Kevin Naylor, co-owner, added that in the 35 years he has had the store there has 'never been trouble like this' in the town.

Amid the impact the pandemic has had on businesses, being 'locked down' again is proving yet another hurdle for owners to face.

Knights of Oakham
Knights of Oakham

"It's been such a difficult year for everyone. We've already had to shut three times and now we've had to shut the doors again," said Anna.

"I'm hoping it will be over soon.

"We thought today we would see a significant police presence and have that re-assurance so we could open again.

"For now we will have to trade behind closed doors, online and on the phone - we can't afford to not do it."

The Wheatsheaf in Northgate, Oakham closed its doors early last night for 'prevention rather than a cure'.

Landlord, Dan Lacey, said he had a bit of knowledge on how to handle situations like this, having previously managed a pub in Cambridge.

"You walk through the town and it's like a ghost town," he said.

Dan Lacey, owner of the Wheatsheaf in Oakham
Dan Lacey, owner of the Wheatsheaf in Oakham

"I was in debate about whether to open today but apparently the trouble lot came with the group for the first few days but have gone today."

Dan added that he believes the 'police have done as much as they can with the resources given'.

The Admiral Hornblower in Oakham High Street also closed early over the weekend on Saturday and Sunday.

The Admiral Hornblower
The Admiral Hornblower

In Mill Street, business owners have rallied to ensure their shops, salons and galleries are kept safe.

Through a WhatsApp groupchat, they have been taking it in turns to check the street to ensure no damage has been caused to the businesses with police taking over patrols later in the night.

Selena Bailey, who co-owns Equilibrium Salon in Mill Street, said: "I am sure they are lovely people but unfortunately there's always a stigma attached to travellers as a minority don't abide by the rules that are set."

The salon is keeping its doors locked throughout the day and operating on appointment only.

"We don''t want to frighten people but we are just being cautious," said Selena.

"As far as we are aware the only problem we have had is people trying the door after hours."

She added that the police have been 'excellent' in supporting the businesses.

Businessman Carl Ford, 55, said most of the smaller firms have been forced to close their doors and residents are avoiding the town due to "fears for their safety."

He said: "The last 24-hours have been absolute carnage. They have been running amok and showing no respect for our town.

"On top of anti-social behaviour I can't imagine how many covid breaches there have been.

"They are packing in to tents like sardines and with the latest strain it is very worrying.

"They were all racing up the Oakham bypass. It was like a race track up there last night. I've seen some police but not enough, they look out of control to me.

"People are not coming into town over fears for their own safety. The police have mostly let it all happen, they are outnumbered."

Many residents are reportedly too scared to leave their own homes as people allege of crime including drag racing, shop looting, anti-social behaviour and even death threats.

An elderly resident said: “It has been incredibly noisy here the last few days.

“I know there’s been issues especially at the McDonald’s which is only a two-minute walk away.

"It has made me feel uneasy and a bit scared especially as I usually go walking with my child in a pushchair.

“We’ve not had any anti social behaviour up here which I’m very grateful for but it’s definitely making me and my family feel uneasy.”

Another Rutland resident, who did not wish to be named, said: "It's been a nightmare. Our town has been over-run and they are leaving a lot of mess in the process.

"I can't fathom how this event has been allowed to go ahead. It just beggars belief the authorities haven't closed this down already.

"I'm sure most of them are behaving but a minority have been causing mayhem and something needs to be done about it.

"I'm scared to leave my own home and nobody should ever be made to feel like that."



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