Yobs loot shops and refuse to pay for food at traveller festival as police reveal they received hundreds of calls from worried locals when 1,500 arrived for Christian festival
- Thugs ran amok and left traders too scared to open in Oakham in Leicestershire
- Police today revealed they have received more than 100 calls from scared locals
- Police said that there were reports of ‘considerable’ anti-social behaviour there
- They added they had been made aware of shoplifting and ‘non-payment for food
Yobs have looted shops and refused to pay for food on another day of chaos at a traveller festival near a small market town.
Thugs ran amok and left traders too scared to open in Oakham in Leicestershire as 1,500 people headed to the Christian music event.
Police revealed they have received more than 100 calls from terrified locals since the week-long party kicked off last Saturday.
Superintendent Jonny Starbuck said there were reports of ‘considerable’ anti-social behaviour and two people had been arrested.
He added they had been made aware of shoplifting and ‘non-payment for food from local businesses’ amid the event.
Earlier in the week two pubs were wrecked and food fights broke out at McDonald’s and Aldi and M&S were ransacked.
Business owners claimed a white van drove along the street with two women getting out and trying the doors of some of the shops.
Thugs ran amok and left traders too scared to open in Oakham in Leicestershire as 1,500 people headed to the Christian music event. Pictured: Police outside the showground
Pictured: A group of people pray in the sun at the festival in Oakham, Rutland, on Tuesday afternoon
Pictured: A caravan is towed by a recovery van near to the Christian festival on Tuesday afternoon
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.
‘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 twenty.
‘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.’
He added the event was legal and it was only a minority of attendees who were causing the mayhem.
Around 1,500 travellers in hundreds of caravans descended on Rutland Showground for the Pentecostal Gypsy-led Christian event, called the festival of Light and Life
The event, scheduled to finish tomorrow with attendees expected to leave by Friday, has left locals and business owners furious
Travellers have abandoned their traditional Catholic faith in huge numbers for evangelical Christianity.
The Pentecostal movement, which is now Gypsy-led in the UK, has seen an explosion in numbers in the past 20 to 30 years.
Among the newer followers is celebrated heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury (pictured last week), who became a born-again Christian after his uncle Ernest became a Pentecostal preacher in Congleton, Cheshire.
The move towards evangelical Christianity by travellers has become the subject of university studies, as academics try to work out why it has happened.
Some estimate that a third of Europe’s 12million travellers have now changed to this form of Christianity.
In her recent e-book, journalist Katharine Quarmby said on the subject: ‘In a reversal of roles, it is the Romani people who see themselves as the saved, the preachers of truth, who want to heal a world they see as broken by lack of faith, in a Europe where our politicians are judged to have lost much of their moral authority.’
Yvonne Macnamara, chief executive of the Traveller Movement, told the Guardian: ‘It’s a comfort blanket and within these communities it’s also a way of coping with a lifestyle that is constantly under attack and almost completely eroded.
‘When you’ve been such an excluded community, then religion can provide a form of kinship, direction and strength. That’s one reason so many in the community have such a profound faith’.
Around 1,500 travellers in hundreds of caravans descended on Rutland Showground for the Pentecostal Gypsy-led Christian event, called the festival of Light and Life.
The event, scheduled to finish tomorrow with attendees expected to leave by Friday, has left locals and business owners furious.
Some claimed a white van drove along the main street on Saturday with two women intermittently getting out and trying the doors of some of the shops.
One on Mill Street, who declined to be named, said: ‘People have seen them having a go at the door to the clothes shop and then walking over to the jewellers and trying that door.
‘This was just after 7pm on Saturday and the shops had their security grills down so it was obvious they were closed.
‘She may have been trying to see how sturdy the doors were or what the businesses had in terms of security, I don’t know, but whatever she was doing was odd.
‘Apparently a couple of women were seen getting in and out of a white van and trying the doors of certain businesses along the street.
‘We think they are travellers who have come here for the religious fair on the Showground.’
Trent Galleries, which stocks expensive paintings and works of art worth thousands of pounds, had been due to reopen on Monday after the weekend.
But manager Suzie Beecroft said the shop would instead remain closed.
She said: ‘We usually start the working week on Tuesdays but not today, we are staying closed unfortunately.
‘I had a conversation with the owner of the gallery this morning who felt it was probably safer because of what some of the travellers are said to have done over the weekend.
‘It’s annoying because we were closed all through the latest Covid-lockdown and only re-opened a few weeks ago.
‘Now we are shut again and potentially losing out on a lot of money. How long we are closed for, I can’t say.
‘I’ve come in to make a few calls and to sort out some admin but the doors are remaining locked all day. It’s like that way with several or the businesses.’
Partners clothes store Lucy Flint Jewellery, Baba of Mine, a boutique baby clothes shop, and Gladwells, another art shop, were among businesses to close.
Others, including Cavells, a designer fashion store, and the Equilibrium beauty salon were open but only by appointment.
Local business owner Debbie Oakes stands in her shop as it reopens following the week of chaos in the small market town
Festival goers walk down the main street in Oakham and past the local Barclays while the event continues
Gift shop Snapdragon was open but allowing in only two customers at a time.
Sharon Dickinson, who was managing the shop, said: ‘We were open yesterday but I was told to keep the door locked and customers had to knock first before coming in.
‘We’ve relaxed that slightly today but I’ve been told that if I start to feel threatened I can lock them again.
‘There is still a lot of tension here because we just aren’t used to having that many people come into such a small town and none of the businesses were given any warning whatsoever that there would be so many showing up.
‘To be fair, I’ve had no problems myself with anyone attending the travellers’ fair and the police have been patrolling here pretty regularly.
‘The travellers that I have seen around town have been friendly and polite so it’s a shame that a small number have caused problems and kind of tarred everyone with the same brush.’
Around 50 travellers apparently entered the Captain Noel Newton, a Weatherspoon in Oakham, on Saturday but are said to have begun fighting and causing havoc.
The pub, which should have been open at 8am yesterday, was closed and locked up, to the dismay of delivery drivers who had come from Birmingham transporting beer.
Trouble also flared in another pub, Jinkys, with regulars clashing with travellers during which the landlord was punched, according to social media reports.
An aerial view of a massive religious festival near Oakham in Rutland is pictured yesterday. Around 1,500 travellers have descended on to the scene
That bar was closed yesterday as well, as it was all day on Monday when the Whipper Inn was the only pub in Oakham open.
Even then only to guests staying there. The Royal Duke, Bill’s Bar and The Admiral Hornblower were all closed last night on advice from Leicestershire Police.
Meanwhile officers kept a watch on the Lands End Way retail park, which is next to the Rutland Showground and was the focus of much of the anti-social behaviour.
Travellers shut down the local McDonald’s after apparently abusing and threatening staff, having sex in the toilets and invading the kitchen area and hurling food around.
The fast-food joint was closed off all day on Tuesday and yesterday, with only the drive-through in operation.
There were also problems at the nearby Aldi, where youths are said to have started to play football in the middle of the store and at the BP garage and M&S store.
Staff at the M&S, which has now hired a doorman, reported being harassed and pelted with food by youngsters who they stopped buying age restricted energy drinks.
They also said travellers had been entering the store without face masks and were seen walking out with stolen bottles of beer and wine.
With an increased police presence, there were no real issues on Monday evening, although officers were seen talking to a group of travellers outside a takeaway near Oakham rail station as they removed a car for having no insurance.
The blue estate car was put on the back of a loader around 7.45pm on Monday and taken away.
A spokesperson for Leicestershire Police said: ‘The vehicle was seized due to having no insurance. There were no arrests.’
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