Could the WOMAD Festival go ahead without police after row?
Lord Suffolk has waded into the dispute between the organisers of the WOMAD Festival and police chiefs over policing costs at this year’s event.
The Earl of Suffolk’s estate office has circulated a letter urging local people and supporters of the WOMAD Festival to lobby council chiefs as D-Day looms in the row between Wiltshire police and the festival.
WOMAD is held on the Earl’s Charlton Park Estate, near Malmesbury, and with no Glastonbury this year, it will be the biggest festival in the West in 2012.
It is due to take place over the last weekend of July, but Wiltshire police have revealed they will be challenging the licence for the event because they have not been able to agree on the number of officers needed
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Police bosses are demanding a higher presence than WOMAD organisers, who foot the policing bill.
With no agreement in sight, WOMAD and Lord Suffolk’s Charlton Park Estate are urging supporters of the festival to lobby councillors who will have to make the final decision just eight days before the festival begins.
An open letter from Samantha Pyle, from Lord Suffolk’s Charlton Park Estate office, has urged locals on the estate to get behind the festival.
“Wiltshire Police are insisting on higher levels of policing at the festival compared with other festivals in the UK,” she said.
“WOMAD already has a large contingent of private security at the festival and has increased this by 50 per cent, but the police are unwilling to negotiate.
“It would be very helpful if you could say why you like the festival, how important it is to the town of Malmesbury and also to you personally, and that it is a safe family event where you feel comfortable to bring your children,” she added.
WOMAD director Chris Smith explained plans to beef up private security and attempt to persuade licensing officers that the festival can go ahead with no police at all.
“We don’t want to go ahead without the police, but where we are at the moment is the police have said they are not coming, so we are now revising our plans to present to the licensing authority to show that we can run the event without the police.
“It’s not where we want to be, but it’s currently where we're heading,” he added.
Wiltshire police said they were still hopeful an agreement could be reached with WOMAD organisers, countering the view from Charlton Park that the police were ‘not negotiating’.
A police spokesman said: “We have been in meetings with WOMAD and we continue to exchange information with them in an effort to reach a resolution which ensures a safe and enjoyable event.”