A decision on the future of Reading Carnival has been delayed until September.

Reading Community Carnival’s future is under threat due to “extreme concerns” from the police about the safety of the event.

The council’s licensing committee met today to decide on the carnival’s future but the hearing was delayed until September 10 as the licence holder requested more time to collect information and get time off work to attend.

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The hearing had already been delayed once due to the Covid-19 pandemic, having been initially planned for March 17.

Organised by Reading Caribbean Cultural Group, the carnival is held in May every year, starting on Great Knollys Street before travelling down the Oxford Road and finishing in Prospect Park.

The event did not take place this year due to the coronavirus lockdown, although a virtual event was held.

Thames Valley Police (TVP) and Reading Borough Council (RBC) officers are calling for the licence to be revoked following two stabbing incidents at the carnival last year, a suspected third stabbing, illegal sales of alcohol and drugs and reports of large scale fights.

PC Simon Wheeler said: “The number of and type of incidents relating to this premises licence and Reading Community carnival are some of the most serious involving crime and disorder.

“TVP strongly believe that if the licence remains in force and future events take place that it is only a matter of time before someone else is seriously hurt or even killed.”

He said the security recruited by the organisers lacked in numbers and skill to effectively deal with these issues.

Around 75 police officers would be needed to manage the event successfully, according to TVP, “a wholly disproportionate amount of resources…  in an attempt to prevent further serious assaults, wounding and possibly even worse”.

What else happened at the event last year?

Police set up a recruitment stall at the carnival, but they were forced to pack the stall up and leave, according to a PCSO, due to a “hostile anti-police crowd”.

One armed police officer at the carnival said it was “lucky that no deaths occurred”.

There were also reports stating there were 10,000 people attending the carnival when the licence limits attendance to 5,000.

In another incident, a stall sold alcohol within the carnival area without a valid licence at last year’s event and continued to do so despite several attempts to stop the unauthorised sales.

Neighbour complaints

Neighbours also complained to the council about the carnival last year, raising concerns about noise, parking and rubbish.

A resident who lived opposite Prospect Park complained of “ridiculous levels of bass noise… rattling the windows”.

They added: “The no-parking signs were ignored and the area was dangerously over-congested, disrupting traffic and trapping some residents in their homes. People were getting very drunk, vomiting and falling about on the street.”

How the carnival has responded to concerns

The carnival organisers have planned to introduce an entry fee of £2, a perimeter security fence, install a scanner to search for weapons, conduct bag searches and increase security personnel to respond to police concerns.

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But TVP say there are no conditions that could change its mind on seeking revocation of the licence.

Roberta Grass, supporting the carnival, wrote to the council and said: “The carnival is an important community and cultural event, attended not just by the Caribbean community but the wider community as a whole.”

She said the carnival’s security proposals would mitigate any perceived risk.