Reading Carnival could lose is licence this week, following two stabbings at the carnival last year.

Fears about the safety of the event, held in Prospect Park each year in May, has prompted the Reading Community Carnival licence review planned for Thursday (September 10).

The event’s future is under threat due to “extreme concerns” from the police.

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Organised by Reading Caribbean Cultural Group, the carnival starts 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.

A review had been initially planned on March 17 but was delayed, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and then another scheduled hearing on July 23 was delayed as the carnival licence holder requested more time to collect information and get time off work to attend.

Thames Valley Police (TVP) and Reading Borough Council (RBC) officers are calling for the licence to be revoked following two stabbings at the carnival in 2019, 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.

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“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, woundings and possibly even worse”.

RBC’s Licensing committee will vote on the plans next Thursday (July 23).

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 occured’.

There were also reports claiming 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

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.

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

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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.