Virtual Festivals aid Police in hunt for Leeds Firestarters

Virtual Festivals aid Police in hunt for Leeds Firestarters

John Bownas on 26 August 2002

Smoke from fires started by what is thought to be a small minority of irresponsible and stupid individuals (pictured left) intent on wrecking the future for festivals like Leeds, has now drifted away, but may have left the future of one of the world's greatest music festivals in ashes.

The remains of a block of portable toilets could be seen from the motorway by people returning home from the bank holiday weekend. Last night (Sunday, August 25th), several hundred people were involved in one way or another with an incident that is certain to put the future of this otherwise fantastic event in jeapordy.

Riot police were brought in and a police helicopter combed the skyies, its spotlight illuminating a scene that resembled the images of burning oilfields during the Gulf War. All of this was brought on by what can only be described as a tiny minority of people amongst an audience that swelled to tens of thousands over the weekend in the beautiful setting of Temple Newsham Park. 

Festival promoter Melvin Benn has already urged the authorities not to be bullied into preventing next year's event to go ahead as planned, and photos taken by Virtual Festivals at the height of the incident have been provided to the Police as evidence in the moves that are afoot to bring the culprits to swift justice. Indeed, after Police and emergency services evacuated, we were the only journalists to brave the scene.

Apart from the thousands of pounds worth of damage caused by the disturbance, the safety of many people was obviously put at risk, as the flames from the chemical-fuelled fire were reignited several times due to what were thought to be gas canister explosions.

Virtual Festivals is obviously a keen champion of live music events such as this, and our own position is clear in that we utterly condemn these actions by what we can only believe to be a very small number of immature individuals who simply do not realise how serious the implications of their behaviour might have been. The track record of professional management and organisation that has been the backbone of this industry for many years will undoubtedly tarnished by this incident, but we implore all the authorities concerned with licensing events such as this to work with the promotors to ensure not only that festivals can continue but also that everything possible is done to prevent a repeat of last night's trouble.

If you know anything that will help the police in their investigations, please email evidence@virtualfestivals.com

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