“Drugs Fair” will go ahead

4 March 2010

Attempts by the Cambridgeshire Constabulary to prevent the annual Strawberry Fair from going ahead have been unsuccessful. Cambridge City Council has ruled that it will take place as planned.

Police Solicitor Eliot Gold has drawn attention to reports of disruption from last year’s Fair such as urination on public property and an increase in confiscations of drugs compared to the previous year. The Cambridge News reported that police labelled the event a “drugs fair” and a “rave”.

The police hoped that councillors would be persuaded that the Fair encourages anti-social behaviour after being shown footage of cannabis being found in the possession of fair-goers.

The chairman of the Strawberry Fair Committee, Justin Argent, has been critical of the footage selected. He claimed that the DVD produced by the police “shows footage that you are just as likely to see anywhere else nationally, not just at a festival. We have hundreds of hours of footage from the same year that does not paint the same picture.”

The Fair’s organisers assert that it “has become part of the City’s fabric and is a highlight of the Cambridge calendar. It has long standing and deep links with many of the city’s charities, arts groups, traders and local volunteer groups”.

As a result, residents near Midsummer Common, where the fair is held, have broadly been against the police’s attempt to ban the festival, which has occurred annually since the early 1970s. Its manifesto states that it is a “not-for-profit, non-political organisation that is entirely self-funding and independent”, whose fundamental purpose is “the benefit of the local community, particularly the children”. In effect, it is “run by the community for the community”.

The Fair falls on the first week of June, a time when many students are undertaking their Tripos exams. The noise level the Fair generates has raised concerns amongst students, especially those at Jesus College, which is in close proximity to Midsummer Common.

One student remarked that “When I’m in the middle of exams, I just need to be able to concentrate on revision and the last thing I need is loud noise and disturbances that a festival will invariably bring.”

To adhere to licensing regulations, organisers are attempting to scale down the size of the Fair. ‘Legal highs’ will no longer be on sale and the number of stages for performances will be halved. Due to the issue of urination on both public and private property, the number of toilets will double. The Fair’s licence has been extended to two days to accommodate the new Strawberry Shorts, an independent film festival born out of the fact that Strawberry Fair has been screening films since 2004.

The Council’s decision to allow the Fair to go ahead is part of its commitment to providing local cultural activities Chair of the Licensing Committee, Jennifer Liddle, stated that “we take our licensing role very seriously. We have decided Strawberry Fair is a very cultural event in Cambridge”.

Judith Welikala – News Reporter

Photo Credit: Jez Brown