Ok, so I’m probably going to rant a bit here.Apologies in advance but I’m so sick of not being able to enjoy local attractions safely anymore!
Tonight, I took my seven year old son, and two of his friends for the wrist band event at Crystal Palace funfair from 5pm-8pm.
We were looking forward to the dodgems and freshly cooked donuts! The lights , music and action of being at the fair after dark…boy did we get more than we bargained for !
It was utter chaos and akin to something you would see in a war zone movie!
The madness began around 6.30.We had probably arrived just before this.
At first I heard fireworks being set off, in the not so far distance and the teenagers at the fair began acting a bit shady, running around. It seemed as though they were running from said fireworks, but
I was told by the stewards they were outside of the grounds, we were safe.
So I reassured the kids and off we headed to the merry go round in the quieter spot.
3 rounds later and a little dizzy, the kids wanted off and some relief catching overpriced ducks with a hook- fair enough.
So £20 later and with some tat for toys , we headed to the doughnuts stand.
We placed our order, and a few minuets later , a steward came by and shouted at the kiosk worker that she should “shut down and what was she still doing open ?”. I thought , well for £10 for 5 tiny ring sized doughnuts , I have an idea … but maybe I’m wrong - so I ask the lady - is there something going on here ?
“Yeah the youths setting off fireworks are in the fairgrounds “.
“Oh… time to go…”I tell the kids.
The dodgems are just behind the stall and as we pass ,the line is short and the kids plead… “can we , can we, can we PLEASE go on them ? “ Admittedly this was where I should have said no - there was a tension in the air and yet those angelic (yeah right) faces that had been stuck indoors all day , due to the horrendous rain , and in fairness had not this far had a good fairground experience (most rides seemed to be shut down , and these boys were no adrenaline junkies) I gave in.
We joined the queue and that’s when it all went south…
There was a huge explosion and the sky crackled and lit up in front of us - people literally abandoned the bumper cars and fled , jumping over the barriers , there was screaming , crying and fleeing , all at once, utter chaos.
Then it all went black. The lights from the surrounding rides all off , par one in the distance giving of this eerie bluish purple glow. And screaming , so much screaming.
A disoriented second later , I’m reaching for the three boys, pulling them over the barricade, one by one trying to stop them from being crushed by the terrified fairgrounders trying to flee.
We head for the exit sharpish, me trying to drill into the kids to stay together , hold hands and not get separated … there’s a huge queue. Full of irate and hysterical teenagers everywhere- talks of youths setting off fireworks at people and that the “security” will not let anybody leave.
I get talking to some other people , apparently there were youths on bikes setting off fireworks from the outside fence , surrounding the fair , into the grounds.
I talk to one of the ride assistants , they tell me that the youths breached the fence and were inside of the grounds , setting them off from different directions.
Then more fireworks are set off and the stampede starts again , people being thrown all over the place, slipping on the mud and crashing through puddles the size of respectable ponds.
No police , no security and no staff to be seen.No order.Par the 4 stewards that are placed around the entrance/ exit.
About 5-10 mins into this mayhem , I approach the stewards at the front.
“I need to get out of here, the kids are terrified, what’s going on ?”
“We have called the police , they are on their way”.
“Is there another exit , I need to go , it’s not safe here and these kids are in danger of being crushed or seriously hurt”.
The steward steps out of the way and tells me to get the kids out of there, I exit through the only entrance/exit and we are nearly halfway out , when my son says “look mummy, that boy has fire”
I look directly in front of me and a youth , maybe 14-16 all in black with what looks like a stick of dynamite stands before us - it’s aiming right at us.
I turn quickly , screaming , pushing the kids back through the gate past the steward , but the child I bring with me is stuck between the gate and the steward- the firework skins past his leg and scrapes him, then BANG !
At this point it’s full on panic mode throughout. We run to the furthest part of the grounds.
An attendant is standing close by and tells us to hide by the twister and stay low.
I tell her we need out of here, they need to open an exit somewhere.
Luckily the boy I am with is not injured, he just says his leg stings a bit.
I call the police myself. Explain what’s happened and that we are stuck in the grounds , I ask for them to send assistance and get us out of there.
They tell me that police are already heading to the scene.
Amongst this, a steward see’s the trauma of the children I am with and gets his head lamp out - tells me to follow him.
He walks us out of a side entrance past the caravans and trucks , whilst telling me that he had been dealing with these youths earlier and chased them off, says one left their bike behind and at least now he has a new bike for his troubles. I’m speechless and just focusing on getting out safely…
We exit at the top end of the hill beside the park and take cover in a local chip bar - kids traumatised.
Youths everywhere , fighting , shouting , fireworks going off, we still do not feel safe and all I can think of is getting these kids home safely and how on earth will I explain these poor boys trauma to their parents.
A police officer calls me half an hour later - asks if the boy I am with is seriously injured - by this time we are just getting in the taxi - I give a few choice words about their response time and lack of care for safety at the grounds - I tell them I have just passed another group of youths across the road with fireworks fighting.I politely hang up as I feel they have more to get on with.
It was horrific. I am sleeping in my sons bed with him tonight. He is very upset.
Now all I can think of is …
What Safety training did the funfair attendants have ?
Why were there not procedures in place to deal with a situation like this , A similar situation happened last year.
Why did they keep on admitting people to the funfair if they were aware of these youths causing havoc ?
Why was there not a police presence - even if just community police ?
Why did the police response time take so long ?
It just seemed like there were no procedures in place for this and given the current climate we live in, with the threat of terror etc , maybe it’s time to call time on such events if they cannot be manned properly.
I appreciate this is not a Forest hill event, but I know many of us travel along to the local funfair when it’s on. I also appreciate this is a very long and ranty post, but I just feel it’s such a shame that local events seem to be ruined by these trouble makers , even if a minority are ruining the fun for others- it’s just sad .