CHRIS MANN: Hundreds of caravans have descended onto an East Cambridge village for a religious convention. Residents in Witchford claim they weren’t given any warning about the event. Our reporter Dave Webster has been along to Witchford to take a look.
DAVE WEBSTER: There are over 200 caravans and associated vehicles which are all piled onto grassland, let for the duration by Griffiths Equestrian, just outside the village of Witchford. Speaking to one of the pastors Abraham Howard, he says they’re a very peaceful camp. They convert people who maybe have lost their way or got trouble with drink. And they’ve saved them, as part of the church. Some local residents have complained about noise, but one has said they’ve been coming here every year for a number of years, and they actually bring some life to the village. And they have no problem with them. The LIfe and Light Gypsy Church are due to depart by the end of the week.
CHRIS MANN: Well Steve Barker runs the hairdressers in Witchford, and he’s been speaking to Dave Webster.
STEVE BARKER: From a personal experience, it’s a bit of a shock for people. There’s a lot of them there. I’m not sure how many people, but there’s about 300 caravans I would say. So yes, I’ve got no problem with them being there per se. A lot of the younger ones are driving quite erratically around the village, which is obviously causing concern. And quite a lot of rubbish appearing down actually on the lane where they are, and I walk my dogs down there, and there has been a lot more rubbish there.
DAVE WEBSTER: And it’s not just rubbish.
STEVE BARKER: No, there has been some human excrement there, and signs of obviously going to the toilet in some of the taller grass. I’m not saying it was those .. that it has been them, but it makes you think that.
DAVE WEBSTER: And they’ve actually been coming into the village as well.
STEVE BARKER: Yes, they were down here on Sunday. They came and did an impromptu for want of a better word preaching service at our local garage. It was quite bizarre. I live right next door, so I watched it. And yes, it was interesting. They were singing and clapping, and quite joyous really. But they did park everywhere, and just take over the whole road. So of course that did irk people somewhat.
DAVE WEBSTER: Have you been to chat to them at all?
STEVE BARKER: I chatted to them after the service. I went up to them and said you know I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the singing aspect of it. And just wondered why they came up to the village to do it. And their answer was that they were doing it to try to establish some connection with the village.
DAVE WEBSTER: Do you think that’s the right way to do it?
STEVE BARKER: I think so. Yes. I think obviously some people are suspicious that they’ve done it really just as a bit of a way to get round the fact that they’re down there. I think people are suspicious that it isn’t a religious festival or whatever you want to call it, and it is just a bit of a smoke-screen for just coming and camping down there. My personal opinion is that it is a proper thing. I think there’s a big marquee down there, and they sing every evening, and it is a religious Christian thing.
DAVE WEBSTER: So is there much prejudice in the village? Because this is not the first time they’ve been here.
STEVE BARKER: I think round here there is prejudice towards travellers, gypsies, whatever you want to call the people. We obviously have local travellers and gypsies, and yes, people are. I think people are. It’s almost a legitimate prejudice that people have round here. So yes. But when you’re going to get 300 caravans turn up and it is a bit of a shock. You will find prejudices. It’s inevitable.
CHRIS MANN: Steve Barker there, who runs a hairdressers in Witchford. We understand there’s a big meeting tonight. More may come from that. Certainly the police are keeping an eye on the situation. That was our reporter Dave Webster with that report. So there may be more on the Breakfast Show tomorrow morning about the situation there in Witchford.