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Fire-eaters and stilt-walkers booked for Christmas... to stop drunks from fighting

Posted on 4:48 PM by Sameer Shah

For Christmas drinkers stumbling out of pubs and clubs, it could be a very sobering sight.

But the fire-eaters, stilt-walkers, balloon modellers and jugglers who greet revellers on the chilly streets of Newcastle-under-Lyme will not be a figment of their alcohol-fuelled imaginations.

Police and council leaders in the Staffordshire town have laid on the circus entertainment in the hope that the bizarre sight will distract revellers and prevent them from becoming embroiled in drunken violence.



But the plans met with ridicule from the TaxPayers' Alliance campaign group, which yesterday accused police of 'scraping the barrel'.

Spokesman Mark Wallace said: 'The public and frontline police officers all know that party games will do nothing to improve the situation on Britain's streets.

'We need more frontline police officers - not stilt-walkers and fire-breathers.'

The scheme follows other 'weapons' which have been deployed by police in recent months to reduce street violence and injuries among binge-drinking youths.

Officers in Bolton last month handed out children's bubble blowers, while Devon police gave free flip-flops to women in high heels to prevent them falling over.

Manchester police have previously dished out lollipops to stop people shouting in the street.




The Staffordshire entertainers will be rolled out on Friday.

Their performance has been timed to coincide with the emergence of the large numbers of people who are expected to flood into the town centre as businesses shut down for the Christmas period.

Two fire-eaters will be on the High Street from 10.15pm. They will be joined by a balloon modeller and juggler as the evening progresses, wrapping up at 2.30am.

Sergeant Mark Speedman, from Newcastle's Neighbourhood Policing Unit, said: 'This is the first time we have done something like this in Newcastle town centre and we are hoping it will be a success.

Four street entertainers will help keep visitors occupied as they move from one venue to the next and as they make their way home.

'The street entertainers will occupy people's attention - which will hopefully result in less confrontation and less violence.'

Councillor Phil Maskery, who is responsible for 'safer and stronger communities' at Newcastle Borough-Council, added: 'The links between alcohol and violence are well established. This latest initiative is an innovative and diversionary tactic to continue to make Newcastle a safe place to visit.

'By working together we are determined to rid our town centre of violence caused by excess alcohol.'

Similar diversionary tactics will also be employed in two Derbyshire towns this weekend.

Young people in Ilkeston and Long Eaton will be offered free cinema tickets to give them an alternative to going out drinking.

Community support officers at strategic points will hand out the tickets in a scheme that will run until March.

For this weekend only, police there will also be offering £2.50 taxi vouchers to help clear people off the streets as swiftly as possible at the end of the night.

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