Resort cancels event and shuts venue following talks with police after receiving abusive phone calls and online posts
Legoland will close its hotel this weekend after far-right extremists targeted the resort for agreeing to host a Muslim fun day.
Racial tension was stirred after more than 1,000 Muslim families were due to attend a private event at the resort in Windsor, Berkshire, on Sunday.
The attraction received threatening phone calls, emails and social media posts for being hired exclusively by the Muslim Research and Development Foundation (MRDF). A picture of a Muslim Legoland worker was also posted on Facebook along with an offensive comment, a spokeswoman for the attraction said.
Legoland decided to cancel the event following talks with the organisers and Thames Valley police, and officials will shut the 150-room hotel this weekend. The MRDF said more than 400 people had purchased tickets for the event.
The event had been described by MRDF as “an opportunity for the UK public to gather with British Muslims in a relaxed family environment. It is open to people from all faiths and cultures in an open and welcoming environment without the promotion of any particular ideology”.
A statement on the English Defence League website had called on Legoland to cancel the event.
The theme park itself was always planned to be closed to the public this weekend and will reopen for the 2014 season on 14 March, a spokeswoman said.
She said: “Unfortunately, the Legoland Windsor resort has had to close the hotel on Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 March 2014 after threats from rightwing groups made against the resort.
“The hotel closure follows the cancellation of a private event that was due to take place on Sunday 9 March prior to the theme park reopening for the 2014 season on Friday 14 March.
“We are extremely sorry that we’ve had to cancel guest bookings and wholeheartedly understand the disappointment of those families that will be unable to attend, particularly as we haven’t been able to give them more notification because of the dynamic nature of this situation.
“The safety and security of our guests and our members of staff has to be our number one priority, which is why we’ve made the difficult decision to close the hotel. All guests that were booked in to stay will be given a full refund.”
In a statement posted on its website, the MRDF said it had received a number of threats over the past few weeks.
“Together with these threats, publication of several articles in the national press helped fuel further hatred and resentment towards the event, resulting in further negative impact on the security of the event. It was evident from these hate articles and threats that this was not an attack on MRDF alone but was an outright attack on Islam and Muslims in the UK.
“Although we worked hard with Legoland to find a solution to the threats and negative press, Legoland made the decision to cancel the event as they could not guarantee the safety of the attendees and their staff.”
Some disgruntled customers voiced their frustration with the situation on social media, with many posting angry messages on the Legoland Facebook page.
Sara Powell said: “Extremely disappointed that our hotel trip has been cancelled at ridiculously short notice, and angry that this situation has been allowed to happen.”
Another customer, Sara Cody, said: “We’re equally furious with the decision to cancel our stay at such short notice – and the offer of ‘compensation’ is so derisory as to be insulting.”
Some, however, were sympathetic to the resort’s concerns over safety. Jamie Richard Akers said: “Fully support Legoland and their decision to close. It isn’t fair to subject staff and visitors (including small children) to the views and aggression of an extreme minority. It’s sad that this is the state of affairs today.”
Thames Valley police said abusive and threatening messages would not be tolerated and an investigation was underway to determine whether any offence had been committed.
A spokesman said: “Thames Valley police can confirm it is investigating reports of offences committed under the Malicious Communications Act (1988) in connection with offensive messages posted on social media regarding a private planned event by the Muslim Research and Development Foundation at the Legoland site in Windsor.
“The owners of Legoland subsequently made the decision to cancel the event in consultation with the MRDF.
“As there is an ongoing police investigation it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.”