THOUSANDS will flock to Boomtown Fair from today for the the biggest immersive music and theatrical festival in the world.

The 60,000 capacity festival at Matterley Bowl near Winchester boasts 160 artists spanning a huge variety of genres, including reggae, folk, jazz, world, dub, dancehall, ska, house, techno and garage.

Headliners will include two-tone ska band The Specials, hip-hop pioneers Cypress Hill, London rapper M.I.A, Arrested Development, reggae superstar Toots and the Maytals and 90s legends Chaka Demus & Pliers.

Police said yesterday that armed officers may be at the festival “as part of our normal operational response”, while a drugs warning has been issued following several deaths at the event in recent years.

The annual event runs until Sunday and features 80 individual street venues, 30 main stages along with a farmers’ market, which will showcase Hampshire’s very best produce, and 100 free workshops and activities for all ages.

The safety of festivalgoers will be a concern for some following a fire last year which destroyed 90 vehicles.

Superintendent Kelly Whiting said: “We have a mobile police office on site. This will be a central point of contact for festival-goers over the weekend, where we will be offering crime prevention advice. You’ll also see us on patrol.

“We’ve been working with Winchester City Council, Highways England and Boomtown’s traffic management contractors to try and reduce traffic congestion.

“However, as with any event that attracts high numbers, there will be heavy traffic on Thursday as people arrive and on Monday as people leave. Please follow all agencies’ social media feeds for the latest updates.

“We will be maintaining a robust position on both drugs and psychoactive substances, all of which are banned from site. If you are found with these items, you will at the very least be ejected and barred from returning - and there is a good chance you will be arrested and prosecuted.

“Even just dabbling in illegal drugs and psychoactive substances has been shown to have devastating consequences.”