Lambeth are reviewing applications from two large event companies, LoveBox and Field Day for two major events in the park in 2018, both over three days with up to 40,000 attendees per day. Since the news spread about these proposals a spontaneous community campaign against the events has developed very rapidly.
This has not been a formal consultation but Lambeth have agreed to include all community comments on the proposals in the material which is put forward to the Cabinet member, Sonia Winifred for decision on whether to allow the events to go ahead. BPCP have been collating responses and sent them on to the Events Team, to Cllr Winifred and to the 12 local ward councillors on 11th December. These included more than 60 individual submissions, comments from the Herne Hill Forum and many Herne Hill traders.
Our response on behalf of BPCP stakeholders and members of the public is below. Lambeth Events team will still accept comments as they come in; you can also write to your ward councillor (addresses from the Lambeth website). The Lambeth wards bordering the park are: Herne Hill, Coldharbour, Tulse Hill and Thurlow Park; on the Southwark side is Village ward.
There will be a more structured consultation by Lambeth after Christmas (details as we get them).
Our response: Proposals for major festivals in Brockwell Park: Field Day (June 2018) and LoveBox (July 2018)
The Brockwell Park Community Partners has consulted its stakeholders and members of the public as to their opinion on these festivals. The response has been broadly against such large paid events taking part in Brockwell Park.
Paid-for music events have been taking place in Brockwell Park for some years now, largely for audiences up to 20,000 people and most have been attended by problems including damage to the park, littering, drug dealing, anti-social behaviour, crowd control and disruption of ordinary park activities, all of which have been reported by us to Lambeth Events. The current proposals for three-day events for up to 40,000 attendees represents a step-change in the size of the events and the impact on the park.
A lot of the opposition to these events is related to the effect of large paid events on the wider community, on local access to shops and other amenities, on anti-social behaviour and crime and although our remit is Brockwell Park, we cannot ignore these concerns. The park is at the heart of this community and there is an overlap between damage to the park and damage to the community. At present, although there may be additional funding for the park, there appears to be no benefit from the events to the community as a whole.
As the proposals stand, the park will be more or less occupied by these events and the LCS for a period of nearly two summer months, at a time when people use it most. The ordinary life of the park will become impossible; ordinary access to the park will be very severely restricted. The heavily-used path between Herne Hill and the Lido will be fenced off for some of the time, making access to the Children’s Playground, the Water Play Area and the Walled Garden and the BMX track and the Community Greenhouses much more difficult and forcing people to walk much longer distances to reach them. During set-up and break down, the park will be unsafe for small children and dogs because of vehicle movement. The Miniature Railway will be unable to function during this time; St Matthew’s Project will lose their football space; access to the Lido and the Lido Cafe will be restricted; there will be little space for informal games. We are very concerned that the new Sports Platform, that is now being well-used, will be swallowed up inside the event sites for the duration of both events. Both the surface of the platform, which is not suitable for heavy use and the table tennis table, which has been bought and installed by the community, will be at risk of damage. Although the event site for each of the events, Field Day and Lovebox will occupy around one third of the park, when the access space is added in and the fact that some areas of the park will be marooned behind the event site and inaccessible, then the loss of space is much larger and more significant. It is well-recognised that access to open green space is an essential component of wellbeing. People living locally, especially on the western side of the park, very often do not have outside amenity space and loss of wide areas of the park to ordinary use will be a serious deprivation for them. The overwhelming view of our respondents is that park is simply not big enough for such major events where the attendance is concentrated in one site and cannot spread out. The park’s topography does not suit the organisation of these large events. The events structures are visible from most areas of the park and from outside and the fencing and stages are highly intrusive. The hilly nature of the park makes sound carry further. Events therefore strongly affect all the park, park users and anyone living close by. Even events judged to be small cannot be ignored; their impact is huge. For many of our correspondents the experience of significant problems caused by relatively small events leads them to conclude, justifiably in our opinion, that larger events will generate larger problems and will strain the ability of existing systems to cope. Following the Found Festival in 2015, which catered for between 15-20,000, there was concern by the Police about inadequate stewarding of the large numbers of people leaving the park at the end of the event and of dangerous overcrowding at the Herne Hill gate particularly. For up to 40,000 people to leave the park more or less at the same time raises the possibility that there will be similar problems of overcrowding at this gate and at the Brixton Water Lane gate which may be very difficult to control. At the Sunfall Festival this year there were serious problems of crowd control caused when people were queuing for admittance to the event site such that the Police had to take action. We have no guarantee that “gates” of up to 40,000 people can be handled any better. Anti social behaviour has been experienced in the park at all earlier events. With larger audiences, this may well reach levels that are very difficult to control. At the first Found Festival poor stewarding of the park led to widespread littering and misuse of the park, drug taking and drunkenness over a wide area of the park (festival go-ers knew they would be searched for alcohol/ drugs on entry to the site, so took drugs and drank excessively before they went into the event). At one point someone brought an SUV into the park, parked upon one of the paths and dealt drugs from the back without anyone trying to stop them. At the Sunfall event the security people hired by the company were not very engaged in controlling the behaviour of their audience which was potentially very dangerous both to park users and the festival go-ers. We are also concerned that people attending a three day event may well try to sleep in the park overnight with the problems that this will generate.There will be damage to the park; this is inevitable. The park is a living space; it will not easily or quickly recover from damage and protracted ill-use. The Sunfall Festival and the recent Fireworks demonstrated that it is impossible to prevent damage occurring during set-up and break down, although in the case of the Fireworks, the providers were very conscientious. Many of the drivers who bring large equipment to the park are commissioned at the last moment and have no knowledge of the park or of any of the arrangements made for its protection. It is clear that when drivers are faced with numbers of people using the paths they tend to veer off onto the grass, for safety reasons and this can wreck the greensward. This does not recover easily and much park staff time is devoted to analysing the damage and attending to it. A number of our respondents took the view that £15,000 is not a sufficient sum to be set aside for restoration of damage. Tracking really should be fitted for all events but this is expensive and event providers are often unwilling to put in extensive protection for the grass.
The BPCP has worked with the Friends and others for many years to improve the biodiversity of the park, succeeding in turning a desert of municipal greensward into an enriched environment for many species. The Brockwell Hedge, the wildflower slope (at the Lido) the Community Greenhouses garden, the pollinator garden at Norwood Lodge and the meadow on the Cressingham ridge are all examples of investment in biodiversity by the Parks Team and volunteers. The park now hosts many species, including house sparrows and stag beetles (which are both on the endangered lists) , many amphibians, bees, dragonflies and unexpected species of birds. This year the parks has been visited by a pair of swans who raised a brood of cygnets on the main pond. Large crowds, large vehicle movement and the kind of major noise and crowd disturbance that will accompany these major events are inimical to wild life and the volume of attendees is something that urgently needs to be reconsidered.
We know that councillors are all aware of how much people value and need their local open spaces and I hope that you will be prepared to reconsider these proposals and take action to protect the community and the park. The formal policy of the BPCP, agreed at a general meeting is that there should be no more than two major events a year in the Park, including the Country Show. In addition, we are very concerned that future planning for the park, in particular, the proposed restoration of Brockwell Hall is compromised by demands generated solely by events.