Brockwell Park - Lost in Music
In looking at the future of large music events in Brockwell Park, it can be informative to take a look back at the past, when the Park hosted everything from reggae festivals, to a CND peace festival (headlined by Madness), to London Pride, and even a cannabis festival from 2000-2004.
The Bon Bonne music nightclub opposite Brockwell Park on Norwood Road, entertained generations of clubbers from 1975 until its closure in 2005, following a determined campaign, led by gentrifying families buying up property close to Rosendale Primary School, to get Southwark Council to revoke its entertainment license.
Many in the local area still remember the Carnival 2, Rock Against Racism event in Brockwell Park on 24 September 1978, and for good reason. This is how the Sounds magazine review by Garry Bushell describes the scene.
"All them people — I can't see where they end."
A pre-teens boy perched on his dad's shoulders stared open-mouthed around Brockwell Park at "all them people" — Lambeth Council's official estimate was 150,000, ITV News said 60,000, take your pick. Either way there were more there than even Vicky Park.
It’s clear from the contemporary photos, that the crowd was indeed probably nearer to the Lambeth Council estimate, with many people climbing trees for a view of the stage, and judging by the sheer numbers standing behind Sham 69 singer Jimmy Pursey in photographer Syd Shelton's iconic photo of the gig. Sham 69 had actually pulled out of the line-up for the carnival after receiving death threats, but Jimmy had decided he was going to have his say anyway. So he burst onto the stage just as Aswad finished, and gave a passionate speech against racism. "No one's gonna tell me what I can and can't do", he shouted to the assembled masses, "I'm here 'cos I support Rock Against Racism".
It was a moment, along with Elvis Costello’s headlining slot that defined an era.
Just to update you on point one, Lee Fiorentino has since admitted that he is unable to provide any evidence of the existence of the environmental impact report by Dr Ian Bolton which he referred to in the meeting. Not even informal emails.
"The reports in regards to environmental, biodiversity and conservation in relation to these events have not be done yet and as I said in the meeting no decision has been made. Once a decision has been taken then the event organisers can proceed with developing those management plans and reports."
So the impact report will not form part of the decision whether to proceed but will be prepared by the events promoters later. The same credible teams who at the meeting said they were unaware that they'd caused £40,000 of damage to Victoria park grass alone, and had to leave one third of the park industrially fenced off for seven weeks whilst it recovered.
In the meeting on 18th January Lee Fiorentino said that biodiversity impact assessments are made by their Biodiversity Officer, Dr Iain Boulton at Stage 1 of the process which in the case of these festivals was last November. We are now at Stage 3 (until midnight tonight!). Are you saying that you've had an email from Lee Fiorentino since the 18th January meeting with the above text? This is barely credible. You are alleging that Lee Fiorentino is now saying that they will only take place AFTER a decision has been made to allow a festival to go ahead, a complete reversal of what he said in the meeting, or is my interpretation of the English language completely topsy-turvy? Can you publish your email correspondence in full, with headers showing who it was sent from, showing the time and date it was sent? Here follows a transcript of the relevant section of the meeting, with time in minutes and seconds from when chair Giles Gibson opened the meeting:
43mins 25secs (43.25) Chair: This is about biodiversity, more than just grass.
Helen Birmingham (HB): Hello, I think everyone here knows the park - it is very rich in wildlife, everyone here uses the park on a regular basis, sees the woodpeckers, hears the grasshoppers, enjoys that. You probably know that the park has status for nature conservation, that it is considered of Grade 1 for the borough as a site of importance for Nature Conservation. The borough notes in its Local Plan that any damage to a site of Grade 1 would be significant loss to the borough. There is also legislation called NERC Act [The Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006] which I’m sure you know about which means that the local authority is expected to consider biodiversity in all its actions, not just in planning. So my question basically is, how has Lambeth considered the biodiversity so far, and at what stage is this taken in the decision making processes?
44.40 Lee Fiorentino (LF): So with all event applications we work very closely with our partners in the Parks Department and we work very closely with a gentleman by the name of Dr Iain Boulton, who is the Biodiversity Officer for us. So he basically is part of the assessment process for all events. He let’s us know if an event is going to have an impact on a particularly sensitive area within the park and that it would be advisable not to have an event near to a particular area, so we get a lot of input from him for pretty much all of our event applications.
45.20 HB: …so what’s he saying, what’s he saying about that?
45.22 LF: In general, you know I don’t know word for word…
45.28 HB: What’s he saying about the grass, what’s he saying about the woodpeckers and about the bats, not just in general, what’s he saying?
45.38 LF: In general based on the event applications he will let us know whether there is any particular…
45.42 HB: When, when?
45.44 Chair: Where is the report, as I think people would like to know, so they can see what the assessment is?
45.48 HB: At what stage in the decision making process is this?
45.50 Lee: This is at Stage 1, the technical assessment for an event that goes into the park, so we talk to our colleagues in the Parks Department…
46.00 HB: Will there be another meeting once you’ve had these discussions? This is all very [worrying? unintelligble]
46.18 HB: ..when you have the answers…angry… [commotion]
46.35 Chair: Let’s keep the information flowing. Nature and the biodiversity is really important. There’s a lot of people who spend a long time doing little things, it’s incremental year after year through the decades to get the park being as rich in biodiversity as it is. I think Lee if you’ve got that report, I think it should be made very public. [Clapping] So in other words, what are you measuring for, and what are you going to measure afterwards which may influence, if any event takes place, whether it would happen for a second time?
47.15 LF: That’s fine, we can basically share the information that we receive from our colleagues about a particular event. When we consult with him he always sends us an email with a follow up so happy to share information on any particular event, especially in reference to the two events, and what we can do is we can put that information within the pro forma document.
47.35 Anon: But you’ve already said that you’ve progressed from Part 1 [clapping] ..this is Part 3…
47.44 LF: Yes but this is the initial technical assessment that we talk to officers and colleagues about…
47.50 Anon: But how do get get to Part 3 without us knowing about Part 1?
47.53 LF: Because we need to get… [interruptions]
47.57 Chair: I think the issue is that you may have done the work but the community have never seen it so how are we supposed to judge, how are we supposed… If it is not transparent, honest and up front it’s not on. So that document needs to be made public as soon as possible so if you can send it to me tomorrow I can put it up on the website.
48.15 Anon: And we need a timeline
48.18 Chair: And we need a timeline as to how it fits in to the process.
48.20 Anon: [a comment barely audible about regular information]
From: Fiorentino,Lee [mailto:LFiorentino@lambeth.gov.uk]
Sent: 19 January 2018 11:58
Cc: XX; XX; XX; Winifred,Sonia Cllr <SWinifred@lambeth.gov.uk>; EventLambeth Operations <Events@lambeth.gov.uk>; parksdevelopment <email@example.com>; parksoperations <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: RE: Biodiversity, environmental and conservation reports
Many thanks for your email.
We are speaking with our colleagues in the parks service to put together information on the park biodiversity and events. Once we have this I will send this over to you. As mentioned in the meeting last night we work very closely with our parks colleagues when looking at any proposals for events in the park and they advise us on areas of sensitivity that need to be considered by event organisers. This is an informal working relationship as we are under the same department and we don’t write reports for every discussion we have about initial event proposals.
The parks service are also part of the Safety Advisory Group and have provided feedback comments on the event proposals which are included in the Event Pro-forma reports for both events which are available on the Herne Hill Forum website http://www.hernehill.org.uk/news/brockwell-park-events-public-meeting
The reports in regards to environmental, biodiversity and conservation in relation to these events have not be done yet and as I said in the meeting no decision has been made. Once a decision has been taken then the event organisers can proceed with developing those management plans and reports.
The initial technical assessment at Stage 1 has been done, however Stage 2 safety assessment will continue right through to the event delivery and this includes ongoing engagement with colleagues, partners and stakeholders.
The teenagers that were at the meeting were all 18/19 year olds. They all attended Southwark and Lambeth schools and now study, work and live in the boroughs. They are part of the community and why we vilify our young people is beyond me.
Finally received a notification letter about the six week extension to the consultation. It is dated 18 January, received Friday 19 January. Consultation closes Sunday 21 January.