Victoria Park cllr: "I can't recommend Lovebox to residents of South London"
Tower Hamlets Labour Councillor Joshua Peck warns Lambeth residents about what they can expect when Lovebox comes to Brockwell Park.
Lovebox and Field Day festivals are headed for Lambeth and planning to take over large swathes of Brockwell Park for up to six weeks next summer. Despite a lack of formal, coordinated public engagement, hundreds of letters have been received by councillors, MPs, Friends of Brockwell Park and the Brockwell Park Community Partnership (BPCP), voicing concerns about the 40,000/day events. Over 2,000 have signed a petition and pledge.
Some have suggested that the level of concern is a huge over reaction. Afterall, these are just fun festivals and Lambeth Events have repeatedly assured residents that the corporate promoters responsible for organising these events are experienced professionals who want nothing more than to be a positive addition to our neighbourhood.
So what could possibly go wrong?
On their community engagement site Lovebox describe their time in Victoria Park as "thirteen happy years". But the feeling does not appear to have been mutual. In response to residents’ complaints that their lives were being made misery by the festival, Tower Hamlets councillor John Biggs vowed to tear up Lovebox’s contract to use Victoria Park if he were elected mayor. When he was elected he did exactly that. That’s why Lovebox have turned up in Lambeth.
Joshua Peck is a Labour councillor whose Bow West ward in Tower Hamlets borders Victoria Park. He started out as an enthusiastic proponent of Lovebox, but told us that things did not turn out quite as expected:
Whilst I totally understand the financial predicaments of councils who have had their budgets slashed by Central Government, I’m afraid I can’t in good conscience recommend Lovebox to residents of South London or their Council.
IN my view, a festival of this size is simply too big to be held in a residential area without causing some substantial impacts to local people. Even if the operator were fully on top of these impacts – which Lovebox never were – I don’t think they could have been fully reduced to an acceptable level. My experience of Lovebox was that, despite good intentions and some good people:
Consultation with local people was cursory and did not always feed through to real changes in operation
Measures agreed in any one year (like stewards in particular locations) would not make it through to subsequent years, so residents and councillors had to spend an inordinate amount of time going over the same ground with Lovebox
The stewarding was of a very variable quality outside of the site, with a very limited number of fully accredited stewards and most of the ‘crowd control’ done by poorly trained, inexperienced young people who did a poor job – for example, I saw four stewards playing football with festival goers one evening as people sat in front gardens right next to them – precisely what they were there to stop
Noise impacts were variable – generally much better after a lot of work by the Council in early years, but could be bad if the weather conditions were wrong
A HUGE volume of rubbish along the ingress and egress routes that required constant clearing by the Council
ASB that ranged from bottles being thrown into gardens, people knocking on doors to use the toilet, people having sex and taking drugs round the back of blocks of flats etc
Pretty consistent damage to the grass in the park which didn’t really reseed until the spring, just before Lovebox was due back
Sorry that’s not more encouraging but I’m afraid I came to the view that we were better off without, despite having started off as a patron of Lovebox originally.
Cllr Peck’s account is written after Lovebox had already had more than a decade of ongoing negotiation to “get it right”. But they either wouldn't or couldn’t. Not only did they make life a misery for residents but crime was reported to have spiked by as much as 155% during events. Now Lambeth look set to welcome the same 40,000 festival goers, rejected by Tower Hamlets, into Brockwell Park; a site which is little more than half the size of Victoria Park, and is served by half the number of stations.
But is it possible that Lovebox have seen the error of their ways and turned over a new leaf? In an optimistic response to emails of concern the Lambeth line appears to be that “all events that take place in the park are subject to a rigorous scrutiny process and both companies are cooperating fully with this process and are engaging with the community.”
So just how cooperative are Lovebox being?
Not very, according to Thurlow Park’s three councillors: “Lovebox have refused Lambeth’s request to stop selling tickets until their application has been progressed. For this reason we do not think Lovebox should come to Brockwell Park”.
Likewise, Friends of Brockwell Park have revealed that claims of meaningful engagement with them made in a statement on the official Lovebox community website are false. The claims have since been removed and replaced with references to unspecified community groups.
So even before any contract has been signed, Lovebox are doing their own thing their way. Just like they did at Victoria Park. Exactly as Cllr Peck’s warning suggested. To many, it looks like Lambeth is marching to the beat of Lovebox's drum.
Let’s just hope that the woman with the final decision, Cabinet Councillor for Equalities and Culture Sonia Winifred, listens to the warnings.
Friends of Brockwell Park say NO! [Click here for their statement]
Brockwell Park Community Partnership say NO! [Click here for their statement]
Herne Hill councillors intend to consult residents next year but - with just five months to go before event construction is due to commence - have yet to reveal their plans. Tulse Hill councillors are remarkably silent on the matter.
Brockwell Tranquility Facebook [here]
Sign the pledge [www.brockwellstreets.org]
Write an email outlining your concerns and copy to:
1. Cabinet Councillor for Equalities and Culture (includes Parks) Cllr Sonia Winifred: SWinifred@lambeth.gov.uk
2. Lambeth Events Team: Events@lambeth.gov.uk
3. Herne Hill ward Councillors (Brockwell Park is in Herne Hill electoral ward):
4. Lambeth Councillors whose wards adjoin the Park:
If you prefer to send a letter, the correspondence addresses for all of the above is: Olive Morris House, 3rd Floor, 18 Brixton Hill ,London. SW2 1RD
5. Make sure that you include local park groups:
Brockwell Park Community Partners (BPCP - the official consultation representatives for local residents): email@example.com
Friends of Brockwell Park: firstname.lastname@example.org