Fury over five-year Finsbury Park festival deals

Council set to strike deals with event organisers for festivals to be held every year until 2027, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Finsbury Park
Finsbury Park

Plans to book major events at Finsbury Park for five years in a row have sparked opposition from a local friends group.

Haringey Council says securing bookings from the organisers of Wireless Festival and other large-scale events to use the park from 2023 until 2027 will guarantee “long-term income”.

In previous years, the events were booked on a yearly basis. The council claims five-year deals will allow it to fund a permanent maintenance team and reduce the environmental impact of the events.

But the Friends of Finsbury Park has urged the authority to “change course”, claiming there will be less oversight of the events and no benefits for local residents.

In a letter to the authority, co-chairs Tom Graham and Bethany Anderson say the council has reached the “wrong conclusion on funding, and on major events”, which have a maximum capacity of just under 50,000 attendees per day.

Wireless – a rap and urban music festival – has been held at Finsbury Park since 2014, with the exception of 2021 when it was moved to Crystal Palace Park.

Last year, the council was criticised for its organisation of the event amid reports of police struggling to control crowds and festival goers climbing over fences to avoid being trampled.

The friends group, which says major events reduce access for residents and lead to noise and antisocial behaviour, claims the park has still not recovered from damage sustained last year.

The letter to the council warns longer-term deals would weaken scrutiny or oversight of the promoters, reducing the incentives for them to engage with the community and provide mitigation measures.

It adds that promises for a review of major events and parks funding have not been kept and claims the council appears to have breached its own events policy last year by closing tennis courts and play spaces to allow the events to go ahead.

The letter continues: “With deprivation on all sides, many families have limited outdoor areas on their property and rely on Finsbury Park for exercise and play; most are unable to escape the noise and side-effects in stifling summer heat.

“Many Haringey residents use Finsbury Park as a cycleway to avoid busy dual carriageways; major events closed that route, and forced cyclists back onto large roads.”

The friends group suggests the five-year deals are intended to provide certainty for the promoters. It says the events should be held elsewhere and the council should fund the proper upkeep of the park – but with the authority apparently “determined to continue”, it calls for the five-year deals to be abandoned and for the current yearly arrangements to be retained.

A council spokesperson said securing the events for five years would fulfill a manifesto commitment by the Labour group to “expand the range of events held throughout the borough” and would bring “many benefits to the council, residents and staff working in the park”.

They added: “By agreeing dates early, the council has security in knowing what income is expected and allows us to plan accordingly.

“Working over the longer term with the event organisers will allow us to develop further improvements that reduce the environmental impact of the events. All contractual and licencing controls will remain and, therefore, should there be a major concern arising from an event then the council will be able to take strong action against any event organiser regardless of entering into agreements covering several years.

“Any damage caused by a hirer of the park for events is contractually obligated to pay 100% of any damage caused without any financial liability placed on the council.

“There has not been a breach of our major events policy. The tennis courts are leased to a community organisation who, in 2022, had an agreement directly with Festival Republic to hire the courts.”

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