A letter from an anonymous teenager…
Finsbury Park has a great history and heritage, and I am proud to be one of its users. Did you know it was the first ever park to be established by an Act of Parliament? Yes, in the wake of pollution, immense poverty and overcrowding in an industrialised 19th Century London, the Finsbury Park Act of 1857 was part of a mission to create “open spaces in the vicinity of the Metropolis”. “The site of Finsbury Park”, it was thought, “is admirably adapted for this important national object”. Illustrious architects of the day were summoned to draw serene landscapes – pathways and flower gardens and boating lakes. At the time of its completion Finsbury Park was the envy of the country (perhaps the world!) The park remains as integral to the community now as it did then.
More recently the park has gained something of a reputation in North London for being a music venue, which used to be great – thousands of Londoners were attracted to our park by the likes of Bob Dylan, the Sex Pistols, Oasis, the list goes on. More recently though, following the inception of the Wireless Festival, thousands became tens of thousands, crowds of loyal fans became crowds of gatecrashers forcing their way past police, and a day for a park gig has become park closure for weeks on end in high summer. Not so great.
Wireless used to have its home in Hyde Park, before local residents campaigned ferociously to have it withdrawn. It found a new home in Finsbury Park, and guess what? The residents are back! This time though, these residents have me on their side, and let me tell you why. The festival, I am disappointed to say, has rather tarnished the reputation of gigs in parks, and of park festivals. It’s got too big, and frankly, out of control.
There are one or two people who are trying desperately hard to drill into you the idea that if the Wireless festival doesn’t take place, Finsbury park will soon fall to ruin. “Accept the Wireless festival, or we won’t build that new basketball court.” “Accept the Wireless festival, or we won’t maintain the pathways anymore.” “Accept the Wireless festival, or we’ll stop planting trees”, they say. It must be a miracle, then, that every other park in the capital still manages to build those new ball courts, maintain their pathways and plant new trees without being host to the festival as we are. Perhaps we could learn from them.
I am not some old crony who is sick of all these young hooligans playing their obnoxious music – I am a teenager myself! I listen to music, go to gigs, concerts, and all the rest of it. Neither am I a nimby – heavens, after having put up with it the last few years, I wouldn’t wish it on the residents of any other park to have to deal with Wireless! And most importantly, I am not so foolish to think the council has an infinite pot of money – no doubt their budget has been squeezed in recent years, and they are trying the best they can to keep on top of their finances. But privatising our park, the very centre of our community (it’s where it gets its name from, you know!) for the weeks of the summer it was closed last year, in order to hand it over to a big American corporation, who erect their 12 foot walls around the park, sell tobacco from their stalls, attract drugs and violent crime, and leave the park a few weeks later in a detrimentally worse state than they found it in, is simply not worth it. Finsbury Park deserves better.