Alarm Bells Ring Over Wireless Festival 2016

Is Wireless Festival 2016 Going To Be Even Bigger?

On the evening of the 3rd December 2015 we received a notification from Haringey Council for Wireless Festival 2016. Much to our alarm they were proposing 6 days of events on consecutive weekends (1st, 2nd & 3rd July 2016 and 8th, 9th 10th July) involving a 22 day occupation of Finsbury Park by Live Nation/Festival Republic. The information implied that Wireless Festival was going to be even bigger, 2 events both being 3 days long, the first event incorporating some kind of charity event.

Understandably we received many tweets and questions from dismayed park users struggling to comprehend how an already overly large and unmanageable event could get even bigger.

The Event Details read:

Title of event: Finsbury Park Concerts. Wireless Festival
Venue: Finsbury Park
On site at (Prep): 24/06/2016 08:00:00
Start time: 01/07/2016 10:00:00
Finish time: 10/07/2016 23:00:00
Off site (clear up): 15/07/2016 18:00:00
Other information: During the event days some stage trucks will need to change over after the events
Max number of attendees: 50000
Audience Profile: Families, Young People, Older People, Other
Is the event ticketed?: Yes
Is the event open to public?: Yes
Invited guests only?: No
Type of Event: Community, Music festival

Event Description:

Finsbury Park Concerts will likely be a 2 stage music event held on 1st, 2nd & 3rd July. Planned to include a community/charity event, The Wireless Festival will likely be a 3 stages music event held on 8th, 9th & 10th July.

On the same day of this release late that evening, were informed by Simon Farrow, Head of Direct Services at Haringey Council that event notification HGY0241 was indeed an application received from Festival Republic for a major event in the summer, but that it has been sent out in error as the application was incomplete and required further scrutiny by the council before being ready for any type of consultation.  He also told us not to send in any comment regarding the application.

Consultation is an essential part of the process required before any application is considered by a cabinet member, however this did not happen in relation to last years extra day on the weekend before Wireless Festival.

Pending clarification from Simon Farrow it seemed that that two events had been conflated into a single application. The applicant for the new “Finsbury Park Concerts” event on 1-3 July was from Festival Republic, part or wholly owned by Live Nation who were looking to piggy back the Wireless event infrastructure including a charity event of some kind to make it seem more community friendly – see their web-site (festivalrepublic.com). They also have an indefinite license for park events.

Questions remained. Had Simon retracted this application in its entirety, i.e. six days, or just the Finsbury Park Concerts event from 1-3 July?  We called the council’s “Event Officer” Thema Channer asking for clarification and for Simon to get in touch, still not sure whether we had to object to the Wireless event by the 17th December deadline subject to confirmation.

As Simon referred to application HGY02419, as incomplete, this should, in normal circumstances, be sufficient reassurance that all of the events listed in the application were being withdrawn from consultation at this stage. However, given that Haringey Council slipped in an extra Wireless day this year which was not included in any formal event application, we needed to be extra cautious.

We contacted Simon Farrow asking him to confirm that all six days listed in the event application had been withdrawn from formal notification and consultation, and that given some of the unfortunate breakdowns in communication over Wireless 2015, particularly in respect of the extra event day which was never included in any formal event notification, we were anxious to ensure that all room for further doubt was removed.

Simon Farrow later confirmed that all six events had been withdrawn from the application sent in error, but he also confirmed that Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park  would be delivered by Festival Republic (owned by Live Nation) and not Live Nation and that all Live Nation Festivals are now under the control of Festival Republic.

We told him we were very alarmed to see any reference, albeit mistakenly issued, to a prospective virtual doubling of Wireless/Festival Republic event days in Finsbury Park, and that the serious damage and disturbance sustained from Wireless 2015 was surely bad enough without the prospect of between 100,000 and 150,000 additional pairs of feet trampling the area next year.

We feel that any further imposition of noise and disruption, so concentrated in this three week period, would be seen as intolerable to many and would provoke markedly increased opposition to these large-scale events. We very much hope that the retraction of the event application notice was driven by a realisation that such a proposal would not be attainable or acceptable.

We do understand the pressures imposed on Haringey Council by severe cuts from central government and the desire to attract alternative funding sources for parks. However, as we have frequently proposed in the past, we believe that more effort should be applied to exploring more imaginative remedies and to attracting alternative, less disruptive, events to Finsbury Park. We have a number of ideas of our own for how best to manage the park and it’s events which we would like to discuss with our members and the council in the future.

We are currently awaiting a response.  Our objective is to convince Haringey to abandon these large scale events in the park, however in the meantime we are obviously hoping that at the very least they will think better about increasing the number of event days in 2016 . We will need to remain vigilant.