Kilburn Grange Olympic Irish festival causing concern

Early last week a licence application was brought to my attention. Vince Power – music promoter and owner of Power’s bar in Kilburn – has applied to hold a Feis Village in Kilburn Grange Park. A Feis is an Irish cultural and music festival (Power held one in Finsbury Park last year that attracted big name performers including Van Morrison and Bob Dylan). So far so good.

Here’s the catch: he wants to run it for the entire duration of the Olympics: from July 26th to August 12th, i.e., for just over two weeks, and is also requesting a 2am licence at the weekends (of which there are three in that period). Local residents (those within 250m of the site) were invited to a meeting in The Black Lion on February 14th to discuss it, although ward councillor Mike Katz only found out about it that day and was unable to attend. Vince Power has since extended an invitation to meet Cllr Katz to discuss it further.

Click for full-size

The reaction to the idea on Twitter has not been overwhelmingly positive.

The licence application has a lot of documentation, much of which relates to security (Vince isn’t asking or expecting the local police to be required – all the security will be provided). The application is for up to 5,000 people at any given time, and places a lot of emphasis on the organisers wanting flexibility as the precise schedule for the festival has not been agreed, so they would not necessarily use the late licence. There is also a request for Camden to dispense with the traditional maximum noise level limits although the venues used for comparison are much larger parks such as Hyde Park.

Here’s the event overview and audience profile, taken verbatim from the application (bold sections, my highlights):

Event Overview
2.1 The Feis Village 2012 is based on an already established contemporary Irish music Event, the Fleadh Festival which was launched 22 years ago. The Event was re-launched last year as the London Feis Festival.

2.2 Spanning 18 days during the London 2012 Olympic Games period from the 26th July-12th August in Grange Park Kilburn, with the aim of offering a centre for Irish culture and entertainment during this exciting time. The operational hours of 11:00-02:00 has been applied for in order to give us flexibility and offer a variation in programming and entertainment each evening. We would not look to stay open until the maximum licensed hour each night just to have the flexibility to choose which days the event is open later.

2.3 Musical Entertainment will be provided on some of the days, other days will have comedy and other forms of low-level entertainment. This entertainment will take place on a temporary stage within a Big Top structure. We would be requesting permission to have a live stream of the Olympic Games at the Feis Village, showing key Irish games and events of interest.

2.4 The Big Top will have an audience viewing capacity of 5,000. The venue will be managed by our team and capacity will be monitored by the security team and crowds monitored continuously. A copy of the site plan is available as a separate document which shows the lay-out of the stage and venue. Live music will always finish at 23:00.

2.5 The event site will open to the public at 11.00 on most days – but this will be TBC in line with the entertainment schedule. There will be low-level entertainment, food and drinks on offer during the day. With live music entertainment starting late afternoon / early evening. This will not be on every night of the event and all live music will be finishing at 23.00. We would request the flexibility within the license to be able to stay open late on some nights, in line with key Irish Olympic events and provide low-level entertainment and serve food and drink until 02:00 on some nights. We will be looking at the public transport schedule and will ensure that the entertainment schedule is in-line with this. We would look for the flexibility to have the bars open until 02:00 on some nights, with the site cleared by 0230 and the site secured. We would look to close everything an hour earlier on Sundays.

2.6 Entry will be strictly by ticket only, and a secure perimeter will be established around the Park site. A system will be implemented for clearly identifying legitimate ticket holders by means of secure wristband. We would work to a maximum capacity on site at any one time of 5,000, but this would most likely be spread over the day due to the varied programming of the entertainment.

2.7 Tickets will be sold as separate day tickets and in combinations. We would look into the option of having a separate day ticket and an evening ticket to enable us to clear the site. Ticket combinations are currently TBC as is ticket pricing.

2.8 Disabled tickets will be available that will give free access for the career. Under 12 tickets will be free when accompanied by a full paying adult. We will be offering a reduced price ticket for locals who live within a certain distance to the park.

2.9 There will also be a hospitality area for around 250 seated guests. This area will be controlled via a distinctive wristband and will remain open after the main event closes. This is where we would look to have bars and low-level entertainment until 02:00 for this limited number of guests.

Audience Profile
3.1 Information indicating the performers is included in Appendix 1. This Appendix will be updated regularly as contracts are signed and acts are confirmed for the bill. Currently these acts are TBC.

3.2 The audience profiles for both event days is expected to be is predominantly mid 20’s to mid 50 year olds, with an even gender split and often in couples, small peer groups and large percentage of families, partially during the day. Whilst the music will be of a broad appeal it will be mainly Irish Folk style music. The audience profile will be broadly similar and of little variation across all event days.

3.3 A large proportion of the audience is expected to be people who live locally to the area.

3.4 Under 16’s will not be permitted on site, unless accompanied by a person of 18 years or over. No more than two Under 16’s will be allowed to enter with any one designated adult. Under 12’s will be permitted to the event free of charge but will have to be allocated a FOC ticket that can be obtained when booking a full adult ticket. Only 2 FOC children’s tickets can be allocated to each adult ticket.

3.5 None of the acts booked are liable to lead to crowd conflict or “tribalism”, or of concerns regarding excessively boisterous behavior, “moshing” or “crowd surfing”.

Here’s how the park would look during the festival (the writing is just about legible if you click for full-size version), followed by a photo of last year’s Kilburn Festival (which is currently due to take place this year on July 8th).

The Big Top is the large stadium-shaped bit in the middle
2011 Kilburn Festival (stage behind camera)

The objections are fairly obvious: too late, too noisy, and goes on for too long. The local Conservatives have already churned out a response, in which none other than London Assembly member Brian Coleman says that “Music festivals are good but an 18 day event in a park in a residential area in the summer goes too far.” It may well be that a majority of people agree with that perspective. The deadline for making representations to Camden is March 12th, and you can post them online.

Click for full-size version

The full documentation can be found here, and below are selected pages from the draft noise evaluation appendix, with sections highlighted by me.
Draft Noise Appraisal for Kilburn Feis 2012 Licence

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  • Anonymous

    It’s 18 days of music but including the erection and dismantling of this the park will be out of action for 25 days. This is already an area of high crime in the ward
    interestingly I live very close to the park but saw nothing of this until the lib dems put a flyer through my door.. no notice from VP to attend the Valentines day hearing and as of the weekend there were no notices up in the park. Since then some have been erected but not at all entrances/exits. (The park was rammed by the way so think of local demand during the Olympics for space). VP has also asked for dispensation to be above 75db sound level used at other comparable venues (which he considers to be Hyde Park, Finsbury Park, Victoria Park, Hackney Marshes, Moor Park Preston and Heaton Park Manchester. Draw your own conclusion there but the smallest of those is @20 times the size of KGP. VP wants to have flexibility for late-night opening for ‘key Irish Olympic events’.. maybe there is some scheduling I am unaware of or maybe late night star-gazing has become an Olympic event! I for one enjoy using our local park and the thought of losing it to listen to any form of music for 18 days and nights (let alone irish folk music!) is enough to make me want to hang myself from those Olympic rings floating down the Thames currently. FYI VP floated his business on the AIM market last year, I think the motivations and considerations here are clear.

    • Valid point about the noise levels – have added the relevant pages from the application to the post.

  • “too late, too noisy, and goes on for too long” – you’re absolutely correct. my employer in Canary Wharf is encouraging us to work from home during the games. This really isn’t going to make my life easy. I live on Kingsgate Rd, 480m from the site, so no wonder I haven’t been consulted. I don’t think 250m is far enough. It will impact on much wider a geographical area, especially our road.

  • Rob Johnson

    Sounds good to me. A variety of music wouldn't go a miss though. I'm a family of four 20m from the park and welcome a party atmosphere for this once in a life time event.

  • Claire

    Kilburn grange park is just not comparable to the other London parks he describes, it’s a small park surrounded by residents. It’s not designed for such an event, without going into the obvious regarding disturbances for the local residents, the park will be out of use for 25 days over the summer, and the surrounding roads are just not able to deal with the huge increase in cars that this event will bring. West end lane is bad enough at the best of times and residential streets off it definitely can’t cope with the big increase in traffic it will bring. He’s chosen the wrong park for this event, I’m not sure any of the bigger parks that would have less noise disturbance and also be able to keep enough open for the public would even allow this event.

  • Laura

    There are also at least 2 nurseries adjacent the park – on Palmerston Road, one of them backing directly onto the grange. Apart from the fact that having to walk to the nursery with a baby past the gates can feel too threatening (with 5,000 people + alcohol some degree of antisocial behaviour is inevitable), the poor babies/toddlers need their naps during the day! the loud music disturbing their sleep for 18 days can have negative effects on their health and wellbeing. Many of us will not have the option of keeping them at home and not going to work!

  • Anonymous

    The parking is a mess in W. Hampstead.
    Look what they’ve done to Iverson Road.
    Check out the Streetview picture before they renovated the station:
    Yep, thats lots of single yellow parking, and some pay&display on the right.
    Now all the single yellow has gone, only to be replaced by double-yellow. There are only a few pay&display bays, instead there are lots of specialist bays which are never used.
    I want those double-yellow lines to be replaced with pay&display. It’s off the main road, will provide quick and easy access to the high street and allow us drivers to quickly pop out and grab something.
    And to all of you in the anti-car brigade, constantly going on about how well serviced W. Hampstead is by public transport. Yes, it is, but come on those weekends when the Overground and the Jubilee aren’t running (which is often) and the whole area is a ghost town

  • WHampstead prompted me via Twitter to post a bit of an update on this, following a public meeting on the Festival on Tuesday night at Kingsgate Community Centre which VP and three of his staff attended. I was there with my ward colleagues Thomas Gardiner and Maryam Eslamdoust (for the record, we’ve put in an objection as ward councillors).

    It was a well-attended meeting, with about 30-40 residents at any one time (the meeting had been combined with the Webheath TRA’s AGM, and advertised across the estate). What was clear was that most of those attending, and all of those speaking were against. Concerns covered the range of issues expressed above – losing use of the park, the late hours of operation, noise nuisance, anti-social behaviour spilling over from the secure area, parking problems, crowd dispersal.

    What – sort of – emerged during the meeting was that VP had changed the terms of the application from those originally advertised – although it took about three requests to get those out in the opening. This was strange in itself, as one would have thought that decreasing capacity and hours in response to public comments was a Good Thing that one would want to set out from the start.

    Those changes are that maximum capacity will be no more than 2,000; the event will now close at 12:00am weekdays (1:00am Fri and Sat); and that only 10 days of activity applied for (although it’s not clear whether the site would still be taking up space over the same period of time. There was also some confusion as to where the organised exit from the site would be. The original application had visitors exiting onto the High Road by the Black Lion; the suggestion at the meeting was that this would now be Palmerston Street (by Nando’s). This would mean walking through Webheath estate; a bizarre suggestion.

    What struck me was that despite going out of his way to point out that he wasn’t legally obliged to organise a public meeting in the Black Lion, or come to this meeting, VP’s general lack of interest in showing any sympathy with reasonable points being made reasonably, and his sometimes quite aggressive response to questioners, really undermined the point of trying to engage with residents at all. Rather than accepting that there will be disruption but arguing that it would be worth it, and asking how he could make life for local people as easy as possible, VP didn’t want to acknowledge any impact at all.

    This application has received around 60 objections (a large amount for any application); it will definitely go to a Licensing Panel of councillors for adjudication, probably in early April (5 April has been mentioned as a possible date). I’ll tweet and post here when the date is – the meetings are public, but I believe that only those who have already lodged an objection have the right to speak. The panel can approve or reject outright, or they can impose conditions which may or may not make the event unviable as a business proposition.

    Alongside the licensing application, there’s also the question of hiring the park from Camden. The organisers would definitely pay a deposit which would be used to repair any wear-and-tear on the fabric of the park from the event. I’ve also asked the event officers to look at how/if we could levy an additional charge which recognises the huge loss of amenity for local people (taking the main bit of the park out of action for nearly three weeks during the school holidays) and could somehow be used as compensation. Not sure if/how this could happen, and of course, it only is relevant if the application is passed.