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Big blow for music fans as winds halt Finsbury Park 150 bash

Gales posed safety threat as members of legendary Madness were about to take to the stage

16 August, 2019 — By Calum Fraser

Police at the Finsbury Park festival with a car officers used in the 1970s

THE grand musical finale to mark 150 years of Finsbury Park was cancelled at the last minute due to fears the stage was about to be “blown away” in high winds.

Festival organisers said they were “heartbroken” after they were told by health and safety officers that all the bands due to play on Saturday had to be cancelled.

But they remain hopeful that more free festivals like the Finsbury Park 150 can be organised in the future.

Members of legendary Ska band Madness were set to take the stage at around 4pm to headline the celebrations of 150 years since the park was established.

Sumit, aged six, and three-year-old Suniva

Susie Barson, a member of the Friends of Finsbury Park group that organised the festival, said: “To my absolute devastation and horror the music was cancelled.

“We had about five or six bands lined up with people having travelled a long way.

“It’s devastating, but what can we do, they [Haringey Council] are very fierce about health and safety. They said the stage was lifting in the wind and it was not safe. I was so heartbroken.”

Graham “Suggs” McPherson and Mike Barson of Madness were practising new material in the morning. They were reportedly set to reveal the new songs at the free festival.

Ms Barson added: “I had to phone up all the bands to tell them what had happened.

Luke Eira and Susie Barson in Finsbury Park after the 150 festival was forced to finish early

“I was on the phone to Mike and he was so sad to hear that it had been cancelled.”

Organisers had hoped the festival’s success would convince Haringey Council, who manage the park which borders Hackney and Islington, to facilitate more “community focused” events in the future.

Panel discussions and talks had gone ahead from 11am to 1pm in a marquee tent in MacKenzie Gardens.

Labour leader and Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn was on the bill to speak at noon.

The organisers were believed to have been told he could not attend because he was on an “emergency Brexit ­holiday.”

Vera, aged 4, and dad Heorhi

Tottenham MP David Lammy chaired a discussion on the role parks have played in London in the past and the present.

Mr Lammy told the Tribune: “I think this has been a fantastic few days of focusing on how much we love this park and on the great visionaries that set this ­municipal park up for Londoners.

“I am sad to hear that the wind has cancelled the music. I’m really sorry and sad about that.”

At the end of Mr Lammy’s panel discussion Simon Hunt, the Friends of Finsbury Park chairman, had to ask people to leave quickly as the tent was at risk of “blowing away”.

Speaking to the ­Tribune several days ­later, Mr Hunt said: “The morning talks in the marquee had gone so well – there was an appetite for this kind of community focused event.

“We were then gutted when we had to cancel the music.”

He added: “We would love to have more events like this in the future, minus the weather.”

MP reveals how space was ‘oasis’ during his youth

MP David Lammy

MANY residents living close to Finsbury Park feel they have a close connection with it, but apparently none more so than Tottenham MP David Lammy, writes Calum Fraser.

Mr Lammy’s mother always told him he was “conceived in Finsbury Park”, he said while chairing a talk at the festival celebrating 150 years since the park was formed.

He worked out later that she was actually referring to Finsbury Park the area in Islington, not the green space that borders Islington, Hackney and Haringey.

Mr Lammy said: “I love and know this park and see it through the eyes of my youth and coming here for what we called in those days ‘all-dayers’. It felt like a very urban environment and an oasis of fields which you could explore.”

Mr Lammy shared his memories as part of a discussion about the role parks play in metropolitan life with Guardian journalist Dan Hancox, and University of Westminster professor Dr Andrew Smith.

The 50-minute chat covered the history of parks from their introduction to cities in Victorian times up until the present day.

At first, public parks were introduced for “civilising the population”. It was for people walking around with “upright postures” and not “lounging around on the grass”, Dr Smith said.

Mr Lammy enthused about his experiences growing up around Finsbury Park in the 1980s when the parks became a place to be claimed and explored by the public.

Mr Hancox added that parks have seen a 92 per cent cut in funding since 2010.

This has lead to councils turning to ticketed events in a bid to close the deficit.

Long-term users and residents living close by have been dismayed by this development as large sections of the park are cut off from the public for weeks.

Mr Lammy said he had walked around with the Friends of Finsbury Park group after this year’s Wireless festival and said the ecological damage was so bad it looked like the “Serengeti.”

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