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Lament of the doorstep singer as open air film and music show is cancelled

Friends of Fortune Green say they could not comply with Camden's Covid rules

06 August, 2020 — By Tom Foot

Phil Ryan playing a doorstep gig in West Hampstead during the coronavirus lockdown

HE has performed in Moscow’s Red Square in front of a crowd of more than 100,000, but Phil Ryan was looking forward to a more intimate gig later this month.

The musician – who has toured with The Animals band – was due to put on a free concert in the West Hampstead open space on August 22, alongside a jumbo screen showing of the film Monsters Inc.

But the Friends of Fortune Green has now cancelled the event after facing council requests for security teams, portable toilets and maintaining a 200-person limit.

Mr Ryan, who lives in Agamemnon Road, told the New Journal: “Of course I understand that they have to keep people safe. But I think they need to now actively get involved in assisting local groups putting on small events in local public spaces. This for me is both a mental health and well-being issue.

“People must be so out of their brains with the silence and the nothingness, and staring endlessly at their screens. What people really want is something live, to see a human being bobbing up and down.”

Mr Ryan staged his own doorstep concerts during lockdown.

“At first the windows opened, people’s heads popping out like budgies coming in cages,” he said. “Word spread and week on week the crowd got bigger – there was 130 people at one point. I think I played songs that people liked, mainly things they could bring their kids and sing along to.

“Fast forward and a lovely bunch of volunteers got in touch asking if I’d do a proper hour-long show in Fortune Green. My tours in Europe had stopped, I thought why not.”

He added: “Camden – not unreasonably – said well if you want to do that you need security, toilets – and it needs to be restricted to 200 people. But these are the plague days and they need to be thinking more proactively rather than stopping things from happening.

“There needs to be a department to get these events put on. Get that bloke who runs the Dublin Castle, he’s clever. There are so many out of work promoters in Camden who could help. If you don’t be radical, you are using the old rules for the new world.”

Jackie Spreckley, from the Friends of Fortune Green, said: “August 22 was a way of us coming together to enjoy more and celebrate our local community here in West Hampstead. However, due to an increase in late night anti social behaviour, as is happening across the borough, we didn’t feel we could comply with Camden’s Covid rules and cope with a large, potentially disruptive crowd, being attracted by the fun as one of only a few events going on in the neighbourhood.”

A Camden Council spokesperson said: “We are still in a public health crisis and it is vital we take every precaution to stop the spread of the virus and keep residents safe. Mass events are not allowed under the current government regulations and event organisers have strict regulations to follow if they wish their event to go ahead, including ensuring adequate social distancing.

“We would have been negligent to allow this event to go ahead in its current guise.”

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