‘You feel like you’re living in a war zone during Wireless festival’
Neighbour tells hearing that will decide future of event in Finsbury Park of vibrations shaking tables, of shouting and fighting outside her flat: ‘Try to imagine how oppressive that is’
19 October, 2018 — By Emily Finch
Wireless Festival ‘brings pleasure to 45,000 people attending each day… and is a significant contributor to the park’s budget’
FINSBURY Park was turned into a “war zone” when thousands of revellers poured onto the streets during the Wireless music festival, a public hearing was told this week.
Dozens of Islington residents travelled to neighbouring Haringey Council’s Civic Centre on Monday night to voice their anger over the pop music festival.
A panel of councillors will decide the future of events held by promoter Live Nation, including gigs by Liam Gallagher and Queens of the Stone Age, at the 46-hectare park which borders Haringey, Islington and Hackney.
Community group Friends of Finsbury Park, which triggered the review, is calling for Live Nation’s licence to be revoked. A decision is due within days. Residents gave evidence to the council’s licensing committee about their experiences of living through the festival on July 6-8 this year, with headliners Stormzy and Drake.
Lucie Cohen, a management consultant living in Stroud Green Road, told the meeting that “it was difficult to convey” just how bad the noise from the festival was over the three days.
“From Friday to Sunday, all your waking hours is booming bass – vibrations which are shaking my table. Try to imagine how oppressive it is,” she said.
Residents and Friends of Finsbury Park members outside Haringey Civic Centre, where the hearing was held
She complained that the festival “does not finish” when the music stops at 10pm with festival-goers “shouting and fighting” outside her Islington flat for a couple of hours.
She said: “You start to feel like you’re living in a war zone for a few hours. This is not an exaggeration.”
Ms Cohen was joined by about 30 other witnesses who voiced concern over the volume of music, vibrations from the festival, condition of the park and anti-social behaviour from festival-goers.
Geraldine Timlin, from Finsbury Park, spoke of the “negative impact” the festival had on her neighbourhood and how she “won’t go out at night” during it.
“I’ve witnessed and taken photos of men urinating in our garden. I’ve come home late at night thinking I can avoid the surging crowds but I’ve been confronted by staggering festival-goers,” she said. “I’d like to escape from the sheer volume of 45,000 poorly controlled and poorly managed people in my neighbourhood.”
Councillor Eldridge Culverwell, Haringey Labour representative for Stroud Green, spoke on behalf of the Friends group and accused the licensing committee of “prostituting” the park.
“The festival has not only destroyed many lives, it’s destroyed the natural habitat of the park and destroys the beauty of the park,” he said.
Geraldine Timlin: Festival’s ‘negative impact’
He also complained about “Gulag-type hoardings and heavy-duty vehicles”.
Barrister Charles Streeten, for the Friends group, tabled “fall-back” conditions if the committee did not revoke Live Nation’s licence. These included dropping the maximum capacity from the current 45,000 to 10,000, reducing opening hours and lowering sound levels.
Tuesday’s second session of the marathon six-hour review, heard from those defending Live Nation’s licence.
Barrister Philip Kolvin QC argued that the conditions suggested by Friends would essentially shut down the festival. His client had complied with the current licence “and the 113 conditions in it”.
He said that there were no authorities giving evidence – including the London Ambulance Service and the Metropolitan police – which believed Live Nation was failing to comply with the current licensing conditions.
Council officers had produced reports to the committee which showed “that the licensing balance is being properly struck”, he added. Mr Kolvin said: “My client is not coming before you and saying they are not prepared to engage. It is the exact opposite. They are deeply committed to continued engagement regarding this event and remain alive to the possibility of improvements.
“This year, it included a huge increase in the number of off-site security from 14 to 93. I’m talking about people put in place on residential streets. By putting that protection into Hackney it displaced some issues into Islington. My client will apply the same principles in Islington [next year], after discussion with Islington.”
Mr Kolvin added that Live Nation would install an extra noise-monitoring point and improve bass levels from the festival. He added: “This event brings pleasure to 45,000 people each day. They are an important part of the cultural calendar. The festival is a significant contributor to the park’s budget, which is not supported by statutory funding.”
The licensing committee have until next Tuesday, October 23 to make a decision.
‘Bias’ claim contested
SPEAKING for the Friends of Finsbury Park group, barrister Charles Streeten asked that the licensing committee not hear from a licensing officer employed by Haringey Council who, it was claimed, was “apparently biased” against the Friends group.
Mr Streeten accused the officer of working “hand in glove” with Live Nation following the release of correspondence between the officer and promoter through a Freedom of Information request.
But a lawyer employed by Haringey advised the committee to dismiss the claims, saying: “There is nothing that raises concern in that regard.”
The licensing officer defended her correspondence with Live Nation and said: “I would take it as my duty to be engaging with any licence holder during a licence application, it would be remiss of me not to do so.”