Open spaces should not need festivals to pay for the maintenance, say neighbours

Thousands turn up to watch world’s best rap stars in Finsbury Park, but it’s a noisy night for residents

Friday, 15th July — By Anna Lamche


Megan Thee Stallion performs to thousands at Wireless

A NEW but familiar row has opened up over how the maintenance of parks is paid for – after thousands turned up to the Wireless festival and reports that people without tickets tried to jump the fence.

Objectors said the event in Finsbury Park, which featured exclusive performances from some of the globe’s most popular rap and R&B acts, was too noisy and blocked off too much of the open space to others.

In the past week more than 1,500 people have signed a “Hands Off Our Park” petition to say “no to loss of park space for mega noisy festivals”.

The petition is being supported by Friends of Finsbury Park (FFP), a charity representing park users.

“The real debate here is about how the council funds its big green open spaces. Finsbury Park is run by Haringey Council, which has long rented the space out for large events to make up a shortfall in the park’s budget,” said FFP co-chair Tom Graham. “We care about effectively funding our local parks without reliance on major events income.”

He said the Friends of Finsbury Park would like to see Haringey “engage the public on the costs of funding a park properly – people value these spaces, but it’s not free”.

Referencing a recent “Parks for Health” initiative, Mr Graham said there is “evidence of Camden and Islington working together on public parks.”

He said: “There’s a good argument for all three boroughs [Islington, Hackney and Haringey] getting together to share the load and responsib­ility of funding the park”.

He said there was “a huge sense of frustration” among residents that large events were “using well over half our park for over four weeks”.

Finsbury Park

A large section of the park will have been closed for almost four weeks by the end of July, as festival organisers set up hoarding and prepare for a series of festivals and music events.

“For five nights of concerts you effectively have four weeks of barriers around part of the park,” Mr Graham said.

These events were kicked off by Wireless over the weekend.

As temperatures soared to 30 degrees on Sunday, there were complaints of huge queues and poor crowd control.

Milly Oliver, who was waiting to enter the park via the main entrance in Seven Sisters Road, said she had seen “people passing out and being trampled on,” adding the situation had become “really scary” and that she was “traumatised”.

Others said people had been forced to leap the fences to avoid being trampled on. According to police, officers attended to assist festival security and when crowds built up after a small group of people attempted to force their way in, entrance to the festival was “briefly” paused.

Wireless was spread across three venues this year, with performances taking place in Crystal Palace Park and Birmingham as well as Finsbury Park.

The festival was headlined by rapper Cardi B on Friday, R&B singer SZA on Saturday and “Queen of Rap” Nicki Minaj on Sunday. It is a rare event in the UK music calendar show­casing the best of hip-hop, rap and R&B, and noted for its significance by the organisers of Black History Month.

The park has a long history of music events going back to Jimi Hendrix, while Bob Dylan and Madness performed sell-out gigs.

But Mr Graham said: “This has nothing to do with the type of music – we agree there is an important place for diverse music festivals, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it in Finsbury Park.”

He said FFP supported “well-managed, small community-focused events” with a capacity of fewer than 10,000.

“We’re proud to have hosted the Kurdish Festival and the Latino Festival,” he said. “We’ve hosted diverse events – this is not a nimby objection. Our challenge is around the safety of events, how well they’re managed, and their environmental impact.”

Wireless did not respond to our queries this week. A Haringey Council spokesperson said: “Finsbury Park has a long history of staging big events and with Covid restricting the lives of our young people for so long, music events like this help bring our communities back together to appreciate arts, culture and music.

“We will always take on board the views of our residents and there are a number of issues to consider around these events including how we get people in and out of the area, how we work with the joint boroughs and respect the local area.”

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