Please read below the Friends’ official objections to the proposed Field Day event this summer. We submitted these on 5 March 2018.
The Friends of Brockwell Park is a membership charity that has been in existence for more than 30 years. We have reached our views on Field Day 2018 on the basis of regular surveys of our members and local people, which we will happily supply the licensing committee with.
A gated event this size has never been held before in Brockwell Park. Crucial pieces of information, like the event’s impact on the park’s ecology and wildlife, or reports on the safe handling of the huge crowds involved, are missing. We believe the Licensing Committee should therefore err on the side of caution and ideally postpone this event until 2019, to give time for all the relevant reports to be prepared and considered by experts and the community. If the committee is minded to approve the 2018 application, its worst impacts—large numbers, excessive noise levels and 12-hour opening—should be mitigated carefully.
Length of licence
It is not clear whether Field Day and Mighty Hoopla is applying for a one- or two-year licence. FoBP’s view is that it should be only for one year and any renewal be subject to detailed review of the 2018 event, if permission is granted for it.
1. The prevention of crime and disorder
Past experience indicates a high incidence of drug-dealing, drug-taking and high alcohol intake. At past events, this has been related to very noisy, disorderly behaviour over many hours as clients leave the venue; while police had to be called to Sunfall 2017 to deal with fighting in the queue to get in. Drug pushing is a crime which occupies the police enough already; a gathering of this size for this projected time will only encourage more criminals into the Park and, of major concern to local residents, its environs. In Victora Park, where Field Day had been for a decade, crime figures rose significantly for the month in which Field Day took place.
2. Public safety
Public safety may be jeopardised greatly by the exit strategy of the event organisers: the only exit from the site is through the Brixton Water Lane gates. We have seen no credible report from the organisers explaining how they will arrange the safe exit of 39,999 people. The Fire Department, in the Proforma, requires a gateway width of 4.8 metres minimum; the Brixton Water Lane exit, with both gates open, measures 3.76m. FOBP is deeply concerned that too many people going through too narrow an exit at the last moment is an accident waiting to happen. The risk of injury among a surging mass of people, many not in full control of themselves due to drugs and/or alcohol, all trying, perhaps impatiently to squeeze through the narrow exit, must be high.
There is provision by the Event organisers for a fire exit at the Herne Hill entrance to the Park. Given such a designation, the Fire Department will probably refuse to allow its use as a public client exit. This view is supported by the rumour that Herne Hill station is going to be closed. The narrow Brixton Water Lane exit is a dangerous bottle-neck quite unsuited to safely handling 39,999 people.
3. Preventing public nuisance
We are wholly opposed to holding any event on Friday 1 June, as the proposed noise levels from 11am to 11.30pm will adversely affect employees in offices surrounding the park, such as the 200+ employees at Mark Allen Group on Dulwich Road.
It will also seriously disturb local students preparing for the public exams they are due to sit from 4 June onwards.
FOBP is opposed to the prolonged opening hours on all three days—12.5 hours on Friday and Saturday and 12 hours on Sunday—and suggests that the limits normal for the annual Lambeth Country Show—midday to 8pm—should be adhered to.
Each event day will have the higher Sound Levels of 75 dba and 90 dbc; this sound level has a deleterious impact for miles around, but particularly for the many residents who live cheek by jowl with Brockwell Park around its whole perimeter. We have conducted surveys of our members and local residents and the overwhelming majority have told the FOBP that these sound levels at the Sunfall events in 2016 and 2017 were intolerable.
FOBP is very concerned at the lack of transparency about the crowd-handling measures needed for such a huge event; we have seen no report on this. Previous experience of smaller events in Brockwell Park (e.g. Sunfall) has shown that this process is prolonged, chaotic, rowdy, noisy, and very disruptive and unpleasant for local residents (e.g. reports of clients defaecating in residents’ gardens in Brixton Water Lane, and offering them drugs); and going on with loud conversation into the early hours of the morning. How much worse will these features be if the anticipated numbers of 39,999 or so clients are all trying to leave the Park through the Brixton Water Lane exit, as is planned?
Features of both Sunfall events were: noise at all hours; unruly behaviour, massive litter in streets and gardens; massive congestion of public routes, impeding use by residents going about their normal business; and general denial of local residents’ accustomed amenities. There was damage to trees, to donated benches and to the beloved miniature railway. To mitigate these deleterious effect, we believe numbers well short of 20,000, say around 10,000, should be licensed as suitable for this small park.
Even if the weather is fine, the damage to the park infrastructure by 39,999 people for three days running will be tremendous; if the weather is adverse, it will be an ecological disaster. Given that neither we nor the committee can predict the weather, we therefore again urge caution and suggest that the numbers permitted be reduced significantly.
If the committee is minded to approve the 2018 application, it should only be on the basis that the organiser’s crowd-handling and public order/security measures are adequate for this large event in this small park.
4. The protection of children from harm
It is impossible to guarantee the safety of children in the face of the above overall picture.
The serious harm to even one child would be one incident too many. Some local residents will inevitably take their children to the Park at the time of the event, with thousands of extra visitors crowding them in. If, as is reasonable to assume, the level of drug taking in Brockwell Park increases dramatically, children may step on needles, perhaps contaminated with HIV, or the shards of broken nitrous oxide containers, which were everywhere after the Sunfall events. Inevitably, children will be put in harm’s way.