The Friends of Brockwell Park (FOBP) is deeply concerned about the decision by the London Borough of Lambeth (LBL) to fence off the Lambeth Country Show (LCS) this July 21–22, and impose stringent security, including the banning of all drinks being brought into the park. This is the first time in more than 40 years this has happened. The FOBP believes the LCS should be postponed to the autumn, to allow the community to have input into this decision and give the Park’s ecology time to recover from the damage inflicted on it by the recent Field Day/Mighty Hoopla festivals.
Queuing for hours to be submitted to an intimate body search and confiscation of all drinks is not most people’s idea of a wonderful Lambeth Country Show experience, particularly for families with young children, the old and the disabled.
This radical change to the very heart of this much-loved event has been done without any serious explanation from LBL. A briefing meeting due on 21 June, summoned at late notice on 19 June, was cancelled a few hours before. What is needed urgently is a detailed, reasoned argument, with alternatives, including contributions from the police and the insurers. We are all aware of the need for heightened security, but the ways of achieving that must be transparent and open to democratic discussion.
There has been no consultation with the local community on this hasty decision, neither with the Friends of Brockwell Park, founded 1985, nor with the Park’s umbrella group, Brockwell Park Community Partners, although the Council promised such consultation would happen. The point of submitting plans to local people and organisations in good time is that we might come up with a better solution for the park we love.
Brockwell Park is suffering from the ecological and infrastructural damage caused by the Field Day/Mighty Hoopla events at the beginning of June. It will take months to heal and FOBP has grave doubts about the wisdom of imposing yet another gigantic ring of fencing on the park at the height of summer: and with the LCS barely a month away, no map of the extent of the fence has yet been published. Fencing is particularly damaging to the fragile grass and verges of the park, something that will be compounded in wet weather—not unknown in the British summer.
The total loss to Lambeth on the unfenced LCS last year was more than £350,000 and no plans have been published for tackling that loss. Nothing has been said of the extra cost of building and dismantling a giant LCS fence this year, let alone the security staff to manage what we are told will be 70 access lanes from midday to 8pm all weekend, but the loss could easily double to £700,000. This is a significant amount for Council Tax-paying Lambeth residents to bear.
As an exhibitor, FOBP has not been apprised of the security and priority arrangements for its volunteers staffing our stand at the LCS. Without detailed plans in place for exhibitors before, during and after the LCS, there must be fears dangerous bottlenecks will occur, especially during the extremely tight breakdown on the Monday morning.
FOBP chair Peter Bradley said: ‘The decision to fence the Lambeth Country Show for the first time in 40 years amounts to a huge and unwelcome change. It has been taken without serious explanation or consultation. The costs of the fence and accompanying security over a summer weekend are of major concern to Council Tax-payers. We call on the Council to postpone this year’s LCS to the autumn—something it has done before, in 2012—to allow time for proper consideration of this immense change to a loved event.’