news, views and issues around Greenwich, Charlton, Blackheath and Woolwich, south-east London – what you won't read in Greenwich Time

Posts Tagged ‘on blackheath

On Blackheath – will Greenwich Council fight music festival?

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(Update 31 May: Lewisham councillor Kevin Bonavia reports the festival has been postponed for a further year.)

It’s been a long wait, but first details of the On Blackheath music festival, due to take place on 7 and 8 September, will be revealed in the next few days. Long-suffering 853 readers will remember the festival was initially due to make its debut in 2011, but was derailed by a costly court battle brought by the Blackheath Society, which aimed to overturn Lewisham Council’s decision to award it a licence.

The ruling upholding Lewisham’s licence came in July 2011, too late for a festival that year, and the heavy demands on Blackheath during the Olympics kiboshed any chance of a festival in 2012.

While it won the court case, Lewisham Council was criticised by magistrates for a lack of transparency in consulting over the event. It failed to formally tell Greenwich Council about the application, which magistrates called “astonishing”. The festival site, at Hare and Billet Road, runs metres from the boundary between the two boroughs, and all six Greenwich councillors for the Greenwich West and Blackheath Westcombe wards formally objected to the event.

But Greenwich may try to fight the festival again. At a council meeting in March, Blackheath Westcombe Tory councillor Geoff Brighty asked environment cabinet member (and Greenwich West councillor) Maureen O’Mara if the council had heard anything from Lewisham about the festival.

Her response: “Both of us lodged a very strong response against this matter, and if anything happens, we will you know – and I’ll see you at Bromley Magistrates Court!”

It’s difficult to know on what grounds Greenwich could object – the magistrates’ decision in 2011 dismissed fears over noise and public order. But with Greenwich boasting of its own festivals down the hill, it’d be sad to see an attempt to stop an event that organisers hope could pump a much-needed £1 million into the local economy.

In fact, it’d be downright hypocritical to claim disruption from On Blackheath when Greenwich Council remains determined to host unloved half-marathon Run To The Beat a few hundred metres away on the same weekend, a date pencilled in by On Blackheath for 15 months, an event which is likely to cause many more problems.

Sadly, there’ll be no Greenwich Summer Sessions to run alongside On Blackheath this year – just as the Greenwich Festivals lost the comedy festival, the music festival was also kicked out by the Old Royal Naval College, and has been brushed under the carpet by the council which once funded it.

But its organisers determined to stay in SE10, and are putting on Deptford boy Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel at the Borough Hall on Royal Hill on 19 July – it’s good to see a criminally under-used venue put to good use, and hopefully GSS will be back next year.

Finally, anything about festivals in SE London would be a incomplete without mentioning Leefest, at Highams Hill Farm near Biggin Hill, about as far away from Greenwich as you can get while still staying (technically) in the capital. I went in 2011 and it was a fantastic day out – now it’s ballooned to three days (12-14 July) and has raised £50,000 from fans to fund its future expansion. Tickets are still available, and it’s well worth the trip.

Will On Blackheath build up such a dedicated following? We’ll have to wait and see…

OffBlackheath – festival delayed until 2013

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Yeah, yeah, last with the news, but here it is from the horse’s mouth.

Sad news, but it can’t just be the demands on Blackheath this Olympic year – it’s already going to be a packed summer for events in London (the Blur/ Specials / New Order closing ceremony gig looks something very special) and it’d be hard to get a decent profile for the festival.

But come 2013, and the post-Olympics malaise… and it could shine. Hope to see you next year, chaps.

Written by Darryl

23 February, 2012 at 7:11 pm

Posted in local stuff, music

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On Blackheath planning 2012 date change

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A bit late with this, but the organisers of next year’s On Blackheath festival are planning to hold the event on 22 and 23 September, a little later than the weekend they’d usually aim to hold it on. It’s all down to the Olympics and Paralympics, with the police planning to use the Territorial Army building at Hollyhedge House as a base, and On Blackheath wanting to use it too.

An application has gone into Lewisham Council, which needs to approve the date change, with responses due in tomorrow. Lewisham’s certainly learned a lesson from being criticised in the court case surrounding the festival’s licence – with the site of the event covered in notices for what’s only a minor change. Even the side of Shooters Hill Road without a pavement is festooned with notices.

While on the heath, what’s with the fence surrounding the bank holiday funfair? Apparently there was one there for May’s fair (I was away then) as well, which dispels my notion that it’s some kind of post-riot measure. But it doesn’t look particularly welcoming with a steel fence around it…

Written by Darryl

25 August, 2011 at 12:29 pm

On Blackheath music festival gets court go-ahead

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Plans for a two-day music festival on Blackheath have been upheld by magistrates, who threw out an appeal against it being granted a licence.

Bromley magistrates dismissed the appeal brought by the Blackheath Society against Lewisham Council, which granted a 10-year licence to Nimby Events Ltd last year.

The society now faces an £80,000 legal bill following the seven day hearing, the longest appeal ever heard under current licensing laws.

This year’s festival, due to attract 50,000 people over two days, was abandoned because of the lengthy court case, but organisers are now planning to hold the first On Blackheath festival in September 2012.

Despite the rejection of the appeal, Lewisham Council came in for criticism in the magistrates’ ruling. They said there was “little evidence” the council conducted its consultation into the festival licence in an “open and transparent manner”.

Lewisham approved the event at a licensing sub-committee meeting in October – but a large number of local people in both Lewisham and Greenwich boroughs were “totally unaware” of the application, they said.

The festival is due to be held on the western side of the heath, between the Territorial Army base at Holly Hedge House and Shooters Hill Road, on the boundary of the two boroughs.

Furthermore, the magistrates branded Lewisham’s failure to formally notify Greenwich Council of the application “astonishing”. Festival organisers had informed Greenwich of their plans – but officers at the neighbouring authority, whose boundary runs just metres away from the festival site, were left waiting in vain for Lewisham to inform them when a full application was made.

While it had complied with the Licensing Act 2003, magistrates Roger Mills and Dr Patrick Davies said “Lewisham, through its licensing sub-committee, as not acted in an appropriate manner and has not had the interests of some of its residents at heart”.

But concerns about public order and noise at the event were dismissed by the magistrates, who noted the “days when events would have banks of speakers on a stage facing the audience” were gone, and were confident sound control firm Vanguardia would be able to mitigate any problems with noise.

Counsel for Nimby Events had asked the magistrates to award the full £140,000 costs of the hearing to the Blackheath Society, but the magistrates declined, saying the appeal had been “properly brought and Parliament had intended residents to have a say in the licensing process”.

It was revealed in the hearing that the society, which has a membership of 980 families, has assets of around £400,000, partly tied up in local property. Nimby Events’ Tom Wates, Terry Felgate and Alex Wicks were described in court by their counsel Simon Taylor as “local family men” who were funding their legal costs from their own pockets – they will be liable for most of the remainder of the costs.

Speaking before the costs ruling, Nimby’s Alex Wicks said he and his fellow organisers were “pleased” the festival could go ahead.

“We’re looking forward to working with the whole community, including the Blackheath Society and the Blackheath Joint Working Party. We very much want this to be a community event.”

He added that they were looking to hold concerts at Blackheath Halls during the winter as a build-up to the festival. “The halls need all the help they can get, and hopefully we can get it sold out for three nights.”

Blackheath Society chairman Howard Shields said that Lewisham’s decision to revise its policy on holding events on the heath showed the appeal had not been completely in vain.

“Our grouse all along has been with the way Lewisham has handled it,” he said.

“We have never said there should never be anything on Blackheath. But if we’re going into an era of having big commercial events on Blackheath, then there should be proper scrutiny.”

The decision to begin the appeal was taken by its management committee after an overwhelming response against the festival on its e-mail list, he added.

Asked about those who backed the event, Mr Shields said: “Nobody has written to us asking, why did you do this?”

However, he conceded there was a feeling the society had lost touch with younger people, and needed to “broaden our communication abilities” in future. (A full statement is on the Blackheath Bugle.)

Festival organisers will now be looking to find a suitable date for On Blackheath, with the Paralympic Games equestrian events taking place in Greenwich Park during early September 2012. Earlier this year, Tom Wates told this website the event could bring up to £1m of custom for local firms.

(Read past stories about the On Blackheath Festival saga.)

Written by Darryl

22 July, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Last chance to join in Blackheath consultation

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If you’ve followed the row over the On Blackheath music festival, you’ll recall that Lewisham Council is now planning a new policy on what it does with its parks. That includes its portion of Blackheath, where the festival was due to take place, as well as other open spaces like Hilly Fields, Beckenham Place Park, Ladywell Fields and Manor House Gardens.

If you’ve a strong view on what happens on the heath, or any other Lewisham open space, then the consultation is here – it only takes a couple of minutes, and there’s nothing stopping you if you’re on the wrong side of the border. (Indeed, you can even suggest Blackheath as a good place for fireworks.)

Be quick, though – it closes tomorrow (Friday).

As for On Blackheath, that battle returns to Bromley Magistrates Court on 29 June.

Written by Darryl

16 June, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Counting the cost: On Blackheath festival off for 2011

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From Michele O’Brien at the Blackheath Bugle, and as mentioned here a couple of weeks back, news that the planned On Blackheath festival is set to be abandoned for this year as a consequence of the lengthy court battle over Lewisham granting it a licence.

However, the organisers have said they’ll reapply for a new licence for next year if the court rules against them – and will simply go ahead with the event next year if the court rules in their favour and against the Blackheath Society, which is taking the action against Lewisham Council.

I dealt at length with Lewisham’s failings in dealing with the original application earlier this month, and it’s telling that the council is reviewing its policy on events in its parks. I expect any future application to hold an event on Blackheath will get more publicity than a single note tied to a single lamp post.

The consequence of this flawed process has been a legal battle which is estimated to be costing all parties involved – the organisers, Lewisham Council and the Blackheath Society – around £200,000.

In a month that will see the closure of Blackheath Village Library, it’s worth noting that £200,000 would have kept that building running (excluding staffing costs) for a further 20 months. The same sum would have kept New Cross Library running for seven years*.

While Lewisham could certainly have done things differently, I wonder if the self-styled “guardians of the heath” (“the public voice of Blackheath“, no less) are starting to regret taking out such a costly, and possibly ruinous legal action?

(* Figures from p506 of this document presented to Lewisham Council’s cabinet.)

Written by Darryl

17 May, 2011 at 2:26 pm

On Blackheath update: The court battle drags on

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I’ve neglected this over the past few weeks, so here’s an update on what’s happening with the On Blackheath festival.

A court hearing took place four weeks ago… and the magistrates still haven’t heard from all the witnesses. So the case resumes yet again on 16 May, and it’s believed a further day in court may yet be needed.

All this means that even if the Blackheath Society loses its appeal against Lewisham Council, there’s a chance the festival may not go ahead as planned on 10/11 September.

I’ve been in touch with the organisers and they tell me that they’re still planning a 2011 festival, and if time runs out and they get approval they will simply switch to a 2012 festival instead. (The Paralympics may mean the same weekend is unavailable next year, mind…)

In the meantime, On Blackheath’s organisers are planning to put some more information on their website, and are also looking at putting some smaller shows on at Blackheath Halls – which has staged a few gigs in the past, and could do with extra income after Greenwich Council scrapped its grant to the venue.

But the whole thing has opened a huge can of worms which neither the organisers, Lewisham Council, nor even the objectors could have foreseen. Lewisham Council is now reviewing its policy on events in its parks following the row.

Consider the people who live around Blackheath. Similar festivals take place on Clapham Common and in Victoria Park without too many problems. But the people who live close to those open spaces are younger and are more likely to be familiar with urban festivals – visit Clapham Common on a sunny day and take a look around you – while residents around Blackheath are generally older and not as interested, no matter how keen those who live in the wider area may be.

Hence the outright hostility – and to an extent, a complete unwillingness to listen to any argument for a festival. One furious man stormed out of a public meeting held in March, branding the organisers “capitalist ponces” and demanding the right to “play bongo drums” on their windowsills. Whatever the organisers say, a large proportion of the immediate neighbours of the festival believe the area will be invaded by pissed-up kids swigging White Lightning out of Tesco bags – and are unlikely to accept that anything different will happen.

How did this happen, though? The problem lies in the consultation process for holding such events. Councils aren’t obliged to do letter drops on licensing issues, like they have to do on planning issues. So all many locals saw was a single notice attached to a lamp post at the end of Hare and Billet Road last autumn, applying for a licence, and giving a bare outline of what was planned. “I’m not a dog walker or a Blackheath Society member, I didn’t see the sign,” one resident told a local assembly meeting last month. Meanwhile, Greenwich councillors are aggrieved they were not involved in the process on an event right on the borough boundary.

The organisers thought they were doing it by the book – and they were right. But now even they realise that the consultation process wasn’t up to scratch for such a big event.

Hence Lewisham belatedly realising it needs to get its act into gear and actually develop some policies for what to do. There’s complications relating to Lewisham Council’s contract with Glendale to manage its parks – there’s a 10% shortfall in Glendale‘s contract which it can make up by charging organisers to hold events such as On Blackheath. That contract lasts to 2020.

There’s specific issues regarding the legal status of Blackheath, which differs on each side of the Shooters Hill Road. (Contrary to popular belief, it’s not a common but manorial waste – owned by the Earl of Dartmouth (Lewisham) and the Queen (Greenwich.)) Lewisham believes it needs ministerial approval before part of its side of the heath can be enclosed; although this hasn’t stopped the London Marathon and Zippo’s Circus from sealing off bits of it in recent weeks.

So having stumbled into a legal minefield, it’s easy to see why On Blackheath may not make its debut until 2012 – even if the magistrates find in its favour. But with the Greenwich Summer Sessions, the Peninsula Festival promising outdoor shows, possibly On Blackheath – next summer could be a great one for live music in this part of the world.

Incidentally, the Blackheath Society’s friends in the Westcombe Society have objected to this year’s Greenwich Summer Sessions licence – a Greenwich licensing meeting next week will consider an objection on the grounds that the bands will be too loud and on too late.

UPDATE MONDAY 2:30PM: According to a Blackheath Bugle commenter, a festival on Blackheath will result in the uprooting of lamp posts. In fact, it’s “inevitable”. Ho-hum.

UPDATE MONDAY 6:15PM: There could also be a concert in Greenwich Park in August 2012 if one leading Greenwich councillor gets his way….

Written by Darryl

1 May, 2011 at 9:00 am

On Blackheath festival: Public meeting this Friday

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The organisers of the On Blackheath festival are holding a meeting this Friday to talk about their plans for the event, due for 10 and 11 September. “This will give a chance to hear from the team behind the event, as well as an opportunity to ask any questions,” they say. The meeting’s planned for 7.30pm on 18 March at Hollyhedge House – the Territorial Army base – on Wat Tyler Road.

A court decision on whether or not the festival can go ahead is not expected until early April. As well as a website for enquiries, the organisers now have a Twitter account, @OnBlackheath as well as a Facebook page.

Written by Darryl

13 March, 2011 at 9:06 pm

On Blackheath festival: No decision until April

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Despite two days of hearings at Bromley Magistrates Court at the end of last week, a final decision on whether the planned On Blackheath festival won’t be made for at least another month, with proceedings now due to resume on 4 and 5 April. In case you’re new to this little saga, the Blackheath Society is objecting to Lewisham Council granting an alcohol licence for a two-day music festival on the Hare & Billet Road side of the heath on 10/11 September.

Doubling the length of the proceedings means doubling the cost – meaning the stakes get higher for those involved, and a possible drain on the funds of Lewisham Council, who approved the licence last October.

In the meantime, organisers tell me they’re planning to hold an event in the next few weeks to talk to locals about their plans, more details of which will hopefully emerge soon.

My previous posts on the planned event, Blackheath’s festival organisers speak out and On Blackheath: Greenwich councillors object keep on attracting lots of comments, as do those over at the Blackheath Bugle.

One aspect of the affair which intrigues me is the role of Lewisham Council’s parks contractor Glendale in all this. Lewisham’s patch of Blackheath (south of Shooters Hill Road) is run on the council’s behalf by the company as part of an outsourcing deal. In Greenwich Council’s budget debate last week, while criticising Conservative suggestions that Greenwich should outsource some services, Greenwich West Labour councillor David Grant claimed Glendale benefits financially from holding events in Lewisham’s parks – including the festival on the heath. There’s no love lost across the border on this one.

So, you’ve read what the organisers have to say, and you can read what the Blackheath Society has to say, but what do you think? Time for a poll…

Written by Darryl

7 March, 2011 at 7:00 am

On Blackheath festival: Greenwich councillors object

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Six Greenwich councillors have joined forces to object to September’s planned On Blackheath music festival going ahead.

The two Conservative and four Labour representatives, from Blackheath Westcombe and Greenwich West wards, are sending a submission to Bromley Magistrates Court in support of action being taken by the Blackheath Society, which says the event will cause “substantial noise and nuisance”.

On Blackheath is due to attract 25,000 people each day over the weekend of 10 and 11 September, with organisers planning to put on a bill of new and left-field acts.

Lewisham Council’s licensing panel approved the event last October, but the society has taken the issue to magistrates, appealling to members for funds to help pay for their legal costs. One bone of contention is that Greenwich was not consulted by Lewisham over the original application for the festival, whose site at Hare and Billet Road is close to the boundary between the two boroughs.

Two councillors, Labour’s Maureen O’Mara and Conservative Geoff Brighty, are planning to attend the hearing, which begins on Thursday.

Earlier this month one of the festival’s organisers, Chislehurst-based businessman Tom Wates, told this website the event could bring up to £1m of custom for local firms.

Written by Darryl

28 February, 2011 at 1:37 pm


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