Residents fuming over the “crazy and unbelievable” decision to let Wireless Festival take place in Finsbury Park this July are taking legal action against Haringey Council.
The Friends of Finsbury Park (FOFP) group, whose members live in Hackney, Haringey and Islington, objects to the scale of the festival, the reduced park access, the disruption and the length for which it runs.
“When the festival is on you get unrest around the fences with people trying to break in and drinking in the kids’ playground,” said the group’s chair Tom Palin, who lives on Lancaster Road.
“It’s crazy really. It’s unbelievable. There’s a lot of disorder, especially along Seven Sisters Road. So security guards patrol the outside of the festival fence before and during the event which is intimidating.”
Wireless Festival hit the headlines in July 2015 when a group of gatecrashers were filmed storming the entrance. This year’s event, which is run by Festival Republic, is scheduled for 8–10 July. But FOFP says that setting up the festival and clearing up afterwards takes weeks.
“Wireless Festival closes off about a third of the park for almost a month every year during the summer heatwave. The third of the park they take up is the main part. It’s around the kids’ playground.”
FOFP is bringing judicial review proceedings against Haringey Council. It believes the council does not have the authority to allow a festival the size of Wireless to be held in a public park.
The groups’ solicitor, Susan Ring, has identified an article in the Greater London Parks and Open Spaces Act (1967) which states that open park space enclosed for entertainment may not exceed “one acre or one tenth of the open space”.
‘No go area’
Mr Palin said the park becomes a “no go” area for families during the festival. “I don’t like walking round round there when I’m with my kids.
“We’re not opposed to Wireless Festival, and we’re not anti-festivals, but this is inappropriate for Finsbury Park. It’s not like Notting Hill, where families can get involved, which isn’t ticketed, which is a significant cultural and community event. Those are the kind of events we’re not opposed to. They are inclusive of and benefit the community.”
Finsbury Park is in Haringey but borders with Hackney on the Seven Sisters Road side. “Haringey Council is making all the decisions yet it affects Islington and Hackney residents too,” said Mr Palin.
Haringey Council says the festival is an important way to raise funds for the upkeep of the park. A spokesperson said: “Events help fund new facilities and improvements – such as the recently refurbished Finsbury Park ball courts and new security lighting for the track and gym.
“Music festivals like Wireless are part of a range of events that take place in the park each year – others include fun fairs and family attractions, charity gatherings and fun runs.
“The variety of events also ensures that Finsbury Park continues to be a popular destination and attracts new visitors to the area. We are continuing to work with all of our partners to ensure that events go ahead safely and as smoothly as possible and residents see improvements in the way they are delivered.”
But FOFP claims the council has not been transparent about the park’s finances. Mr Palin said: “The problem we’re having with the money is Haringey refusing to tell us how much money the festival brings in.”
“We know councils are cash-strapped and have no money for parks but the last thing we want is Wireless Festival – it’s counterproductive. Why isn’t Haringey Council looking at alternatives? There must be viable solutions and alternative ways to bring in money for the park.”
Melvin Benn, Managing Director of Festival Republic, said additional security will be in place for this year’s Wireless Festival.
“The 11th Wireless Festival will see some new key changes with additional access and security measures in place to ensure the safety of the event. We have been working closely with police, council and security to ensure that the event runs smoothly and safely, with as little disruption to local people as possible,” he said.
FOFP plans in the coming weeks to bring its case to the High Court, where a judge will decide whether or not to grant permission for a judicial review.