Hackney Weekend 2012 : Hackney Marshes User Group (HMUG) response
The two-day festival taking place on Hackney Marshes on 23rdand 24th June will, according to the council, necessitate the closure of a large section of the Marshes to the public for one month. Three lines of fencing with large exclusion zones between them will ultimately be put up, commencing on 9th June when work starts on erecting fencing around the whole Marsh. There will be access across part of the Marshes, but for a whole month, the well-used path from Friends Bridge to Homerton Road which follows the Old River Lea will be closed. During the festival the canal towpath from Lea Bridge to White Post Lane will be closed from Friday 22nd to the 25th June.
The closure of a large section of the Marshes for one month is unacceptable. These arrangements take no account of the large number of local people who visit and use the Marshes on a regular basis for informal recreation and to enjoy the peace and quiet it provides. The proposed closure of the path along the Old River Lea, will deprive regular users of one of the best parts of the Marshes for walking, running, cycling and watching the wildlife. The reason given for the excessive security arrangements is that the organisers want to have control of numbers and do not want the event ‘swamped’ ensure anyone without a ticket gets a look in. A large and highly promoted event is bound to attract more than ticket-holders.
The use of public open space for an event is one thing, but to hold one that excludes public use of common land for a month suggests that the Marsh is not an appropriate place for such an event. The council is spuriously claiming that the festival will bring people to the Marshes who would not otherwise go there and, therefore, attract them to use the Marshes more. The festival will attract a large number of people because there is a festival, not for the space, peacefulness and wildlife. People going to a concert are not concerned about the location, they are going to see bands and party. The experience of the event-goers will be one of being herded across football pitches to a secured site. How much of the marsh will they even see over the security fence?
Post-event, the aim is to clear the site as quickly as possible. Anyone attempting to explore the Marshes any further than the fencing will find the long arm of security around them, as will members of the public who want to use the space as is their right. Local residents will also be seriously affected by the noise and traffic congestion that will be generated by the event and its build-up. It is unnecessary to hold such an event in public open space, there are venues designed for such things. One has to ask who is paying for this? No ticket sales and over-the top- security arrangements, the cost of which must be eye-watering. The ‘olympian’ security measures would suggest that this is a practice run for the approaching games and we know that public money is no object for them.
The Council’s proposal in its draft events policy for a maximum of three large events (100,000) on the Marshes, suggests that this natural outdoor space and wildlife habitat is to be turned into a revenue-raising outdoor festival arena. This proposal clearly shows that there has been no consideration of the environmental impact on that land and the way it is enjoyed by the local community and used by local wildlife. London possesses very few of these open and un-landscaped spaces and to hold three events like this each year would mean the loss of another important breathing space in the city during the summer months when they are most needed and appreciated.
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