Wireless Festival licence review: Friends of Finsbury Park set out case to pull plug on annual event at tense Haringey Council meeting

PUBLISHED: 16:06 16 October 2018 | UPDATED: 16:11 16 October 2018

Festivalgoers at Wireless this year. Picture: PA

Festivalgoers at Wireless this year. Picture: PA

PA Wire/PA Images

Haringey is “prostituting” Finsbury Park out for Wireless Festival and should scrap the event, neighbours argued at a licensing sub-committee meeting last night.

The first evening of the Wireless licensing review at the Haringey Civic Centre. Picture: Lucas CumiskeyThe first evening of the Wireless licensing review at the Haringey Civic Centre. Picture: Lucas Cumiskey

Friends of Finsbury Park (FFP) led the offensive, citing noise pollution, anti-social behaviour problems, littering and public safety concerns as key reasons for revoking Live Nation’s licence.

Committee members will reconvene at Haringey Civic Centre this evening to hear Live Nation’s case for retaining the festival, before delivering their verdict later in the week.

The opening gambit came from the barrister representing Friends of Finsbury Park, Charles Streetan, who accused Haringey’s planning officer, Ms Barrett, of “working hand in glove with commercial operators”.

Mr Streetan highlighted a cache of emails, obtained via a Freedom of Information request, which showed her using “terms of endearment” for festival chiefs.

The crowd at Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park this year. Picture: Matt Crossick/PA Wire.The crowd at Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park this year. Picture: Matt Crossick/PA Wire.

He argued Ms Barrett was “not impartial” and should be excluded from the meeting. After consideration Cllr Carroll canned this idea.

This came after committee chair, Cllr Vincent Carroll (Lab, Tottenham Hale), admitted he was a paying customer at a Queens of the Stone Age gig last summer. But no one thought this constituted a conflict of interest.

Ms Barrett noted a letter of representation had been sent out by Haringey and Wood Green’s MP, Catherine West, which was “received out of time and should not have been given to the panel”. She asked for it to be “disregarded”.

She outlined points the planning committee shouldn’t consider, including “whether or not the park should be used for events at all”, “not liking the music Wireless offers”, and “the social phenomenon of nos [nitrous oxide] gas.”

Mr Streetan then delivered a half-hour address, where he highlighted there were 50 complaints about this year’s Wireless.

“Essentially we say that this is a high number of complaints for noise in relation to a festival in a densely populated urban area,” he said.

He summarised complaints from FFP and neighbours, namely: the bass volume, anti-social behaviour, drunk and disorderly conduct, litter, household safety, and children being exposed to expletives and drug paraphernalia.

In terms of criminal disorder, Mr Streetan said there were 40 arrests at Wireless this year.

Although data isn’t yet available for the number of reported crimes, he suggested there was more crime this year than the 23 recorded incidents in 2017. He added there was “multiple sexual assaults”.

On public safety, Mr Streetan said: “In 2018 two young people died at or near the festival – it’s genuinely tragic.

“While the circumstances of the deaths are unclear, there is evidence that during the festival an ambulance could not pass down the street.”

If the licence isn’t revoked, FFP has tabled a raft of “fall-back” licence conditions, including lowering the music levels and slashing the event’s maximum capacity to 10,000 people.

Cllr Luke Cawley-Harrison asked: “Why so much focus on Wireless Festival specifically when it [the review] is against Live Nation as a whole?”

Mr Streetan explained his clients don’t oppose all events in the park, saying Wireless causes them particular problems.

Some neighbours spoke of “windows shaking in their sashes” from the bass, “intimidating” public drug use and finding human faeces on their doorsteps,

One witness even claimed he was assaulted by security staff when trying to report a problem.

Geraldine Tinmore, of FFS, then described strolling down the “smelly, litter-strewn streets” during the daytime, stepping over unconscious revellers on the way.

She also spoke of being pushed off the pavement by “a tsunami of people on the streets”.

Cllr Eldridge Culverwell (Lab, Stroud Green), also of FFP, asked: “How long do we want to continue prostituting the park?”

Sonny Johnson, who works in a nearby primary school, added: “Eight-year-old children tell me they’re frightened to go to Finsbury Park – it’s a no-go zone.”

The sub-committee will hear from the licence holder at 7pm.

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