Sarah Collings, Reporter
Friday, January 20, 2012
Organisers of Kenwood’s lakeside concerts have cancelled this summer’s programme - leading one of the event’s fiercest critics, Alf Garnett actor Warren Mitchell, to lament its demise.
English Heritage who own the house, and concert managers IMG, have announced they will not be working together this year after they failed to renew a contract.
This brings to an end the high-profile concerts which have run almost continuously since 1951 and in recent years have attracted stars such as Tom Jones, Liza Minnelli, Blondie, and James Blunt.
Mr Mitchell, the TV actor best known as cockney Alf Garnett, has campaigned against the concerts for many years but said the decision was nonetheless a “bloody shame”.
He said: “I’m not opposed to the fact of the concerts just them being noisy and impossible.
“It’s a bad thing to take people away from the arts. Good music is part of life.”
He lives in Stormont Road, one of the streets closest to Kenwood House, and has in the past complained about “noise levels” and the “commercialisation” of the 50-year long tradition
His protests together with other residents helped put a stop to the concerts for the duration of the 2007 season.
The concerts were once famous for bringing alfresco classical performances to Hampstead.
But ten years ago English Heritage brought in professional event organisers to increase revenues, with mixed reviews to revamped programmes that included high profile pop stars and moved away from the concert’s classical roots.
Michael Hammerson, of the Highgate Society, welcomed the cancellation as an opportunity to reconsider the “whole rationale and content” of the concerts.
He said: “There has been a big debate. Some people thought it was a shame to lose the old style classical concerts because that’s what made them special.
“Maybe in the future it would be nice to consider a mix of the old format classical concerts and the popular concerts.”
But he said the timing was “unfortunate” and that Kenwood risked “missing out” on the opportunities of the Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics.
Paul Griffiths, London area manager at English Heritage, said the time was right for a break in the concert programme. He said: “The summer picnic concerts at Kenwood will take a year off in 2012. Next year, 2013, will be an exciting one for Kenwood as following the vital repairs to the roof, the house will reopen - revived and refreshed.
“This year therefore is a good time to pause and see if the concerts can be done differently in 2013 and beyond.
“It’s timely too as our contract with IMG, which successfully organised the concerts between 2000 and 2011, has come to an end.”
An English Heritage spokesman added that the decision to cancel was not connected to the London 2012 Olympics and that the tender process to find a new concert organiser would reopen later this year.