KENWOOD CONCERTS: A bulging postbag on the future of the summer season

Benefactors needed to restore classical glory LET us hope that something good will come out of the cancelling of the Kenwood open-air concerts and that instead of having reached the end of an era , we are at the beginning of a new one. In the 1980s and e

Benefactors needed to restore classical glory

LET us hope that something good will come out of the cancelling of the Kenwood open-air concerts and that instead of having reached 'the end of an era', we are at the beginning of a new one.

In the 1980s and early 1990s we regularly attended the Kenwood concerts: sometimes as a family, sometimes with friends whom we would invite to share our evening and our picnic. We loved the haunting atmosphere of classical music echoing across the lake in the gathering dusk. We have a happy memory of the moment when real birds joined in with Beethoven's orchestral birds in his Pastoral Symphony.

Sometimes it rained and we still came, wrapped in our hillwalking waterproofs.

After English Heritage took over responsibility, concert programming gradually pushed classical music into second place. This was accelerated in 2000 when IMG were brought in and proceeded wantonly to destroy something that had been precious and special for the past 40 years or longer.

The concerts became characterised by obtrusive commercial sponsorship, massive amplification, noisy fireworks at every concert and 'music' of a vulgarity that got progressively worse each year. As Brian Coleman has rightly said, English Heritage ruined the concerts by making them tacky.

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What is now needed is a benefactor, or group of benefactors, to step forward and underwrite the restoration of the concerts to their pre-English Heritage/IMG days: straight classical music, no perceptible amplification, smaller audiences and fireworks (if at all) only on the last night.

At the risk of being accused of political incorrectness, I would add that audiences will need to be re-educated in the matter of concert-going manners: no talking, walking about, smoking, eating or drinking during the performance. If this drives some people away, so be it.

It would truly be wonderful to have the traditional Kenwood classical concerts back again.


Middleton Road, NW11

Warren Mitchell and Co have ruined it for the rest of us

People like Warren Mitchell have actually ensured that this year's Kenwood concerts will not happen and I feel this is disgusting, especially as this is a very special event lasting for only eight weeks in the whole year.

This is a very special part of the year and I really enjoy listening to the talents of the artists. The selfish people who live locally obviously do not appreciate good music, as I do. The music is not a problem. At times it is barely audible.

Is there anything that can be done to ensure these fabulous concerts are not lost forever and that they could go ahead for this year?

Once something goes, it goes for good and I am sure thousands of concert lovers will not want this awful thing to happen.

These concerts have been going on for many years, probably before many of these protesters even moved into the area. If they are not happy with the situation, why don't they move elsewhere and stop spoiling people's entertainment? These are not rowdy pop concerts.

Brenda Humphreys

Leighton Road, NW5

Sheer contempt for the 60,000 who love these shows

Doubtless champagne corks will have been popping following the axing of the Kenwood season, following Camden Council bowing-down to complaints by a mere handful of self-centred residents.

This is nothing short of a disgrace, showing sheer contempt for the 60,000 who attend Kenwood each year, many living locally, who enjoy this excellent, well-run cultural and family entertainment.

English Heritage are an extremely well-structured, long-established organisation with a sound financial management team and will obviously have done their homework before announcing that reducing the number of concerts from 10 to eight would make the season financially unviable. If there was any alternative they would not have reached this decision.

How many of the objectors are actually in residence when these concerts take place? Many affluent people around Kenwood have second homes and are away for summer weekends.

True, there is a certain degree of traffic congestion along Hampstead Lane after the concerts and fireworks but this clears itself within an hour and is unavoidable due to the narrowness of the road. The police do a very good job managing the situation.

Camden Council, recently announced on Radio Four's Today programme to be London's best council, admittedly is good news, but how it can claim to be acting fairly when it panders to a mere 30 complainants against 60,000 who stand to loose?

This equates to 0.05 per cent - a mere drop in the ocean. I do agree that the floating stage last year was rather an eyesore but this is not a permanent structure and is only visible for two months each year. As a redeeming factor it did help to reduce the noise level.

What next killjoy scheme will Camden Council come up with? Pick on small school children and ban all Christmas nativity plays on the grounds that they do not hold Equity membership or, maybe price the local over 60s club out of existence?

Surely it is not too late to reverse this decision and to let this year's season take place, even if all the events are bought forward an hour so that everything finishes earlier.

As for those responsible for Camden Council's unwelcome decision, doubtless you are all gloating and feeling extremely proud of yourselves. I say, shame on you!

John P. Graham

Holford Road, NW3

EH boss Thurley knows where the blame lies

IT is outrageous that Simon Thurley (Kenwood - the end of an era, H&H February 22)) should seek to blame Camden Council for his organisation's failure to mount a viable concert programme in Kenwood this year. The blame, as he well knows, lies with English Heritage's failure over the years sensibly to control the activities of its contractors, IMG.

Year after year IMG has failed to meet the very reasonable conditions on noise pollution laid down by Camden; year after year it has, despite its failures, demanded still wider licence; year after year it has sought to turn Kenwood into an ever more hi-tech high-cost version of Wembley stadium, now with a floating stage and other absurdly expensive, anti-environmental extras. Enough is enough. If English Heritage doesn't know how to mount a profitable concert programme at Kenwood without degrading this wonderful location and its surrounding neighbourhood, then perhaps it should hand over its responsibilities to someone who does.

Robin Fairlie

Broadlands Road, N6

Founder Frank will be turning in his grave

Sir Frank Wright, the quietly-spoken Australian genius, who founded these concerts, could not have anticipated that, over 40 years after their inception, at the height of their popularity and having brought such general pleasure to so many hundreds of thousands of people, the Kenwood concerts would be torpedoed by a handful of miserable killjoys. He must now be turning in his grave!

The rights of citizens to peace and quiet in a civilised society, are tempered by the equally important rights to celebrate and to enjoy lawful activities that involve some degree of noise.

So long as these activities do not go on too long into the night and so long as they do not happen every day, our right to take part in and enjoy these activities should be undeniable and enshrined in law. If reasonable people do not make a stand on this, we will very soon find that we live in a sad and sinister society, deprived of the happy sound of decent people enjoying themselves.

Stephen Porter

Canfield Gardens, NW6

New Zealand reader saddened by canellations

I was saddened to hear about the cancellation of the Kenwood concerts. I lived in Hampstead Garden Suburb for 15 years and this year emigrated to New Zealand with my husband and six-month old twins.

The grounds at Kenwood were perfect for outdoor picnics with classical music in the background, and the fireworks before hometime made it magical. I made many friends, even holding my surprise wedding reception there (our friends didn't know we had married that day).

The stories and memories I have bring a smile to my face. However, I have never paid for tickets and even after sitting in the paying enclosure would still choose to sit further away and be able to talk and play over the lovely music.

If English Heritage can't make it work financially, I suggest they ask for donations from all attendees sitting outside the paying enclosure. I would not have begrudged paying a pound or two for the fireworks and ambiance.

The Kenwood summer concert season brought together so many people from all races, cultures and financial divides, enjoying some lovely summer evenings in the sun and rain. It is sadly yet another note on my list of reasons as to why I am glad I left the UK!

As for the 30 residents who complained to Camden Council, thank you for putting another nail in the coffin of British culture.

Emma Hordyk

Piha Road, Waitakere, New Zealand

Dumbing down has led to loss of concerts

Before launching a charity appeal to save Kenwood House following the supposedly financial disaster that has befallen it due to two concerts being cancelled, perhaps Simon Thurley should look and wonder how the mostly free classical concerts managed to survive for half a century - before it was decided to dumb them down and pay, one would assume, the going rate for those acts and the rock band accoutrements such as boarding up gaps in the hedges in Millfield Lane to stop the riff raff from peeking through to catch a glimpse of the likes of the Bootleg Beatles or a Dirty Dancing Tribute, plus heavies on the gates to the Heath side of Kenwood to stop the unpaying public who may simply wish to enjoy nature. This then is English Heritage's legacy: bouncers on the gates of Kenwood. The way Simon Thurley is managing the estate, he will have to soon employ them to throw people in.

Ken Pyne

Well Walk, NW3

Shame on the NIMBY brigade

SOME 65,000 paid for and thoroughly enjoyed the concerts last year, not to mention countless residents who benefited from listening to pleasant music and watching beautiful firework displays for free. These concerts, in the stunning setting of Kenwood House, have brought untold joy to many over the years, some from many miles away.

Warren Mitchell and supporters may well prefer classical music and most of the time, at Kenwood, they get it. However, the organisers have tried to move with the times and attract a wider audience to provide more revenue for the estate. Is there something wrong with that?

None of the acts could be described as unduly loud. We're talking easy listening here, not heavy metal. As for claims that the concerts have degenerated into an organised piss-up, that's simply not true. I've been going for years and have never seen any drunken unruly behaviour.

I am dismayed. The attitudes of a privileged few have ruined the enjoyment of thousands, many of whom are not fortunate enough to live anywhere half as lovely as Hampstead or Highgate. This is nimby-ism in the extreme. Shame on them.

S Woodley

Bellevue Road, N11

Royal Festival Hall is a better bet

HERE will we sit and let the sounds of sweet music creep in our ears: - thus the Kenwood concerts were initiated, and an appreciative audience lay on grass or sat in deckchairs, whilst people passed on the terrace above the lake. That succumbed to the relentless advance of gigantic amplification and the appeal to grosser tastes, all in the interests of increased profit.

People pay to visit nearby Keats House, so a charge to view Kenwood House would be acceptable if it saves the grounds from desecration each summer. It is at its best during the summer months, a time of maximum visiting, so it is not only the nearby residents who will benefit from the concerts' cancellation. The only music to be heard there should be that of the song birds in the surrounding woods.

For those keen to enjoy classical (and other) music, the re-opening of the Royal Festival Hall in June will provide an ideal setting - not least because the music will be heard without the distraction of chatter and picnickers.


Prince of Wales Road, NW5

Coleman's 'tacky' comment is a disgrace

I am appalled by Brian Coleman's comments with reference to there being no concerts at Kenwood. For him to say that this is ''excellent news'' because he thinks some shows were 'tacky' is simply nasty. Whilst Dirty Dancing is not my cup of tea, I would not judge or look down on people who might find it entertaining.

Mr Coleman represents all Camden citizens (rich and poor, posh and common) and their best interests. No concerts is in no-one's interests.

Between him and the Heath and Hampstead Society, and the anti-late night drinking due to noise brigade (forget about the endless noise generated by cars 24 hours a day) it seems their ideal world would be one of no fun, no laughing and no music.

Colleen Macaulay

Agar Grove, NW1

Dirty Dancing and Queen tributes were appalling choices

Whilst I agree that the concerts have, in the last few years, been playing to the more populist end of the concert market (Tributes to Queen and Dirty Dancing were both appalling choices), I am saddened by the decision to stop the concerts altogether. The petty blaming that is going on between the relevant parties ignores the issues which have made summer evenings in London much less fun.

Spreading the same themed concerts across the country and having 'stars' singing for a mere 40 minutes (Diana Krall) have certainly annoyed regulars, me included. Perhaps ditching the drivel and returning to a more sedate collection of concerts would bring everyone back on the same side?

Andrew Fyall

Ranwell Close, Bow, E3

English Heritage should turn back the clock

So English Heritage is going to pay off mega-concert promoter IMG, scrap the big-name concerts and make up for the money lost by charging for entry to Kenwood House.

Has EH thought of going back to the happy situation of 20 years ago, and put on a few small concerts that cost relatively little to stage and draw a smaller crowd who pay to listen to the music, not drink champers and try to gossip over the rock level sound?

Barry Fox

Holmefield Court, NW3

Amplification more suited to Wembley Arena

The concerts used to be a more low-key affair, which suited the whole ambience of Kenwood. Then they became more excessive, and had several fireworks nights (instead of one on the last night) and amplification more suited to the Wembley Concert Arena!

Never mind about the 30 local residents, think of the thousands of species of wildlife who will have a quieter habitat in 2007!

Edna S. Weiss

Maurice Walk, NW11

Amplification more suited to Wembley Arena

WE stalwarts are shocked at the cessation of over 50 years of open air concerts. May we suggest a compromise:

1. classical only concerts.

2. ending of fireworks.

3. number of concerts reduced.

4. earlier starting times.

This would reduce noise and general dumbing down of standards, while introducing a new generation to classical music.


West End Lane, NW6

Next move is to cancel parking restrictions

WILL the council now be cancelling the June to September evening parking restrictions along the relevant section of Hampstead Lane?


St Regis Close, N10