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Kenwood concerts - the end of an era

PUBLISHED: 17:17 22 February 2007 | UPDATED: 14:27 07 September 2010

The Ham&High reports the axing of two concert in May 2006

The Ham&High reports the axing of two concert in May 2006

SUMMER in Hampstead may never be the same again after English Heritage pulled the plug on its traditional season of concerts. The shows, which have been held in the grounds of Kenwood for 55 years, are being scrapped

Ben McPartland

SUMMER in Hampstead may never be the same again after English Heritage pulled the plug on its traditional season of concerts.

The shows, which have been held in the grounds of Kenwood for 55 years, are being scrapped because English Heritage is not making enough money to cover its costs.

And Chief Executive Simon Thurley has blamed Camden Council, which controversially axed two of last year's concerts in a surprise pre-election move.

Mr Thurley said: "It's a very sorry situation that it's come down to this. It comes from a pretty unthinkable and snap decision from Camden Council which has had completely unforeseen effects as far as they are concerned.

"We knew it would be devastating for us financially and it was. We lost a huge amount of money, an eye-watering sum. What is clear is that as long as there are these arbitrary restrictions in place, then the concerts are not viable."

Although Mr Thurley would not reveal the amount of cash English Heritage has lost, it is expected to have a knock on effect for Kenwood House, which costs £1.8million a year to run. He added: "I assure you there will be an effect on Kenwood and it will be quite a significant one."

Camden Council cut the number of concerts after complaints about noise levels, parking and traffic congestion from around 30 residents living nearby.

Controversy also surrounded a floating stage on the Thousand Pound pond, which was brought in last year to combat noise complaints.

The concerts, which attract 60,000 people a year, are now in danger of sinking without trace, even though English Heritage says it will do everything it can to bring them back in 2008.

"The ball is now firmly in the council's court. Do they want the borough to have a world-class venue for music and do they want to attract people into the area or do they want to ameliorate the fears of 30 people?" said Mr Thurley.

Labour councillor Sue Vincent was on the licensing committee that sensationally cut the concerts last year days before the May elections. She said: "I'm amazed that English Heritage say they can't make money out of these concerts. Maybe they should bring in managers who can.

"It's absolutely ridiculous that they have taken this course of action. They've just thrown all their toys out of the pram."

Over the years the Kenwood stage has been graced by the likes of opera singer Kiri Te Kanawa and Art Garfunkel, but organisers were criticised for putting on shows such as a Tribute to Dirty Dancing.

Brian Coleman, London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden, said: "It's excellent news, marvellous. It is their own fault. They are an absolutely disgraceful organisation for what they have done to Kenwood. They ruined the concerts by making them tacky."

Highgate Society chairman Gordon Forbes blamed English Heritage for ''changing the nature of the concerts over the last few years.''

Gordon Maclean, of the Heath and Hampstead Society, opposed the use of the floating stage last year.

He said: "We've always supported the concerts and our objections have always been on planning and environmental grounds relating to the floating stage. We were not objecting on noise grounds.

"We really have supported the concerts and would support them in another form. We are very sorry that they have had to do this."

If you have any views on this news or would like to share your memories of the Kenwood concerts please email the Ham&High at letters@hamhigh.co.uk.


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