Kenwood House wins permission for large events – despite end to concerts

The crowd waiting for the stage to be completed for the delayed start of Heritage Live in 2021

The crowd waiting for the stage to be completed for the delayed start of Heritage Live in 2021 - Credit: André Langlois

Having announced an end to large concerts at Kenwood House, English Heritage has been given permission to hold events attended by more than 10,000 people.

On Thursday morning (July 28), English Heritage announced that, while a masterplan for Kenwood is developed, no more large gigs will be held.

This summer has seen performances from acts including Noel Gallagher, Nile Rodgers and Chic, and Boy George and Culture Club. 

But on Thursday evening the charity was at Camden Council, fending off arguments from community groups in a bid to be allowed to hold more large events, such as art festivals and trade shows, next year.

Boy George on stage for Heritage Live at Kenwood House in 2021

Boy George on stage for Heritage Live at Kenwood House in 2021 - Credit: André Langlois

English Heritage was given permission for “eight major event days” which could each attract more than 10,000 people, as well as smaller events throughout the summer.

The events would help pay towards the £3 million needed to care for the stately home and 112 acres of parkland each year.

The Heath and Hampstead Society said it fears "public nuisance" could be caused if noise and large crowds from “oversized or over-frequent events” prevent people enjoying visits to the Heath, and that wildlife and biodiversity could be damaged.

The society said it appreciates that Kenwood needs to raise funds “to ensure its maintenance and survival”.

A concert crowd at Kenwood House as the sun sets 

A concert crowd at Kenwood House as the sun sets - Credit: André Langlois

The Heath and Hampstead Society's lawyer, Charles Streeten, told Camden's meeting it should consider licensing large events individually, “ensuring local residents are not deprived of the opportunity to be consulted as they should be”, but the suggestion was rejected by the committee.

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Mr Streeten said: “English Heritage proposes swingeing changes to the controls secured by the current conditions on the licence.

"Essentially it seeks to remove all events attended by fewer than 10,000 from the scope of the licensing authority and safety advisory group oversight.”

He called for consultation with the Kenwood Landscape Forum, Highgate Society and the Heath and Hampstead Society one month before big events.

The crowd for James at Kenwood House in 2021

The crowd for James at Kenwood House in 2021 - Credit: André Langlois

English Heritage's lawyer, Jeremy Phillips QC, said any major event will “always require an event management plan” and that the charity would consult with the council about health and safety, noise and the impact on the area.

Other conditions include drawing up a noise management plan.

“To say that we are seeking carte blanche and there’s going to be a completely unregulated arrangement is absolute nonsense,” he said.

Kenwood House at Hampstead Heath

Kenwood House at Hampstead Heath - Credit: André Langlois

Events would mainly be held at up to six spots in the grounds but there would be flexibility to use other areas.

Mr Myles said the idea for the Christmas at Kenwood light trail came from regular meetings with residents. He said the licence would give flexibility for using different parts of the park carefully.

“Like all light trails, you want to be able to indulge guests in a gluhwein part of the way round or a pop-up catering outlet," he said. 

"It’s not about saying we’re suddenly going to chop down all the trees or mow the grass meadow because we are at the heart of it a conservation charity.”

Wood Pond at Kenwood House

Wood Pond at Kenwood House - Credit: André Langlois

The committee agreed to amendments to conditions to allow the large events, which could run for three days at a time.

It means Kenwood could be the venue for small and large events including weddings, outdoor cinema and fashion shows.

Kingston Myles, English Heritage’s commercial development manager, said events could include “anything from small food festivals, working with fashion brands to use the space to showcases, working to food use some of the space for corporate hires”.

Other events include the FT Weekend Festival and the philosophy and culture festival How The Light Gets In, both of which are being held this year in September.

Councillors insisted that English Heritage continue its twice a year community meetings and ensures residents are kept informed.

The crowd for James at Kenwood House in 2021

The crowd for James at Kenwood House in 2021 - Credit: André Langlois