Increase in events at Victoria Park ‘detrimental’ say park users

Sign by the entrance to the Eastern side of Victoria Park. Pic: Eve Erskine

Residents living close to Victoria Park have condemned plans to increase the number and size of major event days as “detrimental to park users”.

Tower Hamlets council, which controls the park has agreed to allow an extra two days a year on top of its existing 10 for major events of up to 49,999 people; the maximum size of large events has been increased from 5,000 to 19,999 and there is no cap on the number. The main event at the park in recent years has been All Points East festival which usually runs for 6 show days in summer. Headliners have included Stormzy, The Strokes and Haim.

Mayor Luftur Rahman told the Tower Hamlets Cabinet meeting on November 29 that the council has “no choice” but to revise the current major events policy.

The new rules mean that the events which attract or are anticipated to attract up to 19,999 people to Victoria Park are not subject to the same 28-day public consultation process that major event licensing entails. The council also plans to refine the type of events that fall into the major event category, allowing non-music events like fairs or food festivals.

Councillor Iqbal Hossain said: “A change to what is classified as a major event is proposed. For example, non-music-based events such as winter fair, food festival would not be classified as a major event.”  

Green Party Councillor Nathalie Bienfait submitted a question to Rahman prior to the cabinet meeting which he rejected. Bienfait refers to the rejection as “very unusual.” She said that Rahman did not accept any questions at that cabinet meeting. 

Bienfait had asked Rahman “what impact assessments have been carried out to understand what increased impact this review will have on the surrounding area?”

Eastern side of Victoria park. Pic: Eve Erskine

In the meeting Hossain had said that during major events “approximately two-thirds of the park remains available for park users and residents”. Yet, Bienfait said the “idea that only 30% is taken up is just a red herring, the whole park is dominated especially the eastern half of the park”.

Councillor Bienfait said she is “against events being held there during the school holidays”, Friends of Victoria Park said that “40+ acres of central parkland have been fenced off for five (of the six) weeks of school holidays”, they refer to the scheduling as ‘detrimental’, further noting that this is when “the park’s open spaces are most needed.”

Stormzy performing at All Points East in Victoria Park in August 2023. Pic: PA Wire

All Points East was held in May in 2019, meaning there was no overlap with school holidays. Yet this year the event was held in August and is scheduled for August next year as well. Bienfait said she has been told this is due to the performing Artist’s schedule.

An unnamed senior festival expert said, “the site management team are conscious to try and keep the park open; they create walking routes through working areas to keep them open as long as possible”.

He confesses that “it does take over a fair chunk of the park” however, he yields that the park has been “designed to be a venue”.

Trackway designed for major events on the Eastern side of Victoria park. Pic: Eve Erskine

When asked why he thinks All Points East would have been moved from May to August during the summer holidays, he said: “I imagine the answer is twofold, one is probably the weather and second is probably because it’s the school holidays meaning that University students could go.”

He also notes that “finding artists to perform that are an adequate size is very, very difficult”.

Bienfait referred to the build and tear down of major events “in such a densely populated deprived area” as “immoral”. Bienfait said “they talk about the £3 million (generated from hosting All Points East) but there is an additional payment also made to the council, but that is top secret, nobody knows what that is”.

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