Can Victoria Park survive Winterville?

posted in: Community | 15

We all love some festive fun but plans for a one month long winter event in Victoria Park have raised concerns with residents and businesses alike.

Victorian fountain in a snowy park
Victoria Park in the snow, Bow, Tower Hamlets, East London

Notice has been served to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets for a month-long event called Winterville that will run from 2nd to the 30th December 2014. It will be open daily from 3pm to 11pm on weekdays and from 10am to 11pm on peak days. Entry will be free but events and entertainment will charge.

Winterville will be laid out like a town with its own Town Square, Market Place and Downtown areas. Features include a covered ice rink, a ferris wheel and a roller disco, as well as the chance to ride horse-drawn carriages around the park and see vintage motorcycles doing stunts on the Wall Of Death. Further entertainment will come in the form of a pop-up pantomime, a mini-nightclub and a tent hosting live music, comedy and cabaret.

A kids’ area will offer a circus and a Santa’s grotto along with children’s rides, while more adult-minded fun can be found in the Fairy Grotto, which will offer LGBT-minded entertainment every Sunday, including events titled The Gay Bingo Christmas Show, Bears On Ice and Sink The Pink.

There will also be a pub, a hot cider bar, après ski-themed Bar Humbug and a craft beer bar.

No one can argue that it isn’t a treat to have a wide range of fun, leisure activities within walking distance from home.

However, a commercial event of this size and duration will have considerable impact on the neighbourhood and these should be considered before – rather than after – the details of the event are finalised. The window of opportunity for local residents and businesses to have a say about how this event happens is now.While the deal to rent the space will have been agreed, details of the licence can still be challenged and subject to change. The public notice period ends on 2nd October 2014.

Is (more than) a month too long for any event?

If you thought Lovebox was intrusive, imagine what an event of this magnitude might be like to live alongside for this length of time. Lovebox is in residence for a single weekend but still causes considerable disruption. Taking into account the build and dismantle of the site on either side, it is likely that Winterville will occupy Victoria Park for at least seven weeks – that’s nearly two months.

How will it affect the fabric of the park?

The length of time and crowds expected raise concerns about the impact on the fabric of the park, not just for this year but for future years too when it may grow in size. Structures such as the ice rink and the roller disco would kill off the grass. Crowds could churn the park into muddy rivers. Dog walkers, children and park users could have a severely reduced area of the park to use. Travel to and from shops and services across the park could involve time consuming detours.

Do we have the infrastructure to cope with expected visitors?

Winterville will attract large crowds on a daily basis over an extended period of time. The first year may attract relatively small numbers of visitors, but the promoters will naturally be working hard to grow audiences as much as possible year on year, and could be aiming for it to become as large and commercially profitable as Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland. Lovebox first started with 5,000 and now attracts 120,000 over the weekend.

How will the crowds impact every day life?

What measures are in place to control daily visitors of that number in the area? Will we have stewards and barriers lining our streets for the entire month of December? Will we be overwhelmed with festival-goers from all corners of London treating our residential streets like extensions of the party in the park? How will police cope with the increase in litter and anti-social behaviour associated with free-entry evening events in the festive ‘party’ season leading up to Christmas? Will we have numerous portable toilets fouling the park? Will there be extra vehicles on the park paths?

What about the noise and light every night?

Every year, hundreds of residents complain about the noise of music from Lovebox. How much late night music is planned for Winteville? Are we to expect noise pollution every weekend of December? Or even every night? And what about the light pollution for those living immediately on the park?

Will our local economy suffer?

With local markets and events flourishing in our corner of East London, from Victoria Park’s Christmas Market to Roman Road Winter Festival and Wick Market’s festive events that plan to include an ice rink, how much will this company profit from our pockets to the detriment of the local economy? With crowd control measures in place funnelling visitors from tube stations directly to the park and back, how many visitors will venture into local businesses? Will an event of this size detract from the Christmas boost enjoyed by our village shops and local events?

Is this the best place for Winterville?

Maybe it is not that there shouldn’t be a big winter festival in East London. Maybe it’s just not suitable for it to be hosted in Victoria Park, a relatively small oasis of much needed green space in a deeply residential space. Maybe an event of this length and magnitude is better suited to a site that is purpose-built for large events such as Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

What to do if you have concerns:

These are a few concerns we have been sent by local residents and businesses. Are there any others that should be raised?

Maybe you think the event could be a good thing but you would like to know more about how the event is being delivered, what measures are being taken to protect the neighbourhood, and how it is being integrated into the local community.

If you wish to raise these concerns or questions with the Council, you’ll need to do this by 2 October. Your voice does make a difference and will help the Council ensure due consideration is taken. Emails should be sent to licensing@towerhamlets.gov.uk. Bear in mind that the only points that the Licensing department can consider are:

  1. The prevention of crime and disorder
  2. Public safety
  3. The prevention of nuisance
  4. The protection of children from harm

You could also contact Richard Desmond from the Victoria Park Friends Group, who will be meeting with the organisers on 30 September 2014 and will be raising local concerns from residents and businesses.

ADD TO THIS ARTICLE

Good or bad? Do you think this will boost or detract from local Christmas economy? Do you like the idea of some festive park entertainment or do you dread it turning into Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland? Any other concerns that should be raised? Please contribute to this article in the comments section.

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15 Responses

  1. Carla Brown

    I totally agree that the Olympic Park would be a much better venue for an event like this – especially as it has so much more concrete surface area – our lovely green Victoria Park would be ruined as it is a couple of times every summer. I feel particularly strongly about this, living on the Roman Road side of the park, I take my son to nursery on the Hackney side of the park several times a week, walking through the park and it is always inconvenient around Lovebox and Field Day weekends as it takes so much longer to do so. It is also the primary area of open grass nearby in which we can run and play, I don’t think it would be fair to close most of it off to the local community for such a long time. I really hope the application is turned down. Is there anywhere else I can contact to out forward my views? Thanks.

  2. Diane Foley (;Wheeler)

    It’s too much for that amount of time. And it will be too much for us residents that live directly on the park.
    Lovebox is a nightmare along with the other music festivals. We get no compensation. Not even free tickets.
    So, no. It’s too much

  3. I live next to the park on cranbrook. The noise from the summer festivals, not just the music but then people leaving, is horrendous and that’s just at the weekend. Not to mention the mess they leave, the parking and the fact that there are never enough stewards to help with traffic control. The Olympic park would be the better option but my guess is Victoria Park is cheaper!

  4. What do we have councillors for?! There should be already a massive campaign against this idea. I am surely going to raise my concerns with the council but without well structured and media supported campaign there is not a lot a single resident can do – Lovebox being a good example.

  5. Richard Desmond

    We are in a climate of cuts to local government that means parks all over the UK are being used to raise funds to make up for cuts elsewhere.

    In my personal opinion the six days a year limit for big commercial events is about right (4 days in 2014).

    I live in Lakeview I don’t particularly like the events (except when Chic & Grace Jones did Lovebox) but it is possible to change habits for three weekends a year if the noise or crowds is too much hassle. The trade off is money for the Council some of which goes back to the park which we get to enjoy all year round.

    Winterville’s maximum capacity is 4000 and its unlikely to be full every day to me it looks like a fun event, the LIdo field was where the silt from the lakes was dumped in the refurbishment and the tank of the old Lido remains under the ground so it may be muddy and need to be reseeded but grass recovers.

    If anybody intends to object the grounds under the 2003 Licensing Act are:

    1. The prevention of crime and disorder
    2. Public safety
    3. The prevention of nuisance
    4. The protection of children from harm

    Experience suggests making events in the park profitable is not as easy as it seems (c.f .Sunday Lovebox) for the first time I am aware of the organisers of Winterville are offering substantial discounts to the ticketed events for both LBTH Residents and E9 Hackney Residents i.e. Ice Rink Standard tickets: £7.50-12 – Local resident tickets: £5 all ages & Robin Hood Panto Standard tickets: £10 adult (15 & over) / £8 child – Local resident tickets: £8 adult (15 & over) / £6 child.

    The Victoria Park Friends Group (VPFG) has a policy of constructive engagement and will be meeting with the organisers raising the concerns expressed.

    There are currently signs on the park gate noticeboards advertising the VPFG Annual General Meeting 14th October 6:30 at St Paul’s Church in St Stephen’s Rd details on the Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/victoriaparkfriends/

  6. If they close by 8 or 9pm latest and don’t have amplified music, then it might not be too intrusive. Later closing and music will inevitable attract drunken crowds, so that’d be a no go for me. Then there’s the damage to the grass etc.
    Btw I live next to the Olympic Park and it’s a @#$!ing menace. Hardly a weekend goes by without some loud event at all hours – last weekend a fun run accompanied by loud music and someone yelling down a mike at 10am on sunday, other weekends drag racing and weeks on end of blaring music every night from Secret Cinema. Whether it’s there or Vicky Park, nobody seems to consider that we only have one home and would sometimes like to just sit peacefully in it!

  7. I think it is a really good idea I live next to victora park too and I think the event would be good and it is some think different for family’s to do with there kids

  8. Too big, too many days, too long hours, park will not recover from heavy commercial traffic for so long at this time of year. Have a heart and give it a break.

  9. I am a local trader and resident on the north side of the park. We are very embracing of events in Vicky Park and feel that we do live in Central London which has all sorts of benefits and therefore have to take the rough with the smooth.

    We don’t love LoveBox which seems to have morphed into an Essex teen bacchanalia! But we do love Field Day and we used to really love Paradise Gardens which properly engaged with the local community and was free to all.

    I am a bit concerned about the length of this event, Winterville, and the fact of being in direct competition with local traders both North and South of the Park at the one time of year when independent shop owners can rely on trade being reasonable.

    If we had been approached by the organisers to offer us the opportunity to trade within the event – like we used to at Paradise Gardens – then I would be less bothered. If it wasn’t so heavily controlled – which I recognise is necessary – so visitors could wander around the local area and possibly choose to eat or shop elsewhere then I would be less bothered. But as with the Olympics and every event bringing new people into the area, we never benefit at all and if anything notice a downturn in takings when events like these happen in the Park.

    It will also be in direct competition with our own Victoria Park Midwinter Fair.

    Some contact from the Council or the organisers before now would have been nice and I do think that the onus is on them to approach us. Those of us who have been here trading away in the quieter times and who have done so much to build the area into the lovely relaxing independent oasis that it is don’t get to enjoy the small fruits of our labours as the big boys muscle in to cream off the best of what we have contributed to.

  10. Good article Tabitha. Well done for alerting people.

    Far too long, intrusive, current events have v large noise and light pollution. I overlook the park. It is gorgeous but increasingly feels overused by events. Transport, parking, refuse collection and policing are stretched beyond capacity.

    We have not been consulted on this.

  11. I live on the north side of the park, Fieldday and Lovebox are some of the highlights of the year for us and one of the things that makes living by the park so great. Winterville sounds amazing and while it’s important to get the organisation right let’s not just dwell on the negatives. We live in the middle of a world city, this is exactly the sort of thing we should be using our open space for.

  12. Lovebox and Field day aren’t a problem – but if they lasted a month, they would be.

    A non ticketed event, open until 11pm most days, is likely to attract lots of people and the security sounds very lax.

    Music and bars open until late will cause noise and disturbance

    Annexing such a huge proportion of the park impacts as all users of the park

    The Olympic Park is designed fro this sort of event – it should be moved there

  13. In December, Victoria Park shuts when it gets dark at 4pm!

    This attraction will be opening at 3pm, meaning you lose 1 hour of precious time sunbathing on your favourite patch of frozen grass, yet gain an additional 7 hours during which you can use the park. Look out over the fields on any winter day and you’ll see not a soul. Who exactly is being annexed from the park?!

    I more than welcome getting some more bang for my council tax buck from the park during the dead hours of winter. City parks are meant to be used. If you want pristine gardens and lawns go to a National Trust garden or Kew.

    Furthermore, I am a local resident and fully understand that living in central London means I am not duty bound to live in complete peace and quiet. In fact, I choose to live here because it is a 24 hour, noisy, bustling city. If it is quiet when I go to bed at 11ish then great, which is when this event finishes anyway. The day I want to live in silence is the day I leave London.

    And finally, if there is the just a prospect of some of the 4,000 daily visitors popping in to the area’s local pubs, shops and restaurants then I think we should all be grateful.

  14. Adam Toscani

    Oh for god sake will you lot STOP moaning. This is a great idea. No not everyone will be drunk, brawling and noisy, I think you will find that the majority of visitors to an event like this are decent law abiding citizens enjoying the festive season with their families. Look at when people leave the park, they will use local shops thus resulting in benefiting the local economy.
    Stop your bleating and let the festivities begin.

  15. Why no consultation with local residents and businesses then?
    Why sale of alcohol?
    Why keeping it open until 23:00 for so many days?

    Please kindly revisit Joanna’s post on the benefits for the local economy.

    We are oh-for-god-sake moaning not necessarily about the idea of this event itself but about the arrogant attitude of the organisers, lack of information, lack of consultation, lack of engagement with local businesses and residents and the scale of the operation – start with a few days, engage the locals, make yourself liked (like Paradise Gardens or We Owe the Night) and come back next year for more in a good spirit. Here we have a company that has been in operation for 2 months, organising a one month long event for 4000 pax.

    One would need to be pretty unwise or live quite far away not to be concerned.