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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Bear in mind that the only points that the Licensing department can consider are:
- The prevention of crime and disorder
- Public safety
- The prevention of nuisance
- 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.