Wireless Festival licence review: Promoter Live Nation says event is ‘celebration of grime music’

Festivalgoers at Wireless this year. Picture: PA

Festivalgoers at Wireless this year. Picture: PA - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Wireless promoters defended the music festival at a licence review hearing last night, saying it is a “celebration of grime music” that causes no public nuisance.

The crowd at Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park this year. Picture: Matt Crossick/PA Wire.

The crowd at Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park this year. Picture: Matt Crossick/PA Wire. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

For more than three hours the council’s licensing committee heard the pros and cons of the music event that takes over the park every summer.

The hearing, which was also held on Monday, was called after the Friends of Finsbury Park (FFP) applied for a review of promoter Live Nation’s licence on grounds of public nuisance and crime. It comes after two festivalgoers died this year.

The group wants the festival out of the park, and has done for years. Its campaign has seen it go to the High Court and back.

Representing the group, lawyer Charles Streetan said it was “incredible” to suggest, as Live Nation and Haringey officers had done, that there was no public nuisance caused by the festival.

Philip Kolvin speaks at the meeting. Picture: Sam Gelder

Philip Kolvin speaks at the meeting. Picture: Sam Gelder - Credit: Archant

There were 50 complaints made this year, as well as 40 arrests. The complaints range from neighbours’ windows shaking from the bass, human faeces being found on doorsteps, general anti-social behaviour, drunk and disorderly conduct, littering, and children being exposed to expletives and drug paraphernalia.

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Lawyer Philip Kolvin, representing Live Nation, is well acquainted with the case, having represented Haringey Council during the judicial review last year.

He said last night how the promoters go over and above what is required in terms of security in neighbouring streets, in Haringey, Hackney and Islington, and said there were 36 new conditions that would increase it again next year. Also included in the conditions, which have satisfied Islington Council and Haringey officers, is new sound monitoring.

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Hackney was more robust in its demands for tighter controls, and speaker Cllr Clare Potter even called for the licence to be revoked on Monday.

But defending the festival, which has been rebranded in recent years, Mr Kolvin said: “One of the witnesses last night didn’t think Wireless was a celebration. We disagree profoundly.

“It’s a celebration of grime music. A genre that emerged from London, from the estates, from the inner city. It’s London music – therefore, the festival celebrates the music of the people.

“It’s not a celebration for the Friends of Finsbury Park. It is the only festival in the world that fully represents the community in which it is based. It’s London music and a London festival. That’s how important it is.”

This year the festival was headlined by American rapper J Cole, Canadian superstar Drake and south London grime star Stormzy.

There were also discussions about what could be done to stop the expletives from the stage being heard by kids.

Mr Kolvin said artists were, in the dressing room, encouraged not to swear on stage. But he added: “There’s not a lot more we can do. Adele swore at the Brits. Danny Dyer swore on breakfast TV – in front of Susanna Reid, which has got to be a crime.”

During a lengthy cross-examination by Mr Streetam – that had even supporters scrolling through Twitter – Live Nation’s highly qualified sound engineer said he had never had as much scrutiny at a festival as at Wireless. The back and forth debated the measurements used to test sound, which did exceed limits last year briefly.

“We have to measure six locations [for sound],” he said. “At Hyde Park we do four. At Clapham Common it’s four. At Victoria Park it’s only three.”

Perhaps the biggest reaction of the night from the public gallery came when a Haringey parks officer conceded the festival did cause some “wear and tear” to the park.

The committee, chaired by Cllr Vincent Carroll, is now taking its five permitted days to decide whether or not to revoke the licence and effectively kick the festival out of the park.

If the licence isn’t revoked, FFP has tabled a raft of “fall-back” conditions, including lowering the music levels and slashing the event’s maximum capacity to 10,000 people. It’s currently 45,000.

Mr Kolvin said there was “nothing to give” regarding reducing the capacity of the festival, saying: “If you want to get world class artists into Finsbury Park, which is what Wireless does, then you need to have 45,000.”

He also scoffed at some of the representations from neighbours who said they disapproved of Wireless because they didn’t like “the vibe”.

“Licensing is not about stopping events on the basis of vibe,” he said. “And we are deeply committed to keeping it there.”

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