Editor’s comment: Do friends let Friends fight wireless solo?

Festival goers at Wireless this year. Picture: PA

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

I’m torn over the low-level outcry that greeted Islington Council’s decision to broker a deal with Wireless Festival, and withdraw its formal submission to the licensing review.

Council leader Richard Watts was candid on Twitter, saying it made more sense to secure improvements for Islington on traffic, stewarding and safety than to play hard(er) ball and stake everything on a big ticket review that would in all likelihood see Wireless allowed to stay. Even when Islington did actually shut Fabric down two years ago, the club was trading again within months, so the last part rings true.

I don’t think I agree it was all or nothing, though. Haringey would almost certainly have imposed similar conditions to the ones Islington has secured as part of any licence review (remember Fabric reopened with a stack of conditions) rather than outright dismiss the concerns of a neighbouring Labour authority. And there is a perception of solidarity – with the residents’ group that called for the review, and with Hackney Council next door – that has been lost, however fair that may be.

But the Friends of Finsbury Park don’t want a traffic management plan: they want the entire festival binned, and Islington was never calling for that. Yes, perhaps the council’s concerns cumulatively with those of Hackney and the Friends would have tipped Haringey over the edge and seen them pull the plug on the whole thing, but Islington’s objective is to get its demands met, not to give the Friends an early Christmas present.

It’s a tricky one – from the Friends’ point of view, the case for cancelling Wireless was certainly weakened by Islington’s withdrawal from the review process. But is it fair to criticise the town hall for not furthering someone else’s agenda?

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