Greenwich Labour and Conservative councillors have teamed up to object to a Blackheath peace festival planned by the family of murdered teenager Jimmy Mizen.
The non-profit Good Hope Festival, which could take place on 2 and 3 August, will be a “beautiful and peaceful music and arts festival bringing people together to celebrate all that is good about Blackheath and its surroundings,” according to the Jimmy Mizen Foundation.
The foundation was set up by Margaret and Barry Mizen, whose 16-year-old son Jimmy died after being stabbed in a bakery in Lee in May 2008. The Mizen family have thrown themselves into community work since then, to promote peace among young people. They were made MBEs in the New Year Honours list.
Lewisham Council’s licensing committee will decide on Wednesday whether the festival will go ahead.
Documents submitted to Lewisham say the event will aim at “mainly a family audience. Adults will range from 25-45 mainly with children from 0-16”.
“There will be much for a family audience to enjoy as well as more high profile
bands and musicians for young adults, teens and adults. There will be no contentious artists booked to play the event.”
But the six councillors who represent Greenwich West and Blackheath Westcombe wards on Greenwich Council have written to Lewisham Council objecting to the event, which will take place on the south side of the borough boundary, between Goffers Road and Prince Charles Road.
This is despite the Blackheath Society, which went to court to try to stop the OnBlackheath festival in 2011, giving the Good Hope Festival its blessing. The two Lewisham Labour councillors for Blackheath, Kevin Bonavia and Amanda de Ryk, have also backed the festival, along with the Westcombe Society.
“We have the strongest reservations about the use of the heath for major events involving amplified sound as a key element,” wrote Greenwich West councillor Maureen O’Mara, on behalf of Labour colleagues David Grant, Matt Pennycook and Alex Grant and Conservatives Geoff Brighty and Alex Wilson.
O’Mara’s objection comes despite her role as Greenwich’s cabinet member in charge of overseeing Run to the Beat, an event which used the heath and involved amplified sound as a key element.
Indeed, Run to the Beat – which has now moved to Wembley – is cited as an example of an event which has disturbed residents, despite Greenwich allowing it for six consecutive years.
The six councillors commissioned an assessment from Greenwich’s lead environmental health officer, who concluded that “Greenwich residents are likely to be affected by significant noise levels”.
Other objectors include Lewisham police and Terry Felgate, one of the organisers of On Blackheath, who both criticise the event’s management plan, as well as a handful of local residents, one of whom asks: “Why don’t the organisers give their names?”
Just as with On Blackheath back in 2011, one major sticking point is the Good Hope Festival’s application for a licence in perpetuity – which, according to Kevin Bonavia’s submission, is because the licensing costs would be too much for the event to bear for a one-off event.
Greenwich Conservatives have already expressed anxiety over events on the heath – and have criticised a lack of contact from Lewisham Council, one of the factors in Greenwich’s objections to On Blackheath in 2011.
But why two sets of Labour councillors should disagree is another matter – especially as the event is a non-profitmaking one, led by people with impeccable community credentials who wouldn’t want to put those at risk.
There may well be reasons to worry about the event’s organisation, and people who live near the heath are entitled to a quiet life. But to aim to block an event which is meant to benefit the community in both boroughs doesn’t reflect well on the council as a whole.
Full details about the licence application can be found on Lewisham Council’s website.
8.20pm update. See comments below for contributions from Matt Pennycook, Alex Grant and Kevin Bonavia. Here’s the email sent by Greenwich councillor Maureen O’Mara: