James at OnBlackheath 2016
OnBlackheath has struggled to make a profit

This year’s OnBlackheath festival will not be taking place because of a clash with the Euro 2020 fanzone in Greenwich Park, local residents were told last night.

Last year’s event brought Jamiroquai and Grace Jones to Blackheath, but event organisers – who have moved the festival from September to July to try to attract bigger acts – have opted not to go up against the football festival in the park, which is expected to attract 22,000 people for live screenings of matches.

Lewisham Council’s Blackheath ward councillor Kevin Bonavia confirmed the news last night at the annual public meeting of the Blackheath Joint Working Party, a body comprised of Greenwich and Lewisham councillors as well as local amenity societies which seeks to co-ordinate the running of the heath between the two councils.

Bonavia told the meeting, held at the Old Bakehouse in Blackheath Village, that the event’s organisers were keen to return in future years – despite the festival having struggled to make a profit since it first appeared in 2014.

This year’s event would have taken place on 11 and 12 July – the same weekend as the Euro 2020 final at Wembley Stadium, which will be screened in the park after planning permission was given by Greenwich councillors last week.

“The organisers of OnBlackheath were concerned about the two events happening at the same time, so have decided not to go ahead this year, but I’m told that they are keen to come back in future years,” he said.

The non-appearance of the festival means that community projects on the Lewisham side of the heath will not get the £15,000 they get each year from the event, council officer Vince Buchanan said, although the audience was told that last year’s money has yet to be spent and there is still cash left over from previous years.

A festival on the heath was first mooted in 2011, but was then mired in legal difficulties as the Blackheath Society tried to stop it. It did not take place until September 2014, but switched to a July date for a one-year trial last year to move earlier in the festival calendar, a change which upset some residents who feared it would damage the grassland.

Bonavia said that Lewisham was still planning to hold a fireworks display on the heath this November. He added that the borough’s elected mayor Damien Egan and his opposite number in Greenwich, council leader Danny Thorpe, had been discussing fundraising earlier in the year for 2020’s event.

The Blackheath Society is also planning to revive the heath’s traditional kite festival, last held in 2009. Kite Day, which will be held on Saturday 4 October, will be a smaller event than the old Lewisham-funded festival, and the society has teamed up with the Kent Kite Flyers to put the day on. The society is looking for potential sponsors, stewards and volunteers to get in touch.

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