South London park 'has to be used for big music events so free country show can take place'

People in a crowd at a music festival
-Credit: (Image: Lorne Thomson/Redferns/Getty Images)

Residents are 'kidding' themselves if they think the Lambeth Country Show can take place without ticketed events like the Mighty Hoopla being held in Brockwell Park to foot the bill, the area's Labour MP candidate has said.

Helen Hayes, the party's candidate for Dulwich and West Norwood, told voters at a hustings on Wednesday evening (June 26) that a lack of government cash had left the local council struggling to cover the costs of even the most basic services. Hayes, who has been the area's MP since 2015, was answering a question about whether local assets like Brockwell Park should be used to generate income to fund other expenses.

She said: "It's really important to acknowledge the depth of the crisis in funding in local government. If anybody sitting here thinks that we would still have Lambeth Country Show in its 50th year as a two-day full on festival, free… to attend without paid-for events in the park, then I think you're kidding yourselves."

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Helen Hayes, Labour parliamentary candidate for Dulwich and West Norwood
Helen Hayes, Labour parliamentary candidate for Dulwich and West Norwood, was speaking at a hustings -Credit:UK Parliament

Heavy rainfall over the Spring Bank Holiday last month combined with footfall from three consecutive days of festivals at Brockwell Park turned a section of the park into a mud pit. Officials resorted to covering parts of the park in wood chips so that the Mighty Hoopla could take place safely the following weekend.

But many locals were angry that large sections of grass were left dead and covered in tyre track marks. Hayes added that she acknowledged there had been 'significant problems' this year and said she had addressed these with the local Labour-run council.

Leon Cook, Conservative candidate for Dulwich and West Norwood, said it was 'ridiculous' that the council were allowing large events to be held at the park over three months. He said: "It looks like diggers and JCBs have been running over it. [...] It's not Glastonbury. It's not a field in the middle of Gloucestershire. It's a public amenity that not everyone in the community can access and have full use of. I don't think that's acceptable."

A security guard at a fenced off event
Part of Brockwell Park is fenced off for ticketed events every year -Credit:Jordan Pettitt/PA Wire

Pete Elliot, the area's Green Party candidate, said the problems seen this year were inevitable due to the size of events that the council was allowing to be held in the park. Mr Elliot, a former councillor, said: "There are a lot of estates around these parks and these spaces are effectively the gardens of people who do not have gardens. [...] This sort of disaster we've had this year was going to happen at some point when we get some extra rain."

Donna Harris, the Liberal Democrat candidate, accused the local Labour-run council of turning a blind eye to problems with events at Brockwell Park. Cllr Harris, leader of Lambeth Council's opposition, said: "Residents are very upset. Lambeth Labour do not listen to anybody. We need a full enquiry, which is what I've asked for."

She added: "Don't get me wrong, we don't live in Dickensian times and I think things like the great [Mighty] Hoopla and what have you, they're fantastic. The LGBT community is a great part of where we live. [...] But there needs to be mitigation."

Gary Stevens, the Reform candidate, said events at the park were 'amazing' and praised the Labour-led council for making money off the back of them. He added: "The front part [of the park] is looking terrible. At the back, it's still completely untouched. If you want to go and chill out at the back, there's still plenty of space you can use there too."

Mike Spenser, an independent candidate, also spoke at the hustings at Herne Hill Baptist Church organised by community groups. Candidates were quizzed on topics including the cost of living, the climate, Israel-Palestine and crime at the event organised by community groups the Norwood Forum and Herne Hill Forum.

Labour is on track to win Dulwich and West Norwood with 56 per cent of the vote, according to a poll by Survation published on June 15. The Green Party is second on 16 per cent, the Conservatives third on 15 per cent and Reform in fourth on nine per cent, according to the same poll.

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