The Council is currently consulting over a food and music themed event planned for Dulwich Park over a three-day weekend 3rd-5th July 2020. Promoted by an events company, Brand Events TM Limited, it is called ‘Pubinthepark’, and will be hosted by celebrity chef Tom Kerridge. It is one of a series of ‘PitP’ events to be held at various locations across the country (there were eight this year in locations such as St Albans, Marlow and Chiswick). They plan to run a total of four sessions over the weekend in Dulwich, Friday & Saturday evenings and Saturday & Sunday afternoons, each session accommodating up to 3,500 ticket holders. There will be chef demos, food and drink tasting, trading stalls and a programme of live music. The website www.pubintheparkuk.com gives a taster of what could be on offer. If successful, the organiser will want to repeat the event in subsequent years.
This is the largest event ever planned in Dulwich Park and, whatever one’s views of what is on offer, there is little doubt that local residents who live near the park will be affected by noise, increased traffic and parking, and possibly road closures – the organisers say that they will tell ticket purchasers that access is best by public transport but they cannot insist. Tickets are £35-£45 per person per session (with some premium tickets at £95 each!) with food and drink on top of that. The choice of Dulwich Park is clearly because the organisers see the area as a relatively wealthy demographic who would not only be interested on the offer but could afford to pay for it. They say that there will be opportunities for local traders and businesses to participate but it is likely that current park businesses like the recumbent cyclists, the boats on the lake, and the park cafe will be adversely affected. And are the organisers fully aware of the extent of the flood alleviation works that the Council installed a few years ago?
But there is a more fundamental question, should a public park be used for private events of this sort, with their high entry cost, effectively locking out a large number of less wealthy park users many of them coming from elsewhere in Southwark and who would not be able to afford it, from a substantial area of the Park for over 10 days (including set up and take down) in the middle of summer. This type of restricted access event brings into question Southwark Council’s policy of earning additional revenue by permitting private events in what is a public park. The organisers will pay a fee, though we have not been told what it is, and there will also be a bond, amount unknown, paid up front to cover any damage to the park – many members will recall what happened in Peckham Rye two years ago. We are told that 10% of the hire fee will apparently be ring-fenced for projects in the park. However, The Society believes that as the park is held by Southwark on statutory trust under the Open Spaces Act 1906, any income it receives for the use of the park can only be used for the purpose of maintenance and improvement of the park and for no other purpose, - a fact which Southwark is choosing to ignore.
Deadlines for comments on the grant of either the events licence or the premises licence (i.e. for licensable activities such as the sale of alcohol and the provision of live music) are 11thDecember and 13th December.