From left: Glenda Weil, David Mullooly, Highbury Fields Assocation chairman Martin Jones, Patricia and Danny Michelson, Jeannie Burnett, Maryse Jones and former councillor Terry Stacy
Published: 6 May, 2016
by JOE COOPER
A SIX-DAY comedy festival to be held in Highbury Fields would be a “nightmare for residents”, it has been claimed.
Laughterama, a “boutique comedy event” set to take place in late September, could see up to 1,800 people descend on the borough’s largest green space.
The company behind the event, 57 Festivals, regularly works with some of the UK’s top comedy acts including Stewart Lee, Adam Buxton and Katherine Ryan through their annual events in Greenwich and Bristol.
But people living close by claim Highbury Fields is an unsuitable venue.
“To have a week-long festival with bars open till 10pm is just too much,” Highbury Fields Association chairman Martin Jones told the Tribune.
Mr Jones and others in the area campaigned unsuccessfully against a large pop concert taking place in the park in September 1990.
He added: “It is just too big when we have such a small amount of open land in Islington. We know the council is under pressure financially, but this isn’t the way to do it.”
The event will take place at the south side of the park close to the children’s playground, with two tents holding a total of 600 people.
Danny Michelson, owner of Highbury’s La Fromagerie, has written to residents highlighting concerns about anti-social behaviour and parking.
His wife Patricia said: “If this was a community event that brought the community together I would understand.”
And former Islington Liberal Democrat councillor and Highbury resident Terry Stacy said: “The council seems to be putting profit before parks with this application.
“This event will be a nightmare for residents who live around the park and other park users. We will see open-air bars and food stalls, a large section of the park fenced off adjoining the children’s play area and nearly 2,000 people a night going in and out.”
In 2010 Islington Council gave permission for its parks to hold four special events per year. A licensing application for Laughterama will be heard in the next few months.
Last October, a licensing panel turned down a licensing application for a German-style Oktoberfest event in Caledonian Park two weeks before it was due to go ahead.
Islington Council’s target income for its parks for 2016-2017 is £162,000.
The Laughterama event is scheduled to run from 6pm-10.30pm on Tuesday September 27 through to Friday September 30, and from 1pm-10.30pm on the Saturday and Sunday.
The organisers hope the festival will become an annual event and say the focus “will very much be on the comedy shows rather than alcohol consumption” that will attract a “responsible and respectful” audience.
Organiser Cass Briggs said: “We welcome all the submissions from residents in Highbury Fields regarding our plans to bring the new Laughterama event to the area.
“The application process is ongoing and we look forward to working with residents to create what we are sure will be a wonderful event.”
She said it the 1,800 capacity was unlikely to be reached due to scheduling of the acts.
On the issue of cash being raised from hiring out parks, a council spokesman said: “Islington Council faces big ongoing budget cuts from central government, which put significant financial pressure on council services.
“Staging a number of events in Islington parks helps to pay for park-keeping and maintenance all year round.”