Updates from London
The FESTSPACE’s London team consists of Dr Andrew Smith, Professor Guy Osborn and Dr Goran Vodicka from University of Westminster. The main focus of their work is a year long in depth study of Finsbury Park, which is situated in one of the most ethnically and socio-economically diverse areas in the UK. After gaining ethics approval by the University’s Research Ethics Committee, the team officially launched the research project in Finsbury Park on 10th August 2019. This date coincided with the celebrations staged to mark the 150th birthday of Finsbury Park.
As part of the Finsbury Park 150 celebrations, Dr Andrew Smith was invited to take part in a public debate on the state of public parks in 2019. The two other panellists were local MP David Lammy and journalist/author Dan Hancox whose recent article in the Guardian on ‘creeping privatisation of London parks’ acted as a timely background to the debate. On the same day the team was involved in the Future Fair, a family-friendly ‘Albion’ style fair for Finsbury Park’s 150th anniversary organised by Furtherfield, London’s longest running (de)centre for art and technology. As part of the fair the team ran participatory mapping activity to explore visitor’s experiences of the park. This offered insights into Finsbury Park and the way it is perceived and used. The fair also provided a great platform for promoting the start of the year long fieldwork in Finsbury Park.
Since then, the fieldwork has continued with weekly day-long visits to the park which consist of observational walks, recorded using the Livetrekker app, and conversations with park users. To understand the ways festivals and events affect Finsbury Park, the researchers have started to observe and document park life on both event days and non-event days (including days when the fencing and the festival infrastructure is being put up and taken down). In the last few months a wide range of festivals and events have been staged in the park, including Wireless Festival (arguably ‘the UK’s biggest and most famous urban music festival’), La Clave (‘London’s free Latin music, dance and arts festival’), Sink The Pink’s Street Party (LGBTQ+ event organised by London’s polysexual party troupe), Rough Runner (an obstacle course challenge), ABODE in the Park (electronic music festival) and Hospitality in the Park (festival dedicated to drum ‘n’ bass music) etc. Members of the research team have also regularly attended the Friends of Finsbury Park public meetings and taken part in #Everything150 Sunday walks which are part of a contemporary archaeology project by 2NQ, a local partnership organisation that seeks to revive the concept of a People’s Park through a cultural and heritage programme.
Although Finsbury Park is already proving to be an invaluable and rich case study for exploring the effects of festivals on the inclusivity of public parks, through collaboration with the project’s research partner Parks for London the team is complementing its in depth analysis of one park with a broader understanding of what is happening in London parks generally. The plans are now being made to organise an internal seminar at the University of Westminster in November 2019 and a symposium in February 2020 (full details to be announced soon).