Fashion Week event not in vogue with angry Kennington residents

Kennington residents are furious at the month-long closure of a large section of their park for a private London Fashion Week event so loud it sent their windows rattling. 

Park users say Lambeth Council did not follow its own guidelines in approving the Burberry catwalk show, which is rumoured to have cost the brand around £1 million to stage. 

The show was attended by a star-studded collection of British A-listers including Naomi Campbell, Vanessa Redgrave, Damon Albarn and Stormzy, and is Burberry’s first London Fashion Week show in three years. 

According to the council’s website, events with less than 499 attendees require a minimum of three months processing time to allow council members to ensure park users are aware of events in advance of them taking place. 

Construction and deconstruction of the catwalk tent took 26 days and took up a large section of the park’s green space.

Yet, many locals only found out about the event when construction started – informed by security staff that the large swath of lawn was being cordoned off for a ‘private party’. 

Writer Rob Pateman, 60, who lives on the same street as the park, says he emailed and called all three board councillors responsible for Kennington a number of times, with no answer or reply. 

Posters stating ‘PARKS ARE FOR PEOPLE, NOT PLUNDER’ stuck up by vexed residents were also quickly removed.

While the show itself was just nine minutes long, construction and deconstruction of the massive fenced-in tent and catwalk made the area inaccessible for 26 days – surrounded by signs prohibiting any ball games within its general vicinity.

Posters stuck up across the park by residents angry at the lack of communication about the event from the Council were swiftly removed.

Residents also say that during the weekend run-up to the show, intermittent sound checks sent their windows rattling, while others claimed the deep thrumming bass was so loud, they felt as if they were inside the venue itself. 

Complaints were met with assurances that the noise was within the standard decibel limit, and therefore not damaging to anybody’s hearing.

“It’s not a question of damaging, it’s a question of disturbance,” Pateman said, adding that he and some of his neighbours actually left their homes to see what was going on during the first rehearsal.

Complications for residents continued to the night of the show, when the queue of ‘business-class car service’ Addison Lee’s and sleek limousines dropping off models and celeb attendees caused gridlock and blocked cycle lanes. 

Even park benches in the vicinity of the constructed venue were blocked off with plastic fencing and bollards.

Longtime Kennington resident Suzanne Jansen, 62, a translator who has been involved in charity work for the park for the past 20 years, said the principle of the park being used for a private event – rather than the disturbance itself – angered her. 

She said: “The council is working against itself, working against all the hard work they’ve done with the local people to improve the park together.

“They’re breaking something that is very precious.”

Pateman agreed. He blamed friction between the council and residents due to lack of transparency.

He said: “They should be telling us that this is what we’re getting, this is we’re putting into the park, and this is where it’s going to be spent and that’s guaranteed and then actively engage with and tell people what’s going on.

“That is what people are angry about – this has taken up half of our park on half term and nobody knew what it was for.”

Hosting the event is said to have made Lambeth Council £100,000 – with £13,000-£15,000 of that sum purportedly being put back into Kennington Park. 

By that figure, the park is making about £20 per hour for hosting the event over the month-long period. 

Residents, meanwhile, are charged £125 to rent the park’s astroturf for an hour. 

A Lambeth Council spokesperson said: “Income from events held in Lambeth Parks is used to fund core council services such as parks and Children’s Services This is invaluable in funding a wide range of improvements within our parks and open spaces.

“Lambeth enforces strict criteria to ensure that the disruption during events is limited – including restricting them to only a proportion of each site – and that any wear and tear is quickly repaired. Any resident with queries over an individual event can contact the council with their concerns.

“Surplus income from events is used for a wide range of benefits, such as funding free community bandstand programmes on Clapham Common, and in Ruskin and Myatt’s Fields Park.

“A fixed percentage of the income from every event is transferred to the Parks team as Parks Investment Levy. This is not counted as part of the Parks budget, so can be spent on any enhancements, and is fully ring-fenced to this purpose.

“Lambeth Parks Department advises The Friends of Kennington Park of the annual total and between them agree the relevant projects and items (including some repairs) that the money can be used for.

“This event will bring a more significant amount of income than in previous years to ensure the park users benefit. The organisers of the event are also making an additional donation directly to the Friends of Kennington Park.”

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