Plug pulled on summer gigs at Kenwood House

But other large scale events will go ahead

Friday, 5th August — By Frankie Lister-Fell


Kenwood House

FOR some they are an essential part of a summer, some of music’s biggest names playing unforgettable outdoor concerts in an idyllic setting.

For others, the popular gigs at Kenwood House have proved less satisfying with people living nearby registering objections over noise and the numbers turning up.

On Thursday, English Heritage, which manages the grounds, appeared to settle the argument by announcing it would be ending its run of large-scale musical events for what was described as the “foreseeable future”.

Other entertainment won’t stop, however, as the conservation body secured a revised licence from the Town Hall on the same days to host “major event days” with more than 10,000 guests allowed.

Kenwood’s history of hosting summer concerts – at a much smaller scale – stretches back to the 1951. Families equipped with picnic blankets would spread out on the stately home’s grounds and enjoy live classical music for free.

In the past decade, larger ticketed gigs have taken place. Music legends including Blondie, Nile Rogers and Noel Gallagher have performed at the historic site, which some residents found to be too noisy, disruptive and harmful to the land.

English Heritage, which took over the venue in 1986, maintained that gigs were necessary to raise the £3m required to sustain the free-to-enter site.

It would not say this week what exactly motivated them to stop the events, but it emphasised that while it is developing a new “masterplan” for the estate to secure its future sustainability, it is taking a holistic view of its current event programme.

Tom King, director for the South of England at English Heritage, said: “We’re thinking long and hard about Kenwood’s future and what’s best for the historic house and its collection, the landscape and gardens, and – of course – its visitors. As part of that we’ve decided to no longer host the summer concerts.”

The Friends of Kenwood said it “welcomes” the decision, adding in a statement: “We have had concerns about the impact of the concerts on the estate, the house and the art collection, and so support this scaling back of the use of the landscape for such large-scale events.”

At Thursday’s licensing panel, councillors unanimously approved new conditions that will allow for events such as its Christmas light trail. There will be a maximum of eight “major event days” a year.

At the meeting, Councillor Jonathan Simpson asked what these events might look like. Kingston Myles, head of commercial development at English Heritage, responded: “It’s anything from small food festivals, from working with fashion brands to using the space for showcases and working to use the space for corporate hires.”

Charles Streeten, a lawyer for the Heath and Hampstead Society amenity group, said it wanted residents and local groups to be consulted first before events take place and was worried about the impact that 10,000 visitors would have on the site.

Councillors approved English Heritage’s application on the condition that it continues its minimum of two meetings a year with local residents to talk about impact and the upcoming event schedule.

Helen Payne, membership secretary of Friends of Kenwood, said of the decision: “The need for funding has not diminished, so we support EH’s intention to hold a number of slightly smaller events through the year with the additional benefit of a wider public learning about Kenwood.”

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