Threat of month-long closure of Victoria Park in summer holidays

A key area of Victoria Park in Bow looks likely to be closed between 24th June and 25th August, the middle of the school holidays, so that it can be used by Amazon Studios to shoot a feature film.

Residents and visitors enjoying Victoria Park, Tower Hamlets, London
Residents and visitors enjoying Victoria Park, Tower Hamlets, London

The central area of Victoria Park around the iconic Angela Burdett-Coutts’ fountain, a popular picnic spot as shown above, will be out of bounds to residents and other areas of the park may be closed as needed for filming.

Amazon Studios’ “The Aeronauts”

In addition to the proposed closure up to 75 cars will be permitted to be parked on the Lido Field.

The film is believed to be Amazon Studios’ “The Aeronauts” starring Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones.

Many areas of Tower Hamlets, like Wapping, are highly prized locations for filming and the fees charged by the Council are a useful additional revenue stream.

The size of the fee that the Council is will be charging Amazon Studios’ to have part of Vickie Park all to itself for a month during the summer holidays is not known.

Amazon Studios

Park not just a revenue stream

”There is a huge diversity of park users and an essential need for children in Hackney & Tower Hamlets to use the park. Victoria Park makes a lot of money for LBTH but it is a hugely popular public park not just a revenue stream,” says Richard Desmond, Chair of Victoria Park Friends.

This proposal for the layout of Victoria Park in London dates from 1841, four years before the opening of the park.
This proposal for the layout of Victoria Park in London dates from 1841, four years before the opening of the park.

“That the Council wants to exclude the public from using parts of the park at the busiest time of year is wrong, it cannot be just a way for the Council to make money.”

The Victoria Park Friends are of the view that outside the school holidays the filming would not be an issue, but most residents of Tower Hamlets don’t have gardens and Vickie Park is extremely popular during the school holidays.

It is understood that in addition to the main license fee payable by Amazon Studios’ other sweeteners have been offered to the Council such as a payment to Victoria Park Friends and taking on residents for short duration paid work placements.

Aerial map of Victoria Park showing areas required by production company
Aerial map of Victoria Park showing areas required by production company

No consultation

Cllr. Amina Ali

As the filming is not a licensed event there is no need for a formal consultation with local residents but once the decision has been made residents would then be told.

Which is nice of them.

The final decision is likely to be made in the next few days by Cllr. Amina Ali (Labour, Bow East), Cabinet Member for Culture, Arts and Brexit [sic] and Judith St. John who is Divisional Director for Sports, Leisure and Culture.

Update 15th June 2018 Council statement

The Council have sent us their official take on this issue:

“There are absolutely no plans to ban children and families from the park, and all playgrounds and the skate park would be completely unaffected by any filming or public events taking place this summer.”

“Victoria Park is a much loved green space and in recent years has regularly been voted the nation’s favourite park. It continues to welcome many thousands of visitors every year and contributes substantial income from public events and filming opportunities. In the face of Government cuts this vital income contributes towards funding our front line services.“We are currently in discussions about the possible use of sections of the park for filming this summer. Nothing has been agreed, and any filming would see the vast majority of the park remain open, as well as all pathways and roads open for all but a small number of days.

“The Make More Festival is a great opportunity to showcase great crafts and help promote creative industries. It does not represent a fair comparison with major events such as the recently successful All Points East and free ‘In the Neighbourhood’ community festivals.

“Again, we want to reassure park users that there are absolutely no plans to ban families from the park, any of the playgrounds, or the skate park. Should filming take place, there would be plenty of space for families to enjoy on busy days. In addition, all income would be ploughed back into our fantastic park, including a significant contribution to the Friends group.”

LW Comment

Tempting, innit? A hundred grand or two just for allowing a park to be closed for a month? The borough certainly needs the money – it could offset some of the recent  increases in senior Labour councillors allowances for example – but we need our parks more.

As the Vickie Park Friends say, if this was not during the summer holidays no problem. But it is and it is a big problem.

Is LW a bit touchy about our parks being exploited for commercial purposes? We sure are.

King Edward Memorial Park (KEMP)
King Edward Memorial Park (KEMP)

LW first got involved in community activism soon after moving to Wapping and joined the Save KEMP team to stop King Edward Memorial Park being trashed by Thames Water to make a buck for its shareholders.

King Edward Memorial Park (KEMP) during ‘landscaping’ by Thames Water

Moley still gets upset every time he passes KEMP on the D3 bus and all he can see is construction cranes looming over the trees.

View of Canary Wharf from Glamis Road Bridge showing barge

Victoria Park is precious to everyone in the borough and all of it must be open through all the summer holidays for every child in the borough to enjoy.

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2 Comments

  1. Can you ever trust the word of a Mayor and Councillors who take the first opportunity to vote themselves big increases in their allowances?

    Presumably the total exclusion of residents – including children during the school holidays – from a very well loved amenity is what’s going to pay for those increased allowance this year

    What will they be doing in future years?

    Are they not aware that this borough is already way below the local government standard for access to green space per resident?

    I’m looking to one of our three non-Labour Councillors to propose to the Council that there will be no future “bookings” of areas of the park in School Holidays to bail out budget requirements for Councillor Allowances.

    How about sending a copy of your article to the Evening Standard and the Local Government Chronicle? Let’s advertise the ‘ethical’ and ‘honourable’ behaviour of our Councillors!

  2. Didn’t the park/ festivals and events team make a point of the compacted time for All Points East, regarding how it would leave the park free for use for the rest of the year. They have now announced a ‘closed in’ hipster craft fayre in the West Park (commercial) and now this… does their word mean nothing?

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