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Events in London's parks: the friends' perspective

Smith, Andrew; Vodicka, Goran

In the contemporary era, a period when consuming experiences is a significant part of the urban economy, events are one of the most visible, popular and yet controversial functions of park settings. Festivals and events provide entertainment, but they also have important social effects – attracting different types of people to go to parks and encouraging London’s diverse communities to encounter one another. They are also the most obvious user conflicts – with large paid entry events affecting the accessibility of park space at times when demand for everyday park use is highest. 

This report explores the different types of events staged in London’s parks, and assesses the range of impacts they have, both positive and negative. The report is based on a qualitative survey of Friends’ groups undertaken in the Spring of 2020. There are now over 600 groups in London and they play an important role in helping to protect, manage and maintain the city’s parks and green spaces. This means Friends groups can provide informed and involved commentaries on the state of London’s parks.

To try and capture the range of different events that are staged in London’s parks, and their impacts, we asked Friends groups a series of questions about their park’s 2019 event programmes. The research began before COVID-19 restrictions were put in place which effectively removed any possibility of staging events in the Spring and Summer of 2020 (possibly longer). It may turn out that 2019 marked ‘peak event’ for London’s parks, and so it is useful to capture this intense period of events activity.

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