The Peninsula Festival‘s organisers revealed their plans to local residents yesterday with a couple of meetings in the swish new office blocks next to the Dome. From the 11th floor, it’s easy to see where boss Frank Dekker gets his enthusiasm from – just look down at the vast empty spaces that remain on the peninsula. While the Dutchman wants to start this year with a city beach, and repeat that for the next 15 years, he’s really got his eyes on the Olympics.
“London will be turned on its head for a few weeks,” he says- and he hopes next year’s festival will cater for millions expected to arrive in London next summer as well as help locals enjoy rather than endure those weeks in the spotlight. The beach will be the lynchpin of his plans, but if his bigger event in 2012 takes off, then he’s hoping to capitalise on the 2015 Rugby World Cup (held in England, with three venues in London) and run themed events around the 2016 Olympics in Rio and the 2018 World Cup. With tall ships lined up for 2012, he’s even got them pencilled in to return in 2019.
So what’s planned? Here’s a quick outline…
The beach: Planned to appear every year from the end of May to the end of August, using the old Delta Wharf site – highlighted above. It won’t actually extend into the fast-flowing Thames itself, but is based on schemes like Paris Plages, where full scale beaches are placed next to the Seine. It’s hoped up to 500-800 people will come to the beach each day, with more for special events such as DJ nights. The surrounding land will be landscaped and “dressed” to make it look the part. There’s the possibility of putting a volleyball court in, and a pool if sponsors can be found.
The camping: A site next to the beach is earmarked for a upmarket campsite in 2012 which aims to help fill the shortage in local accommodation for the Olympics. The concept is – ahem – glamping with rented-out “canvas structures” rather than tents. Take a look at the posh camping at Glastonbury for an idea of what’s being aimed for. This is expected to attract 4,500 people.
Stage area: This is roughly at the foot of the City Peninsula development, between there and the Pilot pub. Again, this is another 2012 scheme, and has the backing of AEG, whose main arena inside the O2 will be out of action for three months because of the Olympics. The idea is to host a mixture of events, from big-name ticketed gigs or classical shows to smaller shows, accommodating between 15,000-20,000 people.
Sailing: Tall ships will sail up and down the Thames from the Royal Arsenal to Tower Bridge in summer 2012. The ships will be berthed at Woolwich rather than at Greenwich.
Marina: A “St Tropez on the Thames” is planned for 2012, in association with Greenwich Yacht club.
“Connect” area: A sponsors’ village for 2012, next to the stage area.
The cost? Some events are expected to be free, other events will be charged, with payment in bars and concessions using pre-paid cards. A tie-up with the residents’ Greenwich Card is planned.
(UPDATE 20 MAY: The locations of the stage and campsite have changed – see this later post)
Here’s the handout we were given. (This is an original copy as opposed to the dodgy scan published earlier.)
One thing Frank Dekker was very keen to emphasise was that the festival wanted to support the local community rather than impose itself on it (a questioner mentioned the unloved Run To The Beat half-marathon as an example of how not to do things) and is keen to hear of business propositions, groups who want to get involved, and people who could perform or take part – for example, it has been mooted that tour guides could take people from the festival sites and show them the other sights of Greenwich.
I’d be interested to see how the stage area pans out – particularly with the difficulties the On Blackheath festival has hit with vocal neighbours. While I don’t think they’ll encounter the same level of hostility from Greenwich Millennium Village residents – to be frank, with many of its homes empty at weekends there simply isn’t the same sense of community up there – I do wonder how the neighbours will react. If that gets the nod, On Blackheath goes through and the Greenwich Summer Sessions return, 2012 could be good summer for music around here. (Note to all three organisers – once again, please, no James Blunt.)
The real difficulty, I suspect, will be out of their hands – and that’s the infrastructure linking the peninsula with the rest of Greenwich. It’s that old chestnut of the Thames Path again. Greenwich Council’s taken some enormous kickings over the past year – not least from this website – or so over the closures and general state of the path. But now comes the chance to fix this.
The Peninsula Festival is part of the council’s Greenwich Festivals scheme, with the hope being that a little bit of funding to get these big events off the ground will help them snowball into big, successful events for 2012 and beyond.
If Greenwich Council really wants the Peninsula Festival to succeed, then it has to match Frank Dekker’s ambitions and get the Thames Path fixed by next summer, to make sure it’s properly connected with the rest of SE10’s attractions, people and businesses. Otherwise it could end up yet another of those things on the peninsula that’s nice to have – but somehow feels a bit distant from the rest of us.
(Want to find out more? Read an interview with Frank Dekker.)