Monday, November 10, 2008

Strawberry Fair - Yes, but fix the problems

This Thursday, the Community Services Scrutiny committee will be considering a report on the future of Strawberry Fair - specifically whether or not the Council should grant permission for the Fair to happen in 2009. I am not a member of the scrutiny committee, but have been involved in various discussions with interested parties.

After some consideration, I believe the fair should be given permission to go ahead next year in a similar format to previous years. Personally I enjoy visiting the fair, and believe it provides entertainment, particularly music, that is appreciated by many local residents. The demographic who do enjoy Strawberry Fair is wide, and encompasses groups of people who may not appreciate many of the other arts and entertainment events held in the City that help to make it a great place to live. As a volunteer helping on the No2ID stall the last couple of years, it has also seen many younger people engage in political issues, perhaps for the first time, in times when it is widely accepted that young people are completely apathetic or disinterested in key issues that will shape society going forwards.

This is not to say there haven't been problems - some inevitable in an event of this size, others more intrinsically related to Strawberry Fair, which have caused unacceptable nuisance to local residents. So my support is with a big caveat - these issues really do need to be stamped on, and the Council, Police and organisers must work together to fix this. If we accept this is an event that is valued in large parts of the community, all three parties need to accept responsibility for ensuring it does not cause problems.

The mitigation measures proposed in the officers report are a good start, but there is limited comment on drugs. It is far from the case that in the past drug use has been tolerated, but the police and organisers need to make it absolutely clear that illegal drugs are completely unacceptable at the Fair, and that people flauting the law will be identified and will not be allowed to enjoy a day out at the Fair. Similarly on alcohol usage - it needs to be clear that those under 18 and those recklessly drunk will not be allowed to drink (more) at the event or be served in any neighbouring establishments. These aspirations need to be backed up with action from the authorities on the day and beforehand.

But with these provisos, I think the problems can be mitigated to the extent that the Fair should still go ahead next year.

There is a more general issue over usage of the main central commons and parks - Jesus Green, Midsummer Common and Parkers Piece. The current Council policies essentially just talk about the need to conserve these areas. With the nature and increased frequency of events now happening, the Council needs a policy that balances the wear and tear on these areas and the nuisance to local residents with the benefits and enjoyment the events bring. A new policy is needed that restricts the number of events of each category, and allows appraisal of events depending on the numbers of local residents that enjoy them, any financial benefits or costs to the council, and the nuisance to local residents in order to decide what is allowed. I understand plans are afoot to review these policies in the near future, but its not before time.

Members of the public are welcome to attend this Thursday's meeting, and even address the committee - in which case you would need to get in touch with the committee manager beforehand - details on the agenda.

1 comment:

Richard said...

Councillors decided to allow the fair to go-ahead subject to conditions. I have published the full conditions along with notes on the discussion on my website.