The 2011 edition of Paradise Gardens, a festival that for the last five years has turned Tower Hamlets’ Victoria Park into a modern interpretation of a nineteenth Century pleasure garden (in the process programming a lot of street arts and circus), has been cancelled.
The festival was produced in previous years by the Council’s own Arts and Events team, which has had its budget dropped from £525,000 in 2010-11 to £200,000 in 2011-12 – a roughly 62% reduction as one of a number of measures to meet an approximate 8% reduction in the Council's overall budget (a £72 million cut spread over three years).
In their 2011/12 budget, which was agreed with a couple of minor amendments on 8 March, the Cabinet proposed the cut, writing in the proposal that free events at the park have been supported by revenue from commercial hires (mostly music festivals) and that Tower Hamlets ‘seeks to increase the level of corporate events and weddings taking place in its parks generally’. Also: ‘This proposal will deliver greater value for money by generating additional income from existing assets. Efficiency will be measured by an increase in annual income within the parks budget.’
But, then, last week the Council announced a reduction in commercial events at the Park due to residents’ concerns.
As part of the proposal for the Arts and Events cut the Cabinet had to include an Equality Impact Assessment Form, which asked a series of Yes/No questions, including ‘Does the change alter access to the service?’, to which they answered No. If you disagree that cancelling your free events in favour of commercial, ticketed programming doesn't change equality of access then you can write to the Council or to Tower Hamlets’ MPs.