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Sunday 14 March 2010

The Black Horse Music Festival.

What follows is a blog post i wrote for a MySpace page that i run. Yes, MySpace does still exist!
The page is for Hastings Rock, the radio station that i'm the chairman of.
I thought i'd share it here, as i feel it may well have some significance for all of us.

"Whilst playing around on Facebook last night, i came across a message which then led me to the website of the Black Horse Music Festival. On it, i found this announcement:

"It is with great disappointment and frustration we have to announce that the Black Horse 2010 has had to be cancelled.
We were always a guest at the Black Horse and the latest tenants have made it very difficult to organise an event on their site. Having run at a loss over the last few years the committee felt we needed to look for pastures new to help move the festival on to the 21st century. The Pestalozzi Village seemed the perfect site, helpful staff and the history of the Global Fusion Festival. Unfortunately Rother District Council has not granted us a licence due to neighbour’s complaints, so we have no option at this late stage but to cancel this year’s festival.
We liked thank everyone who have put a lot of hard work in trying to get this to happen all to no avail."

As you can imagine, this came as a bit of a shock to me. It may well be a shock to all of you as well? The Black Horse Festival has, for the past 20+ years, become a staple part of the social calender for a lot of us in the Hastings area. So, to find out that it will not be going ahead this year, is very bad news indeed.

I had heard, from people involved with the festival, that there were issues & potential problems with their licence application. But, i didn't expect it to end up with the application being refused altogether & i doubt that they did either.

So, why did this happen?
As the statement above says. the festival had to be moved this year. Partly because it had outgrown the Telham site & also because of the attitude of the new tenants of the Black Horse pub itself. Altenative sites were looked into. But, the Pestalozzi site, in Sedlescombe, was thought to be the best option. Especially as music festivals had been based there in the past.
Having said that, an application to hold the "One Love Music Festival" at the Pestalozzi site, in 2009, had also been refused & for very similar reasons!

So, should this have been forseen by the BHMF (Black Horse Music festival) organisers?

Reading the minutes of the Rother District Council licence application meeting, which was held last Monday. It is obvious that there was a lot of opposition to the BHMF, from local residents.
The reasons given for refusing the licence were: "The Panel took the view that the Applicant had failed to demonstrate how it intended to be a ‘good neighbour’ to local residents: in particular the Applicant failed to propose any suitable practical steps to prevent disturbance to local residents."
Also: "Overall, the Panel took the view that on the evidence of the likely impact on the prevention of Public Nuisance and the inadequacy of the operating schedule in the application, specifically, but not limited to, noise matters and health and safety issues, the inadequacies in the Applicant's proposed operating schedule and submissions could not be remedied."

I have no wish whatsoever to criticise the BHMF committee, as i know how much work goes into trying to put on an event like this. I also know how committed the committee are to the BHMF & to local music generally. But, i do wonder if they were really prepared for this level of local opposition & thought that, because of previous festivals having been held on the site, that the BHMF would be allowed to go ahead anyway?

But, that being said. This is very bad news, both for the BHMF & for the wider local music scene. This obviously raises questions about whether the BHMF will go ahead next year.
Being involved with Hastings Rock, i know how hard it is to miss a year, as we did in 2009. It isn't always easy to get that momentum back & there is always that thought in the back of your mind, that, if you miss two years in a row, that's the end.

This also appears to sound the death knell for any future music events at the Pestalozzi site. After all, the strength of the local oppostion has already caused the cancellation of proposed music festivals, two years running. These people are now very well organised & have really done their homework. For that, i suppose, they need to be congratulated? They have made it plain that they do not want any type of music event to be held there.
I'm sure others, from far & wide, will be taking note of this. So, have the NIMBY's won?

I also believe that this decision has far wider implications.
The mere mention of Health & Safety these days, seems to put a stop to most activities & that was one of the reasons given for not allowing the BHMF to go ahead.
Are we going to have to accept that the days of the small, local, music festival, or event are now gone? Even major events like the Glastonbury festival have their own problems with local residents & licence applications. So, what chance do the little guys have?
I know of other proposed events that have not gone ahead because of H & S concerns. Or, just because of the prohibitive cost of insuring any event these days. Which, pretty much, amounts to the same thing.

Obviously, i hope that my doom mongering is unfounded & that the BHMF comes back bigger & stronger in 2011. Hastings Rock have always had a good relationship with the BHMF & i'd love to see that continue in the future.
I also hope that we are not seeing the slow death of the smaller music festival, or event.
That really would be a bad thing for the world of music. Not just for the Hastings area. But, nationally & possibly even worldwide as well.

Keep the faith."
Any comments would be appreciated.


  1. Sorry to hear about that. Often these types of events are the best way local artists have of expanding their following and breaking into a wider, even if only regional, audience. Not the mention the benefits to building community and local culture. Sad.

  2. Sad indeed Ken.
    Your comment pretty much echoes my own thoughts & that's why this is such a sad day for the local music scene & the local community generally.

  3. I share your fears for outside events of all descriptions Andy. This H&S nonsense is a curse now and quite at odds with commonsense a lot of the time. I despair of local democracy too. How is it that a vocal "few" can so often scupper the plans and good intentions of the many?

  4. Rick: Unfortunately, i don't think the local residents care too much about good intentions. They're more interested in "protecting" their little piece of England from the rampaging hordes of festival goers & the noise & disruption that they think goes with it.
    H&S has a lot to answer for. But, it's also a smokescreen that some people hide behind.

  5. Just a few comments - We checked out the 'One Love' application, ours was completely differant.They wanted 5 stages , 2 bars and a 2am finish. We stood in a wet field for 4 hours and carried out noise readings which the council rejected in favour of a report made in an office by the objectors. The council focused for hours on H&S and crime when the police and Fire brigade had no issuses.Culture and the majority was not mentioned at all during the hearing.It seems again that the view that this is my piece of England and I can afford to pay for it wins the arguement

  6. Mick: I had a feeling the "One World" festival was a bigger affair. But, it just seemed that the residents put up the same argument & won.
    As i think i said to you before, my father in law lives in the village & although not opposed himelf, knows of many people who were. Mainly because of totally unfounded fears of anti social behaviour etc. I don't think the noise was so much of an issue.
    I hope you don't think that i'm criticising you in any way, because i'm not. I just wondered whether you were prepared for just a level of opposition? But, as you suggest, maybe you were fighting a losing battle from the start?
    BTW I'm interested in how you came to find this blog post. I posted it on the HR MySpace page, but didn't expect to see you here.