Villagers living in Stanmer vented their anger over plans to bring back the Shakedown music festival two years after they say they were promised that it would never return.
But Shakedown boss Matt Priest said that he would be promoting a different event – with four stages for DJs on one day only rather than live acts over two days.
Stanmer resident Jason Knight asked him and council representatives: “How can we trust you?”
He pointed out that Shakedown had moved to Waterhall two years ago after a promise by Brighton and Hove City Council that it wouldn’t return to Stanmer.
“I’m very concerned that we can put an event in that did quite serious damage to the park while the council is saying it’s a heritage site and we’re applying for lottery funding on that basis.”
Mr Priest said: “In no way was it as successful in Waterhall as it was in Stanmer.”
This was in part because Shakedown was popular with students at the neighbouring universities – Sussex and Brighton – and students living close to the bus routes serving the Falmer campuses. Waterhall was harder to reach with poor public transport links.
Mr Priest said: “Shakedown as a brand has been running for five years. We wanted to take the opportunity to change the style of the event.
“What is returning to Stanmer won’t be the Shakedown brand. An event that’s aimed at young people needs refreshing and needs reworking.
“It’s still going to be 18-plus, it’s still going to be a music festival and it’s still going to be large scale.
“It’ll be at the Lower Lodges where it was in 2011. It’s not going to have live music and performers. It’s just DJ-based. There will be four stages. It will be one day. It will finish at 10pm.
“I run ten festivals a summer. I run five events in Brighton.”
He said that in 2012, when Shakedown took place in October, the weather was awful and, he added: “The state we left the park was atrocious.
“The event will be aimed at students. It’s a major festival coming to your doorstep. I appreciate that worries people.
“We’ll work with you to allay any fears that you have. We know the area. We can do a good show.”
Villagers were sceptical and raised objections and asked several questions. A deputation is expected to spell out villagers’ concerns to the council at a meeting tomorrow.
After hearing that Shakedown’s application to return was dealt with openly in the usual way, Christina Summers, the former councillor who chaired the meeting in Stanmer last night (Tuesday 22 March), said: “There is a feeling that things are sometimes done by the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law.”
Her comment reflected concerns that people at the council would have known that the application was sensitive but had not made any effort to bring it to the attention of those affected by it.
The meeting ended with Mr Priest having promised villagers that he would listen and respond to their concerns.
Councillor Tracey Hill, who represents Hollingdean and Stanmer Ward on the council, attended the meeting at Stanmer House along with fellow Labour councillor Alan Robins.
Council officials also went along and spoke about the process for approving and managing events in council parks and to try to reassure residents.
An official report to councillors in January 2014 – three months after the event was last held in Stanmer Park – said: “The 2013 event brought a number of challenges to both the council and its partner agencies.
“There were issues of drug and alcohol use, traffic management problems and public order concerns.”
The council has included Shakedown in its events diary for Saturday 17 September.
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