Rock stars threaten to pull plug on Hyde Park gigs

 

The future of live music in Hyde Park was in doubt last night after some of the world's biggest music acts threatened not to play at the central London venue if proposals to limit noise levels are enforced.

Performers may boycott the park in protest at Westminster Council's plan to reduce the number of major concerts, cut crowd numbers and dramatically reduce noise levels. The production company behind some of the world's biggest music acts warned yesterday that it may advise its clients not to play there.

Councillors said last night that the number of concerts in the park would be cut from 13 a year to nine from 2013, and that the park's capacity would be reduced from 80,000 to 65,000.

The council also pledged "additional measures" to keep noise levels down and will monitor the volume of events throughout 2012 following complaints from residents.

The proposals could lead to a permanent reduction in noise levels, a situation condemned by rock stars, politicians and the park's authorities.

It was feared that the London Live programme, scheduled to coincide with the Olympics, would be threatened by the proposals. But councillors confirmed that live music events scheduled for this year, including Olympic gigs and performances by Bruce Springsteen and Madonna, would go ahead.

Music promoter John Giddings, whose clients include the Rolling Stones, U2 and Madonna, said he would advise his clients not to play Hyde Park if the council cuts noise limits to a "second division" level. "What the council is doing is ludicrous," he said.

"Top acts will not want to perform if they have to cut the sound and that is what I'll say they should do. I will be advising them not to play Hyde Park if this goes through."

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, joined the chorus of criticism ahead of a meeting yesterday and urged Westminster councillors to reconsider. "These councillors are the custodians of the crown jewels of London's outdoors," he said. "They are right to respect their residents but they also have a responsibility to the economic viability of the capital as a whole.

"They cannot jeopardise not only the Olympics but further popular and lucrative entertainment without soberly considering the consequences."

A spokesman for the Royal Parks Agency, which manages Hyde Park, said restrictions could force concerts to be scrapped.

"Dramatic restrictions on sound levels would result in the cancellation of concerts in Hyde Park this year and beyond," he told the Evening Standard. Residents have complained of unbearable noise in their homes when live events are held in the park. Businesswoman Karen Scarborough, 57, said that the volume in the bedroom of her Connaught Square flat was "as if I were in the front row."

Blur guitarist Graham Coxon called the council "killjoys". "These festivals don't happen that often anyway," he said. "Why make it an issue? If you're going to have a festival in a big open space it's going to be loud, that's a fact. The council should back down."

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