Above: David Micklem
Published: 20 April, 2012
by PETER GRUNER
WHAT is believed to be the biggest outdoor theatrical event ever staged in Islington was given the go-ahead at a Town Hall licensing committee this week.
Although dozens of residents originally objected to the project in letters to Islington Council, only two people turned up to speak at the hearing on Monday and even they were not against the event going ahead.
The two residents were concerned that there would be insufficient safeguards to curb noise, litter and nuisance at what is being dubbed Britain’s “theatrical event of the year.”
The entire Caledonian Park in Holloway will be closed for two hours at night for two weeks next month for the staging of a spectacular musical production, Babel, involving more than 300 performers.
The show, which begins on Tuesday, May 8, and runs until Sunday, May 20, will combine storytelling, live music, massed choirs and state-of-the-art visual effects to celebrate the capital’s cultural diversity.
It comes from the producers of The Passion, performed on the streets of Port Talbot in Wales last year and starring Hollywood actor Michael Sheen.
The licensing committee agreed that Babel, based loosely on the biblical story, can go ahead subject to stringent conditions which include loudspeakers pointing away from residential areas and sufficient security measures to prevent anti-social activity.
A resident, Miriam Ashwell, who spoke at the hearing, said she thought the event was a “great idea” but hoped that all efforts would be made to keep noise to a minimum.
The medical secretary added: “We appreciate the effort that the organisers have made to listen to our concerns, and their openness to managing the event to try to minimise the disruption to residents.
“In the past we have been repeatedly let down by Islington Council, but we were heartened to see the thorough discussion of all the issues by our councillors and planning officials.”
David Micklem, joint artistic director of Battersea Arts Centre, which is co-producing the show, told the hearing that the sale of food and alcohol would finish at 9.30pm rather than 10.30pm as originally suggested.
The gates will open at 6.15pm for food and entertainment but the main event will start at 8.15pm. The audience will not be seated but will move around the field from stage to stage. The park clocktower, representing the tower of Babel, will be used for light shows and by trapeze artists. There will be small fireworks “sculptures” but audiences will be kept behind protection barriers.
The show will end at 10.15pm when people will be encouraged to leave the park as quickly as possible.
Mr Micklem added that a noise consultant had been engaged with the aim of keeping sounds to a minimum.
The organisers hope for an audience of about 1,000 a night, with a sizeable proportion expected to be local residents.
Residents are being encouraged to take part in the show and rehearsals have already begun.