Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Access denied

One of the benefits of living in a capital city (even a modestly sized one like Cardiff) is the sheer number of events. Over the summer months, in particular, there is always something going on. Several of these events take place in Bute Park: the Royal Horticultural Show in April, for instance, or the Inside Out dance music festival in early June. As I type, preparations for hosting this year's Homeless World Cup are well underway.

What's more, over the past few weeks an area of the park has been regularly used as a storage space by those setting up for events within the walls of the castle: gigs by The Killers, Manic Street Preachers and Chic, plus the Depot In The Castle and Tafwyl festivals. All of which means that parts of the park are regularly out of bounds to the public, with vans and lorries taking over paths and patches of grass left damaged and denuded.

In a recent Guardian article, Dan Hancox explored the "creeping privatisation of London parks in summer", explaining how the "experience economy" is fuelling the growing number of private ticketed events (and demand for them) and how local councils are increasingly using their green spaces to generate income, albeit out of necessity after years of severe funding cuts from central government. The result is that the city's parks are often not open to everyone.

The problem certainly isn't as acute here in Cardiff - after all, Bute Park is huge so events only take up a fraction of the space, and access to the events it plays host to isn't necessarily contingent on buying a ticket (the Homeless World Cup, for instance, is free and in aid of a very worthy cause). But at a time when libraries are under constant threat and increasing numbers of formerly public squares are policed by private security guards, we should be wary of any trend that restricts access to communal parkland.

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