Carry on camping – the Dutch get set to sail into Greenwich

Champagne and a photocall – this doesn’t look like an event which has just had its licence refused, does it? Peninsula Festival organisers say they still hope to host an event in Greenwich to coincide with the Olympics, even though the council’s licensing board threw out the proposals on Wednesday.

The chaps in the tent, by the way, are Oranjecamping founder Jokko de Wit and Greenwich Council cabinet member for culture John Fahy.

“It’s a process,” festival organiser Frank Dekker said at Thursday’s launch of Sail Royal Greenwich, a sister event which will see around 20 tall ships sail up and down the Thames between Woolwich Arsenal and Tower Bridge. We got taken for a ride around the peninsula on De Wylde Swan, and very nice it was too.

Trips on the ships are mainly aimed at corporates, and there’s no doubt these will go like hot cakes. It’s all based around the hugely popular Sail Amsterdam event, while you can also see what to expect from this gallery of Sail Waterford. Cllr Fahy said he was “blown away” by a trip to Sail Amsterdam, as crowds thronged the quaysides to get a glimpse of the ships.

But the campsite is a big part of these plans – as well as an orange double-decker, which took Dutch fans across South Africa during last summer’s football World Cup, and yesterday took a group of us down to the patch of land just north of Sainsburys where part of the campsite will be.

“This will be the biggest Oranjecamp by far,” said Jokko De Wit. The first one was in Portugal for the Euro 2004, when 1,000 Dutch fans camped out and followed their side.

Now they are expecting 4,000 for Oranjecamping’s first Olympics, in a variety of mostly pre-built tents from luxury en suitetents to dorm-style accomodation, although with a small area (right next to the Southern Way bus lane) where others can pitch their own. “It’s always been our dream to come to an Olympics,” he said, adding he was approached by Greenwich Council a year and a half ago in Rotterdam. Pitches have already gone on sale – despite the licence knockback – and it’s expected up to 80% percent of visitors will be Dutch. They are also hoping to close the roads surrounding the site – which is divided by West Parkside and Peartree Way – while the camp is open.

“We want the world to see how hospitable Greenwich is, and how friendly the Dutch can be when they come to a tournament,” Jokko de Wit said, adding that he hoped to lay grass on the site by the end of the year.

Organisers are not peturbed by the failure of their licence application. “There will be next steps,” Sail Greenwich director Paulus Mooyman told the press, although none of the organisers would be drawn on whether there would be an appeal.

It’s pretty clear that they are determined to get their campsite at a minimum, even if it doesn’t have an alcohol licence. But they also want to make sure campers have something to do nearby – and here’s what the Oranjecampers in South Africa got up to…

Olympics fans won’t be as rowdy as football fans can be. But there’s a big bridge to be crossed between Oranjecamping’s vision of the Peninsula as a party destination next summer, and Greenwich Millennium Village residents who fear their lives will be turned upside down by this. Criticism from police will also have to be addressed.

Meanwhile, a planning application for the beach at Delta Wharf – which also saw its licence refused on Wednesday – has gone in.

The tall ships will definitely come to Greenwich – but as for the rest of the Dutch festival? It’ll be interesting to see what actually does emerge from the Peninsula plans – and the closer you live to the campsite, the closer you’ll probably be watching what happens next.


  1. Please advise Joko de Witt that he should arrange for a habitat survey (contact the wonderful London Wildlife Trust who know this area) before promoting a dead green desert with grass on this site. This kind of undervalued “wasteland” flora is often fantastic for wildlife (insect and bird rich) and should not be simply seen as something to be swept away because it looks unfamiliar – especially for such a short event: there could be undesirable long term consequences.

    A superb London-wide survey was undertaken by the late-lamented GLC’s Ecology Unit (including many Wildlife Trust surveyors) and gives plenty of explanations for this (and may include details of the Greenwich Peninsula). As far as I can remember it was very contaminated land.

  2. I don’t remember *anything* ever being on that land – did it even need to be decontaminated in the 90s? Was strange to be wandering around on it. We spotted blackberries there – it is due for redevelopment at some point soon.

  3. I am far from clear exactly what was on this site in the past – until the First World War it was market gardens and was then, I think, partly the far end of the steel works site – vaguely used for storage of equipment or something else (unspecified by those I have spoken to) by Dorman Long, or part of the allottments and sports field belonging to the gas works.
    The area in the photographs is currently being used as a nursery and wildlife site managed by the Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park – some of the tiny figures in the background are volunteers and others who are working there. In the future it is to be used as a further phase of the Millennium Village, currently awaiting a planning application

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