How was the On Blackheath music festival for you?

Blackheath Village, 14 September 2014
More by accident than design, this website completely managed to miss the fact that the On Blackheath music festival actually finally happened at the weekend. (The line-up really wasn’t my bag and it ended up clashing with a sublime St Etienne show at the Barbican, as it happened.)

Personally speaking, it was good to see the event finally happen – particularly after years of gripes from Greenwich councillors and the Blackheath Society’s court battle over Lewisham Council’s decision to give it a licence in 2011. Here’s an interview with the organisers from way back then.

It seems to have gone down well with those who went, although there’s been some mickey-taking over the “food and music” concept…

I couldn’t hear much of Frank Turner when crossing the heath at Duke Humphrey Road at 9pm last night (not a bad thing in my book,) but I’ve seen a few noise gripes on Twitter (the Blackheath Society is asking locals to fill in this survey). If you went along, or if you live nearby, I’d love to hear your experiences of the weekend.


  1. We live in Greenwich so not affected by any noise, having said that, we drove back from Eltham through Blackheath yesterday and remarked how little of the heath was actually taken up by the festival, meaning there was still plenty available for people to enjoy for walks/runs/kites etc, seemed a real success to me

  2. I live quite close by, and usually hear the Blackheath Fair on Circus Field, but heard nothing from “On Blackheath”.
    I’m quite pleased I managed to avoid both the Tall Ships and “On Blackheath”. I am increasingly a grumpy old git !!
    Victor Meldrew lives on !!

  3. We went on Saturday with friends and young children and had a brilliant time. The stuff for kids was brilliant. Hopefully this will become an annual event and they will start to attract a better line up. Gaining access was more problematic than we anticipated…….having not read the T&C’s properly I had to run home with the picnic hamper because glass wine bottles and metal cutlery were banned on H&S grounds. And this a festival sponsored by John Lewis?…what do they expect….”God damn it Hermione, if you don’t shut up I’m going to glass you with the Petit Chablis!”

  4. The Lewisham side was noisier. Very loud in Granville Park – not all the time but enough to be really, really annoying , and occasionally the bass was so loud as to be felt in the house. Friends in Hilly Fields also complained – there’s nothing to stop the noise between them and the Heath. My objection is not so much to the noise – though I don’t understand why it has to be THAT LOUD – but to the licence in perpetuity.

  5. loved hearing the sounds drifting over in the wind in Eliot Park, actually I wouldn’t mind if they turned it up a bit more so I could make it out a bit better… altho I guess some folks don’t like it, so that would probably be antagonistic…. hopefully they pack it away and tidy up as quickly and efficiently as it all arrived.

  6. Was surprised how good it was on the Sunday tbh, great vibe (though the digs that it was all a bit Waitrose is fair, never seen a cooking stage before :D). The Levellers and the Radiophonic workshop were highlights. Fair play to the organisers, would be very happy to see this become an annual event.

  7. No noise. I live in Lee, but traffic was heavier along Burnt Ash Hill towards Lee and Blackheath than usual.

  8. I couldn’t hear a thing – but then I am deaf. However my cat was ok with it – whereas with the November fireworks she is a shivering wreck hiding under the bed. So more of this, and less of that

  9. I don’t like festivals. Standing in a field watching a big screen doesn’t appeal. However, it is ten minutes walk from home, there was a 30% discount for locals on Sunday and Imelda May was on the bill. That swayed it. It seemed well organised and people (families especially) seemed to enjoy it. The organisers seemed to have laid on lots for kids. There was a bit of ‘sound drift’. We were watching a band on the Village Stage and at quiet moments the sound of The Levellers on the main stage was drowning out the band’s sound . I went to a Don Letts dj set in the other tent. Don’t get that at all. Don played a few records without saying anything. He could have saved himself a journey by sending through a Spotify playlist. Imelda May was very good but much rather have seen her in a club/hall. We didn’t stay for Frank Turner. The site was extremely unobtrusive. Just a small corner of the Heath. It felt like the attendance was well short of the expected 10,000 but I could be wrong. If the organisers are in for the long run it would have been an encouraging start.

  10. Not so happy with the 11 days or so it takes to build up and take down, the 380 bus re-routing and also the increasing commercalisation of the Heath is something to watch carefully. Noise really depends on the wind direction – it was northeast ish this time so affected Lewisham side. My personal view is that it’s a shame there is such a drive to increase noise levels locally, with several more similar big events in the pipeline for 2015 on top of the usual traffic and planes/helicopters. One or two big events, like the Marathon, is quite fun but much more and it all starts getting a bit depressing. Popularity is all very well, but I dare say putting a McDonald’s on the Heath would attract a lot of paying customers too, but it doesn’t mean it’s right for that location. The smaler- scale events are much better for the Heath and less intrusive. There are already plenty of places in London if you want big events and music, don’t see why the Heath is only seen as a space for making money and noise. This is stressful for anyone who doesn’t want to be forced to hear it! But that’s just my humble view and I expect it’s not what most people on here will think.

  11. Its what I think Joe.
    Being a born and spent my whole 49 years thus far in Blackheath, I don’t want to see the nature of the heath and the area changed to just become some sort of place where “outsiders” come for a “knees-up” at our inconvenience.
    Blackheath Village has already changed enough to just become a place full of bars, cafes and restaurants, instead of the self-contained community of my childhood.
    Put up the barricades and make a UDI I’ve always said !!

  12. It’s a bit rich people living in Lee and ‘we couldn’t hear a thing!’. Of course you couldn’t, it’s miles away and with lots of houses in between. I live on the Greenwich edge of the Heath directly in line with the festival site, and yes you could hear it from there, and pretty loud. I also agree with the posters above that it smacks of commercialisation of a public space. We also did not receive any information in the letterbox about how long it would go on for, tickets for residents, expected impact on traffic and so on, either from the council or the organisers.

  13. We went as a family on the Sunday. We had a great day. There were lots of activities for kids – and really good ones too. The Flying Seagulls were great with their performances and circus skills. Really enjoyed the bands too. Of course it was all a bit Blackheath with the posh nosh but what did people expect. Highlights for us were Stealing Sheep and The levellers. There was a really nice, friendly, and family-friendly atmosphere. I hope it happens again next year – if it does we’ll be there.

  14. I curated the Village Stage on Sunday and managed to employ over 25 local musicians (by local I mean local) everyone who came seemed to enjoy themselves thoroughly, the organisation was amazing and no trouble was caused – what’s not to like about it?

  15. HA the chaterati at leisure is what it was. Where where the noodles? The donuts? The polystyrene cup of weak tea..not very rock and roll but easy entertainment, Grace Jones a marvel and motivation for us midde aged women she was wearing her bathing suit I swear. A comfortable evening the equivalent of an elasticated waist which I may wear next year….

  16. No MacDonalds on the Heath. Burger King all the way!

    In favour of the event happening again next year – especially now I know there’s a locals discount – I didn’t hear anything about that.

  17. @Mark – brilliant that you employed over 25 local musicians (I hope you paid them properly). You ask a very disingenuous question: What’s not to like? For a start, the inescapable noise and inconvenience of a lot more than 25 locals (by local I mean local too, as in living within earshot), and the appropriation of the Heath for commercial use. You seem to think that it was remarkable that no trouble was caused – good grief, is that really something to pat yourself on the back for? Shouldn’t that be a given? I’m glad lots of people enjoyed themselves – but a great many people did not.

  18. Interesting about information, or lack of it. I live in Catford and we had warning about it and the traffic impacts in the school newsletter, yet we’re miles away from the event itself!

  19. Once upon a time, policy makers focused on the quantity and quality of our open spaces. Now, if you’re a Blackheath bee, bird or three year old kite flyer, it’s all about your “contribution” to “outcomes”. I’d be bricking it now if I thought Lewisham had me down as a common Vetch.

  20. @Joe ‘There are already plenty of places in London if you want big events and music, don’t see why the Heath is only seen as a space for making money and noise.’ the definition of NIMBY-ism in one sentence!

    @Trevor Allman ‘I don’t want to see the nature of the heath and the area changed to just become some sort of place where “outsiders” come for a “knees-up” at our inconvenience.’ Ditto and it’s NOT your Heath by the way – living in the area for many years is irrelevant.

  21. It’s four days since OnBlackheath was switched off, but from my window, poor old “Dartmouth Field” is still a snorting mass of giant cherry pickers, tractors, huge lorries and day-glo-men crashing about making towers.
    Sad really and look what’s left of the Heath. Bleached, sick-yellowed patches, ringed with huge burnt-brown swathes of grass. It might have looked different I guess, worse maybe, if they’d tried erecting acres of prison-camp lights, fencing and watch towers, knee-deep in mud, during the storms we we’d had in August. Just imagine it, the muddy end of, well… a massive attack.

  22. Scared of chives – well said, couldn’t have put it better!

    Still, I suppose the village wouldn’t be the same without our NIMBY neighbours! (no, it would be much better)

  23. If it wasn’t for the “NIMBY” brigade, much of the heath would have been developed in the 1800’s, and this discussion would not even be taking place.

  24. Trevor – You’re right that Blackheath Village is an overpriced place with not much beside restaurants and expensive shops (still some independent/interesting exceptions though), plus there’s a really busy road right through the middle.
    Hmm… fair enough Scared of Chives, so I guess no one is allowed to object to anything for fear of the tired old NIMBYism accusation. Why exactly do more and more spaces have to be given over to more and more fenced-in corporate events that create disruption and noise? My NIMBYish point was that there are already so many places like that that a few quieter spaces are actually important too – does eveywhere have to be a big event space? It’s not like there were loads of massively deprived Blackheath people suffering from a lack of a festival.
    You conveniently ignored the bit where I said that smaller events didn’t bother me and a few big community events like the Marathon (plus the fireworks I should have added) are good, but once they start piling up and get bigger and more corporate-profit driven (9 more are apparently planned next year now the ball is rolling – you’ll love it), it starts to become depressing. I just think there’s so much noise and traffic already that it’s nice to have some relief in such a busy city.

  25. Uh-oh, maybe shouldn’t have been so facetious and mentioned McDonald’s.. It would have to be a drive-thru, obviously. At least would be cheaper than some of the Village restaurants 😉

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