Mayor cancels Rise music festival in Finsbury Park
6:35pm Wednesday 8th April 2009
MAYOR of London Boris Johnson has cancelled a popular anti-racism music festival held in Finsbury Park because of lack of sponsorship.
The Rise Festival, set up in 1996, has been touted as Europe’s biggest free music concert and attracted a crowd of up to 100,000 last year.
Big names like Jimmy Cliff, Run DMC, The Wailers and The Specials have all played at the event.
Mr Johnson sparked outrage last year when he removed the explicit anti-racism message in favour of “celebrating diversity” not long after being elected.
The main sponsors, trade unions Unison and Unite, withdrew their funding, leaving the mayor’s office to pay the £551,000 to stage the event.
A spokesman for the mayor said: “Without a major sponsor in place, it is not considered appropriate to spend such a large amount on a single music event, particularly during a recession.”
Mr Johnson said GLA funding would now be used for a London-wide event called Rhythm of London, focusing on music education for young people on July 10 and 11.
Liberal Democrat councillor Ed Butcher, who represents Stroud Green mourned the loss of the “highlight” of the community’s calender.
He warned local businesses would suffer.
Former mayor Ken Livingstone said it was understandable that trade unions had withdrawn sponsorship if the festival no longer held its original meaning.
He said: “The cancellation of London’s anti-racist music festival is a blow to good community relations in the city. Rise was the biggest anti-racist festival in Europe and on that basis attracted significant sponsorship.
“It lost much of this when Boris Johnson dropped the central anti-racist message last year. It is no surprise that Boris Johnson is now cancelling the festival altogether.”