The Danson Festival


This was a constructive and beneficial funtime occasion for all age groups and a fantastic family weekend! It had been running for years and was thoroughly enjoyed by thousands of people from all over. However, in 2014 the plug was pulled and it was scuppered by our local authority. So what went wrong?


  • Promoting sport and live music
  • Promoting charities and good causes
  • Airing and showcasing local talent
  • Giving people an opportunity to perform
  • Introducing people to other activities and pastimes
  • Raising awareness and bringing people together
  • Fundraising for local charities and good causes
  • Giving people a funtastic time
More photos from the Danson Festival...

What Happened?

The Danson Festival was a wonderful family event providing an opportunity for thousands to have a great weekend and a chance to get the kids out in the open and away from their TV's and playstations. It put people in touch, gave charities an opportunity to raise awareness and promote good causes. It provided a platform to introduce young people to arts and sports and it gave young musicians an opportunity to perform in public. Nobody wanted to see this festival scrapped. Except our local authority that is! In 2014 Bexley Council decided to cancel the festival due, they said, to the amount of rain we had had at the end of 2013 and its effect on the ground.

Because there was some doubt amongst members of the public about the validity of this opinion and the necessity of the festival being cancelled, we made a point of visiting the park at the beginning of March 2014. Upon inspection the bulk of the ground was fine. As is often the case the ground was a little spongy down by the lakeside, but during the festival this is normally covered with a walkway and it was certainly appeared no worse than the previous year. Despite the wet winter we had just had and further into the main park the ground was as dry and firm as ever. In fact the little stream that runs through the park was practically dry in places showing water levels were down again. Anyway, the people gave it the benefit of the doubt and that was 2014, but what about 2015 and 2016? Why is there still no festival? We certainly cannot blame the weather this time. So we started to make some inquiries with the local authority to see what could be done to get the festival back on track.


Information from Bexley Council's Website Regarding the Cancellation of 2014 Danson Festival

Poor ground conditions lead to cancellation of 2014 Danson Festival

2 April 2014: Council Cabinet Member Cllr Don Massey has reluctantly decided to cancel this year's Danson Festival, due to poor ground conditions caused by exceptionally bad weather over the winter.

The Festival has been a regular feature of the calendar over recent years, attracting around 60,000 visitors. Cory Riverside had already agreed to sponsor this year's event, but Cllr Massey felt forced to act, as parts of the Festival site remain saturated with rainwater.

Council officers have been regularly monitoring the ground conditions on the site over recent months.

Cllr Massey explained: "This is not a decision I have taken lightly and I know that many people will be disappointed. I decided I had to act now to protect the park and to avoid further work and expense for all those involved in the Festival.

"Our commercial and voluntary sector partners have been central to the success of the Festival over recent years. I did not want them to devote further resources to an event which had a large question mark hanging over it.

"This is one of the toughest decisions I have had to make, but I believe it is the right one."

Although the location and size of Danson Park lends itself to major events, the geology of the park is far from ideal. The subsoil is largely clay, which results in poor drainage, pooling of water on the surface and the washing away of the topsoil when there is heavy rain.

Councillors reached a decision on the long-term future of the Festival earlier this year when they approved the Council's Budget. The decision was that the Festival will only be held in future years if the full cost can be met through external sponsorship, not by Council Tax payers.

This requirement had been fully met by Cory Riverside for the 2014 event. The Council remains very grateful for Cory's generous offer of support.


Correspondence with Bexley Council regarding the Danson Festival

First Enquiry To Bexley Council

18/10/16

RE: DANSON FESTIVAL

Dear Ms Mitlin,

We are enquiring with regard to the Danson Festival and would like to ask as to why it is not now taking place. When it was cancelled in 2014, Councillor Massey cited the reason as the unusually wet winter, although by March of 2014 the ground had fully recovered and was much the same as ever. Many people therefore felt that the festival could have still gone ahead, although obviously it didn’t as a result of that decision. However, this is now the third year in row where we have had no Danson Festival, and as the weather cannot possibly be the reason, we would be grateful if you could provide us with an explanation as to what is going on and why the festival has not been taking place.

As you know, the Danson Festival is a fantastic social event and a wonderful occasion for all the family and people of all ages. It offers promotional opportunities for charities and good causes and showcases a wide variety of local talent, giving young people a chance to perform. It provides opportunity to attract people into sports, such as table tennis, and provides a wide variety of entertainment for all age groups. It has therefore been extremely popular over the years, attracting thousands of people from all over and is a very positive thing for the whole community. It is hard to see why it should not now be taking place. Many people are understandably unhappy and upset about the absence of this wonderful event and fantastic occasion and we would like to know what can be done to get the festival back on track. Thank you.

Yours sincerely,
David J. Tarrant


First Reply From Bexley Council

01/11/16

Dear Mr Tarrant

Thank you for your letter of 18th October regarding the Danson Festival

Unfortunately, due to poor ground conditions caused by exceptionally bad weather in previous years, Danson mid-park is no longer suitable for large scale events such as the Danson Festival. This is the result of cumulative heavy use for large events over a number of years, including the final year that the festival was held. Although the location and size of Danson Park lends itself to major events, the geology of the park is far from ideal. The subsoil is largely clay, which results in poor drainage, pooling of water on the surface and the washing away of the topsoil when there is heavy rain. Continued use of the park for such large scale events would, without substantial investment, result in serious damage to the park, which is the largest and most popular in the borough.

Therefore, the Danson Festival was unfortunately again not held in 2016. However, some external organisations have been hosting smaller scale events in other areas of the park, and we hope that these sort of events will continue which will mean that the park continues to be a gathering place for the community with an exciting cultural offer. I hope that this response helps to clarify the current position with the Festival.

Yours sincerely
Judith Mitlin
Head of Libraries, Heritage & Archives,
Head of Shared Library Service (Bexley & Bromley)


Second reply from Bexley Council

7th August 2017

Dear Mr Tarrant

Thank you for your letter of 6th July regarding the Danson Festival.

You have asked a number of questions regarding the ground conditions in Danson Park.

I am making enquiries from colleagues in order to be able to fully answer your queries and I hope to respond to you with a more detailed response by Monday 21st August.

Yours sincerely
Judith Mitlin
Head of Libraries, Heritage & Archives,
Head of Shared Library Service (Bexley & Bromley)


Third reply from Bexley Council

15th August 2017

Dear Mr Tarrant

Thank you for your letter regarding the Danson Festival and your specific enquiry regarding the assessment of the condition of the Park.

I can confirm that the Council’s position on the condition of the park is based on a survey that was commissioned by an independent structural engineering firm in 2013. I enclose a copy of the headline financial report that was linked to the survey work they undertook - which informed the Council’s decision.

You will note the report identifies the substantial costs associated with undertaking adequate repairs to bring the mid park back into use for large scale events, which led to the cancellation of the festival from 2014.

The Council remains committed to supporting outdoor programmes, events and activities in Bexley, but the scale of the investment required, as identified in the headline report, prevented the issues from being resolved, and led, ultimately, to the cancellation of the event.

Thank you for your interest - I hope the information is helpful.

Yours sincerely
Judith Mitlin
Head of Libraries, Heritage & Archives,


Third letter to Bexley Council