At tonight’s Surrey Heath Executive, there was a item titled, “Camberley International Festival”. Flicking through the report, this was the latest attempt by the Council to try and use London Road Recreation Ground for town centre activities following a previously predicted debacle of a proposed festive ice rink. This had quickly collapsed when it became apparent that there were significant licensing issues and a large amount of local opposition.
To start with a positive, the “International Festival” is actually a clever marketing technique bringing together some already popular activities into a common theme such as the Rooftop Cinema. This will include poetry, live music and some headline acts over a 10 day period and different venues. This is a very good idea and one that should be supported.
However, the “finale” is planned to be a “Queen’s 90th birthday picnic event on the London Road Recreation Ground.” Initially, and as per the ice rink, this sounds a superficially good idea – combining a national event for our monarch with national picnic week. What could be more British than hundreds of couples and families sitting in the sunshine enjoying a shared meal perched onto blankets and nibbling from their plastic containers?
This romantic vision is rarely a reality. London Road Recreation Ground is pleasant enough but is urban and noisy and not a destination for a picnic as somewhere like Frimley Lodge or Lightwater Country Park would be. Would you want to sit in the middle of a football pitch for a family picnic?
More importantly, a large scale well organised picnic involves lots of carrying – a picnic basket, bags, picnic chairs and all the equipment. This means needing to have car parking very close by so carrying is at an minimum or a short level walk. It also needs toilets, consideration of the atmosphere (do you allow alcohol or not), some kind of wider draw/entertainment and obviously issues like rubbish collection to ensure the event goes well. This is understood by well known outdoor picnic venues that make a success of this.
So unless the event allows onsite parking (i.e. within the rec) or cuts a deal with the Arena so picnickers can use up their car park on a busy Saturday then I doubt this event will work. It was admitted tonight that there is absolutely no wet weather provision (understandably) and lugging large items some distance from a multi storey car park battling through large numbers of Saturday morning shoppers seems doubtful.
Bizarrely, the (male) Executive Member when questioned suggested tonight that people could drop off their wife (!) and items before going off to park but this seems unlikely and presents highway safety issues. This idea would have more chance of success on a smaller scale (for example the immediate neighbouring community to the park as a Neighbourhood Watch or Resident Association event)
This is being billed as the finale to an international festival and publicised throughout the whole of Surrey Heath. Nice idea but no.