Friends of Brockwell Park (FoBP) has called for the Lambeth Country Show to be postponed until autumn to “allow the community to have input” to the decision to fence the event for the first time in its 40-year history.
The show is due to open its 44th year on Saturday 21 July, continuing on Sunday 21.
But it will be a different experience from the easy-going shows of the past, and there will be no funfair this year, although the children’s funfair and bouncy castles will be there.
After an assessment by the council, this year’s show will see major changes to layout and security, including a perimeter fence enclosing a bigger “footprint” than before, mandatory searches and a ban on bringing in alcohol.
FoBP said: “Queuing for hours to be submitted to an intimate body search and confiscation of all drinks is not most people’s idea of a wonderful Lambeth Country Show experience.”
The organisation said that “radical change to the very heart of this much-loved event” had been made without much explanation by Lambeth council, adding that a briefing meeting due on 21 June, summoned at late notice on 19 June, was cancelled a few hours before.
The council says the searches will take time and that visitors should be prepared to queue, allow extra time to get in, and avoid peak entry times of 3 to 5pm.
Last admission will be at 6.30pm. The show will operate from noon until 8pm on both days.
Also banned are flags, tents, stereo systems and audio recording equipment along with a range of items from “legal highs” to air horns, fireworks, drones and unsealed bottles of liquid.
Security staff will have discretion to refuse entry to anything they consider may be “a danger to the public or cause nuisance”.
Now one of the biggest free family festivals in the UK, the show entertained about 150,000 people over two days last year.
The council says that it has reconfigured a much larger show layout in the park for “a better visitor experience” this year, increasing the size of popular areas like the main arena and the new “Brockwell Farm”.
Other changes include a “demonstration village” with a “cooking theatre” offering tips from top chefs, including Tim Anderson, BBC One Masterchef winner and owner of Brixton’s Nanban restaurant.
Other demonstrations will include woodworking and blacksmithing. Vauxhall City Farm will have an expanded area. Vegetable and flower competitions, and craft and food stalls will still be there.
Cymande will headline the Saturday music show with the British-based funk music pioneers back after a 20-year gap.
Sunday will be Roots Day to the main stage with all-star UK reggae group Three The Hard Way, featuring Brinsley Forde MBE of Aswad, David Hinds of Grammy award-winning Steel Pulse and Dennis Bovell from Matumbi.
FoBP said that: “We are all aware of the need for heightened security, but the ways of achieving that must be transparent and open to democratic discussion.
“There has been no consultation with the local community on this hasty decision, neither with the Friends of Brockwell Park, founded 1985, nor with the park’s umbrella group, Brockwell Park Community Partners, although the council promised such consultation would happen.
“The point of submitting plans to local people and organisations in good time is that we might come up with a better solution for the park we love.”
FoBP said an additional reason for delay would be to allow time for the park to recover from the Field Day event.
It said last year’s country show had cost the council more than £350,000 and the cost of fencing could double this, adding: “This is a significant amount for council-tax-paying Lambeth residents to bear.”
Cllr Sonia Winifred, Lambeth council cabinet member for culture and equalities, said she was “delighted that we are still able to put this huge event on for free”.
A show map will be available on the Lambeth council website nearer the time and free A-Z Show Guide app will be available on the App Store and from Google Play. Print copies of the show guide and map will cost £1.