A summer tradition in London, Ontario…

Yes, Rock the Park will run for five days because the annual event was granted an extra day this year by City Council. The fifth day will be held during the afternoon of Sunday, July 16.

As part of the Special Events Policy and Procedures Manual, Harris Park is allowed to have a maximum of 12 days of amplified concerts each year. Events in the park are usually allowed to have a maximum of four days in a row.

City staff and councilors were happy to see the extra day.

“It’s an interesting addition and it’s nice to see the festival grow, certainly, so we’re going to see how that goes,” Cory Crossman, the Music Industry Development Officer, said.

Rock the park London Ontario
There was no shortage of audience enthusiasm at Rock the Park 2016! Photo via Facebook / RockTheParkLDN

Ward 2 Councillor Bill Armstrong acknowledged Londoners support the fundraising concert. “It shows we are a caring community.”

Ward 3 Councillor Mo Salih called the additional day a “win-win all around.” He said the extra day will donate more money to charities, and bring attention to London’s entertainment scene.

Salih also said job opportunities pop up in both the hospitality and entertainment sectors.

“People ask us to address issues around the economy,” Salih said, “things like Rock the Park are creating jobs and people find benefits from the financial impacts that come with it.”

However, a Blackfriars resident is not looking forward to the festival’s extension.

Sleepless nights?

Shirley Clement and her husband live nearby the Thames River, opposite to Harris Park. She said the concert’s volume can be so loud, their windows shake.

Clement wishes she and her husband didn’t have to leave town every year during the festival. She added that some people in the Blackfriars community enjoy the music, while others do not. However, some people who’d like to go on vacation during that time are unable to afford it.

The Blackfriars area of London, Ontario.
Blackfriars, a part of London where residents hear music from Rock the Park across the Thames River. Photo by Emily Stewart

She added while Rock the Park ends as scheduled, holding the final show in the afternoon will not make a difference for her.

“We’re not kept awake by it, but we can’t sit out at our screened-in veranda or work in the garden or anything like that during the whole course of the event.”

Hearing loss concerns…

Clement is also concerned about noise-induced hearing loss. According to the Canadian Hearing Society, noise-induced hearing loss occurs with repeated exposure to sound over 85 decibels “for an extended period of time.”

“We’re certainly prepared to put up with loud music as a cost of living in the downtown, which we enjoy, but we feel that they should adhere to the limits the city has set on them,” Clement said.

Armstrong wants to address the hearing loss concerns.

“Hearing loss is not a good thing and it doesn’t show up right away and can show many years down the road.”

Rock the Park London Onatrio
Bring your ear plugs people! Photo via Facebook / RockTheParkLDN

Armstrong suggested buffer zones, which would prevent hearing damage and eventual hearing loss. He also recommended concert goes make sure they are away from the speakers.

How do London’s noise bylaws affect Rock the Park?

Scott Stafford, the division manager of Parks and Community Sports, explained that as part of the Special Events Policies and Procedures manual, organizers must place a $500 performance bond before the event. If organizers follow the noise policy in the manual, the deposit is returned.

Stafford also said the volume must not be over 90 decibels beyond 30 meters from the stage.

“Once they go over the limit, they’re subject to the noise policy and subject to a bylaw infraction of the City of London Noise Policy,” Stafford said.

However, there are a few exceptions.

“If it’s the very end of the song or something in the middle of the song that peaks over the 90-decibel limit for one time during a crescendo then that’s allowed,” Stafford explained, “it’s monitored every half hour during the concert.”

Stafford also said that the wind can affect how far the sound travel. He said that some years, many South London neighbourhoods could hear Rock the Park’s music but North London neighbourhoods could not.

Rock the Park London Ontario
AWOLNATION in 2016. Photo via Facebook / RockTheParkLDN

The Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee discussed the possibility of harsher fines if festivals break London’s noise bylaw sound limit. However, they decided to discuss it at a later time.

Crossman said one of the problems London’s music festivals face is they are often grouped together.

“Not all of these festivals are the same type of festival,” he said, “we need to understand that we can’t lump everything into one category.”

Crossman also said that the measurements should be from the event’s property line. He said that some cities in Europe already have this in place.

“30 meters from the point of broadcast really doesn’t make sense. At that point, you have people talking. There are generators from the festival.”

The Community and Protective Services Committee unanimously passed a motion to change “noise” to “sound” where appropriate in London’s noise policy during a meeting about amplified sound on the patios. This change is interesting and we’ll see how it affects different festivals and sound concerns.

Meeting a balance

Salih understands Londoners are concerned over being kept awake. However, he noted Rock the Park is only for a few days of the year and ends as scheduled. “We have to think of the city as a whole and what we could do to benefit the entire community.”

Robin Armistead, the manager of culture, said the city aims to balance the needs of London’s music scene and those who want to sleep.

“I think that people are more tolerant if they know it’s not going to be happening every weekend,” she explained, “We want London to be a music city and this is part of it.”

Rock the Park runs from July 12 to July 16. Proceeds support Make-A-Wish Southwestern Ontario, Big Brothers Big Sisters of London and Area, the Brandon Prust Foundation, and Western Mustangs Football.

Find out more about Rock the Park here and stay up to date on City Hall matters with Emily’s continued coverage.

Feature photo via Facebook / RockTheParkLDN

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