Friday, June 14, 2024

Londonderry: Concern raised over tennis court music concert plans

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Concerns have been raised over plans to hold a three-day concert on tennis courts in St Columb’s Park in Londonderry.

Plans for the three-night licensed event in May are at an advanced stage.

The application for the event has been made by concert promoter Connected Music Festival after they were unsuccessful in securing an event at Ebrington Square.

The managing director of St Columb’s Park House, Sharon Doherty, said she did not believe the tennis courts were a safe concert venue.

Plans to sell alcohol in a designated alcohol-free zone is also of “great concern”, she told BBC Radio Foyle’s North West Today.

In a statement, the promoters have said they are working with Derry City and Strabane District Council (DCSDC) and the appropriate authorities, including the council’s Safety Advisory Group.

The organisers also said they are happy to work with St Columb’s Park House to alleviate any concerns they may have about the proposed event.

Tennis courts

Sharon Doherty says the tennis courts in the park are not a suitable location

“We have concerns around there being alcohol sold, particularly because the park is promoted as an alcohol-free zone,” Ms Doherty said.

She believes that there are also safety concerns because the tennis courts are right in the centre of the park.

“We have concerns around how the promoters will control young people coming in and more importantly leaving the park,” the managing director said.

“If they have had drink taken, my concern is everyone getting out of the park safely and no young person is left behind in this vast park.

“Particularly if they have been drinking and say sit down, fall asleep.”

On Wednesday a DCSDC committee said the concert plans will only be approved “ following meaningful engagement with stakeholders and tenants within the St Columb’s Park area including St Columb’s Park House”.

Council officials have said they have been told the tennis courts could safely accommodate up to 3,000 people for a music event, but the actual attendance is expected to be much less for the proposed event.

aerial map of st columb's park and surrounding areas in Derry areas

Ms Doherty has said great efforts have been made since 2017 to cut down on a lot of anti-social behaviour in the park.

“We have worked really hard in partnership with the council, the police and community safety wardens to re-imagine this park as a safe and shared space,” she said.

Ms Doherty said that she fears that such an event “would undo” a lot of the hard work that has been done in the past around this issue and still continues to this day.

She said the house will be hosting of a group of international visitors when the event takes place, adding that she believes it may affect their stay.

“We have a group, called Peace Players, of about 24 young people coming from Belgium who are planning to come and stay with us that weekend,” she said.

“I feel duty-bound to tell them about this event that is happening 200 yards away from the house.

“I don’t want them arriving and the music pumping for three nights of their stay.

“I feel I do need to ring and tell them what is happening, it is then up to them over what they do next and they may feel that it is not conducive to the work they are doing and may change their minds.”

St Columb's Park House

St Columb’s Park House hosts visiting groups from all over the world

Ms Doherty said she is concerned that if the concert goes ahead, it will mean “more promoters will see the tennis courts as a venue”.

“Our city is brilliant at putting on that sort of thing and I’m all for it, but I’m just not convinced the tennis courts are the right place for it. I just think it’s sending out the wrong message.”

In a statement, the police have said they are aware of proposed plans for this event.

“The priority for police when any public event is held, and which draws large numbers of people, is to keep everyone safe,” they said.

“To that end, we will continue to work with partners and other relevant stakeholders.”

DCSDC said the proposed concert would take place in “the confines of the tennis courts however parts of St Columb’s Park will be used for access to and from the event”.

It said it is “mindful” of the work “to deal with incidents of anti-social behaviour and alcohol use”.

The council added that it has “highlighted a number of issues and concerns raised with them by service users to the promoter”.

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