Monday, May 20, 2024

Objections raised over proposed music event at tennis courts in ‘alcohol-free’ NI park

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Derry City and Strabane District Council confirmed it has received a request from an event promoter to use the tennis courts in St Columb’s Park for a large-scale music event.

One of the events is billed as ‘The Big Saturday Night Out’, with 1970s, 1980s and 1990s tribute acts such as the Bjorn Identity and a Dolly Parton tribute set to perform.

The proposed dates are one concert per night on May 24, 25 and 26. The details of the line-up will be announced by the promoter if plans are approved.

Poster for the proposed show

It would take place within the confines of the tennis courts. However, parts of St Columb’s Park will be used for access to and from the event.

It’s understood the concert promoter, Connected Music Festival, was unsuccessful in securing an event at Ebrington Square, where The Executive Office (TEO) only permits five events per year because of tenant lease agreements.

However, tenants have not raised any issues with a larger numbers of events, according to TEO.

St Columb’s Park House said it has been working in partnership with Derry City and Strabane District Council, the PSNI and other key stakeholders across the city since 2017 to try to re-imagine St Columb’s Park House after a period of significant anti-social behaviour.

It provides a series of community-based peace-building projects across the Waterside area working inter-generationally, inter-faith and inter-ability.

Managing director Sharon Doherty said: “We wholeheartedly support any initiative that promotes our city and district, that generates activity and tourism opportunities, and have supported many initiatives in the park including the Carnival of Colours, the Race for Life event and the Halloween Spectacular.”

“The park is promoted as an alcohol-free zone and, as such, our concerns are that this could be enabling drinking in the park, having worked to combat that for the past seven years, and whether alcohol could be removed from anyone if it is then going to be sold at the show.”

Ms Doherty believes this could be sending out mixed messaging about drinking in the park being acceptable.

That could present “challenges of managing social drinking in the park after this event” and she questioned what safeguarding measures are in place to support young people who are drunk pre-, during and post-concert.

There are also concerns about crowd control and managing the wider grounds of the park to ensure that those without tickets don’t gather with their carry-outs.

St Columb’s Park House has a group of young people (16+), ‘Peace Players’ from Belgium, coming to the stay at the centre that weekend and feels that they should be made aware of the event, hoping it doesn’t impact their choice to stay there.

Ms Doherty concluded: “I should also say that the promoter has requested another meeting with ourselves to review their event plan and to once again hear our concerns.”

A spokesperson for the local authority said council officers are mindful of the needs of all the service users of the park and the multi-agency work that has taken place to deal with incidents of anti-social behaviour and alcohol use.

“Officers across a number of sections have met to explore the necessary arrangements to host the event safely and have highlighted a number of issues/concerns raised with them by service users to the promoter,” the council added.

“At Wednesday’s Environment and Regeneration Committee, members passed a proposal that the event will only be approved following meaningful engagement with stakeholders and tenants within the St Columb’s Park area, including St Columb’s Park House.”

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