Safety in numbers for concerts

by Kate Smith

Plans are in place for this summer's musical treble.

With just six weeks to go until the start of a series of summer concerts at the Stadium of Light, plans are already firmly in place to help concert goers enjoy a safe visit to the city.

US rock giants Bon Jovi are the first of three spectacular concerts which will see more than 150,000 people flood into Sunderland. The band will wow the crowd at the Stadium of Light on Thursday 13 June, followed by global superstar Rihanna (June 20) and multi-artist pop extravaganza North East Live (June 22).

The group responsible for making sure the city can cope with so many extra visitors will follow a proven plan of action, built up with the experience of partnership working at the previous successful concerts at the Stadium of Light.

The ‘Sunderland Stadium of Light Special Event Safety Advisory Group’ includes representatives from the council, Sunderland AFC, Northumbria Police, Tyne and Wear Fire Rescue Service, NHS, North East Ambulance Service, University of Sunderland, British Transport Police and transport providers such as Nexus, Go Ahead, Stage Coach, taxi firms based in the city - and more.

Ken Scott, Sunderland City Council Development Manager and Chair of the Safety Advisory Group, is responsible for pulling together the expertise of the organisations which make up the group.

He said: “It’s a mammoth operation for everyone involved and the planning and preparation for welcoming thousands of visitors at a time begins months in advance.

“The work includes the planning for the arrival of the fans who come from all over the country, and some even from abroad, planning around the event itself, the agreement of safe capacity levels and technical elements of the show, and the safe departure of fans from the venue and surrounding areas.”

While Ken is well versed with dealing with crowds approaching 50,000 on a regular basis at Premier League football matches at the Stadium of Light, the concerts bring with them a series of additional challenges.  

He added: “Preparing the city to safely host so many people involves painstaking attention to detail. This includes things which might not normally be an issue.

“For concerts, we are dealing with a lot of people who are first time visitors to the Stadium of Light, so signage and stewarding are extremely important aspects of the operation to keep people safe.

“The key to running successful events is partnership working. No one organisation in the city could do it alone, several work together in partnership and each makes its own significant contribution to ensuring people can get around the city and to and from the stadium safely.

“Our job is to identify and minimise the risks as best we can, help people move around the city safely and efficiently, and make sure that the only thing they have to do is enjoy their visit to Sunderland.”

Sunderland AFC’s Commercial Director, Gary Hutchinson, who oversees the concerts on behalf of the club said: “This is the perfect example of how important the effective partnerships that we have developed over recent years are in ensuring that we can provide the best possible service for concert-goers.

“The City Council and the various transport groups have worked closely together with the club and that has been hugely beneficial to us when staging these major events. All parties involved in the delivery of the concerts have learned and improved in all aspects of how we operate since our first show in 2009 and I’m delighted that those key partnerships continue to flourish.”