Special interview ahead of trio of summer concerts.
The man responsible for crowd safety at the forthcoming Stadium of Light concerts has outlined his hopes for a party atmosphere in Sunderland as up to 150,000 music lovers get set to arrive in the city next month.
The home of Sunderland AFC will welcome US rock legends, Bon Jovi on Thursday 13 June, followed by pop superstar Rihanna, on Thursday 20th June. This summer’s schedule of music will conclude on Saturday 22nd June with North East Live, a family-friendly pop extravaganza headlined by JLS and featuring The Wanted, Rita Ora, Little Mix, Lawson, Union J, Conor Maynard, James Arthur, Amelia Lily and The Vamps.
And Paul Weir, the club’s head of safety and security, in charge of more than 350 safety stewards on duty for each show, is encouraging visitors to enjoy the carefully-planned events responsibly,
“Each performance is going to be a big event and a big day out,” the former chief superintendent for Northumbria Police said. “But it will be a long day. There are events across the city, the stadium is likely to open around 5pm for Bon Jovi and Rihanna, and the main concert isn’t likely to finish until just before 11pm. For North East Live it will be even longer with the stadium opening around 1pm.
“That is a long time so I would encourage people to just take their time and drink responsibly. If you are going to drink, don’t have so much that you miss the main show. Enjoy it.”
Mr Weir is also responsible for safety operations throughout the Stadium of Light on match days and despite the obvious similarities in hosting passionate fans, he admits there are some major differences and challenges.
“To allow paying members of the public in to the stadium, you need a safety certificate which is the same as football,” he explains. “But offences under football legislation aren’t in force. You have a special safety certificate for these events.
“We are dealing with people who are allowed to drink, that are allowed to go on the pitch. It’s usually against ground regulations to persistently stand, yet the people who are performing are actively encouraging everyone to stand up and dance so I have to brief our stewards so that this time, if people are standing up and dancing, they shouldn’t persuade them to do otherwise.
“You’re not allowed to drink alcohol within view of the playing surface during football matches, which is why we have yellow lines around the stadium to say you can’t take it past that particular point. For the concerts, we’re actually dispensing alcohol on the pitch! There are lots of anomalies there.”
Transformation of the Stadium of Light complex will begin in the coming weeks, ahead of the first concert on Thursday 13th June, with a convoy of trucks rolling up to deliver various equipment and marquees , – many of which will hold dedicated food and drink bars. With such facilities set to be easily accessible, Weir is advising caution.
“You’re trying to encourage people to enjoy themselves but do it responsibly because there are a lot of pitfalls when people are drinking and standing for long periods of time,” he added. “Things can go wrong so we try and mitigate those risks. We’ve done all the risk assessments, we’ve looked at the structure, the access, the egress and the movement within and we think we’ve covered every contingency.
“We’re now looking forwarding to welcoming people here and we hope they enjoy the shows for all the right reasons.”
Limited tickets remain available via www.safcconcerts.com, where you will also find information about the concerts, events across the city and how to get here quickly and safely.
To interact with other concert-goers and to keep your finger on the pulse, visit www.facebook.com/stadiumoflight.