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Split healed: Music festival organisers meet park group to allay fears

Organisers of the Split Festival, with members of Heritage Lottery Fund and Friends of Mowbray Park in Mowbray Park to discuss plans to proect the park during the Split Festival.

Organisers of the Split Festival, with members of Heritage Lottery Fund and Friends of Mowbray Park in Mowbray Park to discuss plans to proect the park during the Split Festival.

FESTIVAL organisers have met campaigners to heal the split over problems a music event could have on a city park.

The Friends of Mowbray Park were furious after they were not consulted on plans to host the Split Festival in its grounds in August.

Now they have met organisers to tour the park, alongside a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) boss, and been given reassurance steps will be taken to protect statues, flower beds and trees.

Both groups say they are disappointed they were not put in contact with each other sooner, while the friends are upset they came under fire for standing up for their park.

Elsie Ronald, secretary of the friends, said: “We asked for this meeting because we had no information at all from the council and its apparent the organising committee of Split didn’t know The Friends existed.

“We’ve put hours of work in for 15 years, donated plants, raised money and carry out work in the park.”

They added they had been assured it was a family festival and have been invited along to experience the event over the weekend of August 8 and 9.

Rob Deverson, one of Split’s directors, said he was told of The Friends during initial talks with Sunderland City Council, but had no way of making contact.

He added: “These discussions and meetings with the parks department will put measures in place so that it’s 100 per cent protected.

“It comes back to the fact it is a lovely park and it’s been unfortunate there has been this confusion.

“But the council has been supportive from the very start.”

He said rules will be in place to ensure no alcohol is sold to the underage and drinkers do not get out of hand, with the event to have a family ethos with a children’s activities area and food stalls.

Barry Hyde, another Split committee member and who be performing at the festival, said: “It think it’s been great to meet them and I appreciate their concerns, and I think they’re lovely.

“I feel a bit sorry that they have been criticised. It must be heartbreaking, because they have looked after it for the benefit of everyone.”

Ivor Crowther, head of the HLF in the region, added: “Because it’s a historic park, bringing in a large number of people in will be a concern, but I’m delighted with the council and the organisers and we are happy that all the measures will be put in place.

“We have got to remember the park is for all age groups and we think it’s great that we support an event which will bring in people to Sunderland and see Sunderland in a different light.”

Councillor John Kelly, the council’s cabinet member for public health, wellness and culture, said: “While we appreciate the great efforts from groups such as The Friends of Mowbray Park, it must be remembered that Mowbray Park is a public park, held in trust by the council for public enjoyment.

“While attending regular meetings, all parties would be made aware of any applications to hold an event such as the Split Festival.

“We have been very supportive of the organisers of the Split Festival, within the limitations of the licensing process.

“We advised the organisers that it would be wise to contact the Friends of Mowbray park, however it is not the council’s responsibility to ensure that they do so.”

 

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