Promoter’s anger as police shut down Sunderland music venue – hours before sell-out event

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A PROMOTER has hit out after the Wearside venue he runs was hit with a closure notice.

Derek Milligan runs The Mess Room, in Pallion’s Woodbine Terrace, which has room for up to 200 people.

Derek Milligan.

Derek Milligan.

The site was due to host a sold-out rave on Saturday night, but had to be cancelled hours before punters were set to arrive after Mr Milligan recieved papers from Northumbria Police officers detailing their intention to close the venue for 24 hours under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act.

Police chiefs said they had “significant concerns regarding the potential for crime and disorder associated with this event”.

It meant that the over-18s-only rave – for which people had paid £10 for tickets – had to be cancelled.

The order, which ran from 11am on Saturday until 11am yesterday, said an application for a magistrates’ Closure Order, which can extend the time period, was due to be made at Sunderland Magistrates’ Court today.

But Mr Milligan said he is prepared to challenge that.

“This totally bewilders me and I’m at a loss as to why it’s happened,” said Mr Milligan, who used to run the Dexx Dockyard skate park at the building before funding issues meant he had to shut it down.

“A lot of people will be disappointed that the music scene they were trying to get into is being stifled.”

Mr Milligan says that he has taken care when organising previous events at the site to make sure that safety is paramount.

“The first time I put an application in to hold one of these events I was told that my plan wasn’t consistent enough,” he said.

“So I went away and got a professional promoter to put a plan together and that was then accepted.

“We held one on New Year’s Eve, which went well. There were drug searches, six door staff on and even a paramedic on site because I wanted to be ultra safe.

“I even leafleted the houses nearby to say if there’s a problem with music being too loud they should ring me personally, and no-one has.

“We’re a social enterprise, I’m not doing this for profit.

“I’ve lost £200,000 in the last 16 months because we get no support for things like this.

“I could go and get 1,000 signatures from people who want this type of thing to happen regularly in Sunderland.”

Sunderland Area Command chief superintendent Kay Blyth said: “As with any event, we must be satisfied that all necessary measures have been taken to ensure the public will be safe when attending.

“Following a previous event at the premises, there are significant concerns regarding the potential for crime and disorder associated with this event.

“We have issued a Closure Notice under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act for the event, and the correct procedure was to issue this on Saturday for 24 hours.

“However, we recognise the need to give notice to organisers and attendees of our plans to do this.

“More than a week ago we requested organisers close voluntarily, and then on Tuesday, January 27, we notified the organiser of our intention to issue a closure notice on Saturday.

“Our view is there has been ample time to inform attendees.

“While we always work closely with the organisers of events in advance, our priority is always public safety, and on this occasion there were concerns for the welfare of those attending.”