Split: Organisers granted licence for music festival in Sunderland park

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ORGANISERS of Sunderland’s Split Festival are over the final hurdle after plans to hold the music event in Mowbray Park were given the official seal of approval.

The festival, on August 9 and 10, has now been granted a premises licence by a city council committee, allowing it to be held away from Ashbrooke Sports Ground for the first time.

The festival, headlined by Dizzee Rascal and Maximo Park, will go ahead as planned, but a condition was imposed that children under 11 must have their own wristbands to control numbers, which must not exceed 4,000.

Organisers will also have to fully complete a risk assessment and pass it to the authorities as soon as the line-up is finalised.

Plans hit a snag recently when the Friends of Mowbray Park raised concerns over the potential for damage, but after a meeting with the organising committee, headed by Rob Devison, their fears were allayed.

“I’m absolutely delighted,” said festival co-founder and Futureheads lead singer Barry Hyde, who will be performing a solo set.

“It has felt like a long time since we announced it was going to be in Mowbray Park, and there has been numerous times we thought the festival was over. So we are very, very pleased with the way that it’s gone. We can now look forward to the event.

“The park is a very special place to the people for Sunderland and the last thing we are going to do is ruin the place. We hope this one-off event will add to the fondness that people have for the park. Sunderland is well overdue some positive attention.”

Northumbria Police had objected to the licence amid fears of potential crime and disorder and the need to protect children.

Sunderland chief Inspector Sean McKenna said that while police support the festival itself, Mowbray Park was an unsuitable venue and could become the “focus of unwanted and unwarranted attention” from criminals and those unable to afford tickets. This, along with festival-goers drinking for many hours, would cause problems for the police and people living nearby, he said. “We are left with an overwhelming feeling that the venue is not suitable to be licensed for this kind of event,” Chief Inspector McKenna added. “There are far more appropriate venues within the city centre, because we understand the attraction of it being in the city centre.”

The licensing sub-committee, chaired by Coun Doris MacKnight, said in its ruling: “We believe that the event organisers have taken all steps to minimise any potential risks. There is a history of this event having been run successfully at Ashbrooke.”

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service withdrew its objection prior to the hearing at Sunderland Civic Centre after giving advice to organisers.

•Day tickets for the festival are £30 and weekend tickets £50. For more information, go to www.splitfestival.com.