Belfast Telegraph

So, how does the Ward Park ban sound to the good people of Bangor?

By Patrice Dougan

In the seaside town of Bangor the council has passed a policy banning extreme and controversial acts from performing in its outside concert venue, Ward Park.

The move follows rapper Eminem’s headlining gig at the park last year. The US star upset some locals with his profanity-strewn lyrics.

But the new policy has generated a bit of controversy itself, with younger people in the town claiming that the council is determined to spoil their fun.

Green Party MLA Steven Agnew has said the six-page council document will ban acts aimed at the under-25 age group in a bid to prevent anti-social behaviour.

This is something North Down Borough Council strongly denies.

The Belfast Telegraph took to the streets of the town yesterday and found both young and old in opposition to the council move.

Stuart Davison (below), who regularly visits Bangor from his home in Donaghadee for the music scene, said it would be difficult to “define under-25s’ music, because you can listen to anything”. “I can see where they’re coming from, but if they ban bands from coming here it will annoy people,” said the 18-year-old.

His friend Katherine McMorris (16) branded the policy “not really fair”. “I can understand why they would bring it in to a place like Ward Park because it’s outside and neighbours can hear it clearly, but they shouldn’t bring it into buildings and places like that.”

Bangor mother Claire Murphy (43) would prefer to “encourage more acts” to come to the town.

“Ward Park is a great venue, so the council should make as much use of it as they can,” she said.

“If not, bands will go elsewhere, and then Bangor will lose out.”

Walking along the promenade, Phyllis Davidson (66) admitted she was “very apprehensive” in the town centre on the day Eminem played at Ward Park because of the large crowd — many of them drinking.

However, she said young people “have to have their fun too”, and added that the concert “did go off without any major problems”.

John Johnston (69), who was walking his dog, said anti-social behaviour could happen “whether there’s a concert or not”.

“Obviously it needs to be policed, but if it’s not on more than once a year I don’t think it would do any harm,” he said.

“Bangor needs everything it can get from a commercial point of view, as far as I can see. I would have more of an objection to the nightclubs that go on every weekend than these concerts that are once a year.”

Khan Gordon (17) said he could see both sides of the argument.

“I know I really looked forward to seeing Eminem last year, I like him a lot,” he said. “But I can see why it wouldn’t appeal to some people.

“I would be pretty shocked if they banned acts for under-25s, and I think a lot of people would be annoyed, but they would get used to it and just go somewhere else instead.”

But Alliance councillor Michael Bower, who supports the policy, denied it is discriminatory.

He branded the row as “political opportunism” by people taking one line of the policy and “grossly misrepresenting” it.

“This issue of the age has been grossly misrepresented,” he said. “The issue of age is not the policy, it’s a comment in terms of background and discussion, it’s not part of the criteria. I was elected at 24, I’m now 25, so there’s no way I’d let any document that discriminated on grounds of age go through, nevermind that it wouldn’t meet Section 75 criteria.”

He said the age comment in the policy document was a reference to the fact that police and council officials had observed that acts such as Snow Patrol, which draw an older audience, had fewer instances of anti-social behaviour.

But Mr Bower said the policy — which sets out a requirement that artists should “be capable of being broadcast on mainstream media” — was to “protect against the most extreme acts”.

“It’s not intended to be incredibly restrictive, and certainly the vast majority of acts that are likely to perform at Ward Park would no doubt meet that criteria, because it’s generally mainstream acts that are going to attract that level of crowd,” he said.

“It’s to reflect the fact that it’s in a residential area.”

He said the new policy would not put an end to acts like Eminem playing at the venue.

“In my mind that certainly would not apply to Eminem,” he said. “There was a support act on the day who were particularly graphic, and in terms of offence caused, most of the complaints were about that group.”

The band — Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, from LA, have controversial lyrics featuring rape, swastikas and serial killers.

“It’s more that kind of thing — that really pushes the boundaries, that people in residential areas shouldn’t have to listen to — that we’re looking at,” he said.

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