Opinion divided on entry fee after South Shields concerts prove a success

South Tyneside Summer Festival Sunday Concert featuring Billy Ocean, Gwen Dickey and Abi Garrido, in the Bents Park, playing to a packed 26,000 audience.
South Tyneside Summer Festival Sunday Concert featuring Billy Ocean, Gwen Dickey and Abi Garrido, in the Bents Park, playing to a packed 26,000 audience.

Calls to charge a nominal entry fee to watch South Tyneside Summer Festival concerts is not an option being considered by council bosses.

This year’s series of free concerts at South Shields’ Bents Park have been among the most successful ever.

South Tyneside Summer Festival Sunday Concert featuring Billy Ocean, Gwen Dickey and Abi Garrido, in the Bents Park, playing to a packed 26,000 audience.

South Tyneside Summer Festival Sunday Concert featuring Billy Ocean, Gwen Dickey and Abi Garrido, in the Bents Park, playing to a packed 26,000 audience.

It culminated in 19,000 attending the final extravaganza featuring local heroes Joe McElderry, Lola Sanders and Collabro last weekend.

But the biggest hit of the summer was when an estimated 26,000 people turned out to watch When the Going Gets Tough (The Tough Get Going) singing legend Billy Ocean.

With council coffers under considerable pressure from Government funding restraints, it has led to a call for an entry fee to be charged to recoup some of the costs of putting on the shows.

That’s the view of Coun Jeff Milburn, the leader of the opposition on the borough council and Conservative representative for Cleadon and East Boldon.

He said: “I think it would be only fair to charge a
nominal fee, even if it was just £1.

“I don’t believe anyone would feel that would be too much, considering the excellent entertainment that is provided.

“The visitors pay two or three pounds outside the venue just for an ice cream, so why not a pound to get in, if it would help fund the events?”

The only other borough opposition councillor, independent Lee Hughes, for Jarrow’s Bede ward, was less enthusiastic.

He said: “I think charging might impact on the charity fundraising inside the park, where there are bucket collections for the mayor’s charity.

“There’s also the difficulty of manning the collection on the door with so many people coming in.”

Coun Hughes, who runs the Red Hackle pub on Jarrow’s Scotch Estate, added: “I charge a cover fee on the door for a country and western night on a Monday at the Hackle, but that’s easy with one door.

“At the park it would be so much more difficult to enforce.”

A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: “The council runs the South Tyneside Festival programme as an investment to attract people to visit and support the local economy, increase the length of time they stay and the amount of money they spend in the area.

“We have tried paid events in the past but, following public feedback, decided to hold these concerts free of charge this year.

“Events like this are about so much more than making money.

“Having performances with big-name acts creates a real buzz and brings vibrancy to the area as well as boosting business, which is great news for the local economy.

“However, we will continue to review the festival programme and take into account public opinion in our future plans.”