Next U2 gig in doubt after Croke Park protests28/07/2009 - 13:16:51
The next date of U2’s mammoth worldwide tour was in doubt today after protesters held up the removal of its custom-built stage from Croke Park.
Scores of residents mounted a picket outside the Drumcondra stadium, where the band last night finished three homecoming gigs in front of 240,000 fans.
Dozens of trucks were blocked when they arrived in the early hours to a remove the sound system and 56 tonnes of video equipment for the group’s next two dates in Gothenburg, Sweden.
U2 bosses fear the specialist equipment for the 360 stage will not be set up in the city’s Ullevi Stadium in time for next two legs of the world tour on Friday and Saturday.
Disheartened tour director Craig Evans stood on the sidelines as he watched the vital audio and visual equipment – which should have already been shipped out - being packed into scores of HGVs after a deal was brokered to suspend the protest, allowing 54 trucks in.
“It will be tight,” he said.
It takes a week to construct the 360-degree custom-built stage, which features a claw-shaped centrepiece.
While the band has three specially designed claws which travel ahead of the tour, it has just one sound and screen system.
Homeowners had demonstrated against Dublin City Council’s decision to give the GAA and promoters MCD permission to work through the night to dismantle and remove the stage after they had already suffered three nights of loud music.
Protesters will hold a meeting with officials later today.
Tour manager Jake Berry said everything was scheduled in order to make the next show.
He admitted the hold-up would affect that schedule.
“It affects it. We should all be not talking to you and be on a boat,” he told RTÉ radio.
“It affects the tour schedule, read it whatever way you want.”
Resident Barbara Ward said the protest by about 80 people was not about U2, but against council planners who permitted 44 hours of continuous works from midnight last night.
“The stage was to come down overnight and 94 trucks were to go in and out, one every three and a half minutes, right through narrow roads and both sides of the stadium,” said Mrs Ward, of Croke Park Area Residents’ Alliance.
“People would have been awake all night. We decided to stand up and protest and the drivers never tried to pass us.
“One driver said he knew what we have had to put up with during the last week. He sympathised with us.”
The 48-year-old mother of four, who lives opposite the Hogan Stand in Fitzroy Avenue, maintained that residents had given stadium managers at least one week’s notice about the protest.
“This is not something we sprung on them last night,” she added.
“I honestly don’t believe they thought people would come out all night and do it.
“But why should we suffer because their schedule is too tight?”
However U2’s entourage claimed they knew nothing about the planned picket and were working to agreements set out in its entertainment licence.
Mr Berry said workers were stopped in mid-stream totally unannounced.
“We have no beef here. We’re happy to be here, we had three fantastic shows. The band had the best concerts of their life,” he added.
“It’s just really put a damp squib on something which was a fantastic experience and a fantastic show.”
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