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Forest National cracks down on unaccompanied children attending concerts

07:02 02/03/2023

The Forest National venue has issued a formal ban on unaccompanied children at its events, which is a problem affecting a number of concert venues in Belgium.

“Especially with artists who are popular with young people, it is increasingly a problem that eight-year-old children are dropped off at our concert hall alone, only to spend an entire day outside to be able to be at the front of the performance,” Coralie Berael of Forest National told Bruzz.

“Not only are they illegally absent from school, it is also just completely irresponsible for them to be there alone. The responsibility for the safety of children lies with the parents.”

But parents have often complained to venues about problems such as broken mobile phones or broken glasses, chastising the venue for not taking better care of their unaccompanied child.

“But what were they doing there unaccompanied in the first place?” Berael said. “These children often have no experience attending concerts whatsoever and especially do not belong in the centre of the venue.”

After consulting other arenas in European cities, Be-at (the former Sportpaleis Group) determined the trend is more widespread than Forest National.

Many young children under the age of 12 are regularly dropped off in front of concert halls to go and see a concert on their own, without their parents, including very early (in order to get a prime spot) on school days.

“This is something we have noticed, and it's not only in Belgium,” Berael said.

“We often consult other venues in Europe and indeed, since 2019, we see a trend where more and more young children are being dropped off at concert halls.

"I think it's a little bit due to the fact that we are a victim of our own success, because people feel safe at concerts.

"But dropping your child off in front of a concert hall that is about to welcome 20,000 people is not the same as dropping your child off at music class or football practice.”

Anyone with a valid ticket cannot be refused access to a concert hall - but parents are legally responsible for the safety and wellbeing of their children regardless.

Be-at is therefore introducing a "parental discharge" form for children between the ages of 12 and 16. Such a form is sent via mail along with the concert tickets and must be filled in and signed by the child’s parents.

When checking the age at the entrance, the form must be presented or the children will be turned away.

Children under 12 are banned from attending a concert at all unless accompanied by an adult.

“We could have an unmanageable technical problem that would require the evacuation of the hall,” Bereal said.

“There could also be other incidents. We don't want children to be pushed around or lost in a big crowd.”

Audience analysis is conducted before every concert, Bereal explained, which allows venues to assess the likelihood of minors attending.

When it’s determined that there’s a high chance of minors in attendance, reminders are sent regarding parental responsibility for children.

Written by Helen Lyons