Town hall lock-in sparks safety fears

Hawick and Denholm councillor Clair Ramage outside the town hall. Pic: Stuart Cobley
Hawick and Denholm councillor Clair Ramage outside the town hall. Pic: Stuart Cobley

A decision to lock Hawick Town Hall’s doors during a youth event last week could have had devastating consequences, a councillor has warned.

Last Friday, a youth group had booked the Cross Wynd venue for a gathering, but when the audience left at the end of the night, it emerged that the front doors had been locked, so youngsters were forced to turn about and leave by the back door instead.

Hawick and Denholm councillor Clair Ramage says that decision to lock the doors could have had serious safety consequences in the event of an unforeseen emergency and is demanding assurances that it doesn’t happen again.

She said: “I was appalled. It could have had devastating consequences. What would have happened if a fire had broken out?”

Ms Ramage said she also has wider concerns about the role of Live Borders, the cultural organisation overseeing last week’s youth event.

Live Borders is an integrated trust and was established in April last year to provide culture and leisure services on behalf of Scottish Borders Council.

Services it runs include arts centres and venues, museums and galleries, libraries and sport and leisure facilities.

Ms Ramage added: “I have been aware that over the last four months, since being elected, that there have been many complaints about this service. There have been many meetings trying to address the complaints, but on Friday I was appalled about a situation that arose with potential devastating consequences.

“A local youth group had booked Hawick Town Hall, and as the audience were leaving at the end of the evening, the front doors had been locked, forcing them to turn back and leave by the back door.

“There have been many other issues that have been raised in recent months, but it appears that they have not been addressed.

“I myself was locked in to the front section of the building with two community councillors at the common riding.

“The caretaker was aware that he had locked the doors but walked away.

“At the international Teries in Tartan weekend, our German and Spanish visitors paraded along the high street only to be told that the front door to the town hall was locked and that they had to enter through the back door.

“What image does that send out about our town?

“Talking to local people, many have grievances about Live Borders and these have to be sorted as it is creating potentially dangerous situations.”

Live Borders officials have pledged to fully investigate this latest town hall incident and to meet councillors to discuss issues of concern.

Live Borders facilities manager Ben Lamb said: “We are aware of the situation which occurred at Hawick Town Hall last week. The safety of our customers is of obviously of paramount importance.

“We are investigating with our partners at the hall what happened at the event to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

“We will soon be meeting with councillors and regular customers of the venue to discuss the operation of the town hall and clarify some of the issues that have occurred.

“It is important for Live Borders to ensure that the management of Hawick Town Hall delivers a venue the whole community can be proud of.”