How Sanctuary owner beat the doubters

Love it or loathe it, there's no denying the significant impact made by The Sanctuary.

The venue due to close this summer to make way for Wimbledon FC's new stadium at Denbigh North, was the first all-night music arena to open in the country.

During its 12 years it has played host to massive 5,000 capacity hardcore raves, as well as drum and bass, house, garage and urban events – spanning almost every type of dance music.

And DJs including Goldie, Grooverider, Paul Oakenfold, Tim Westwood and Judge Jules have all pumped tunes through the venue's massive 60,000 watt sound system.

A total of 750,000 youngsters also passed through its doors.

Tony Rosenberg 'accidentally' took over the venue in 1993 and has run it ever since.

Tony originally owned a snooker hall in a small village in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire.

And after being approached by local band EMF to hold a charity gig, the venue then started putting on regular nights in a function room.

Then he moved to Milton Keynes, where he experienced a massive culture shock.

"The Sanctuary was really quite a change," said Tony. "Initially I thought it would be a great venue to put bands on, but this dance music thing was just starting, which I didn't realise had the problems and implications that it did.

"It was a very quick schooling and learning curve in dealing with councils, police and the press...

"It was new ground for everyone. People did not

understand what was going on here, so they perceived it as a den of iniquity awash with drugs which it wasn't.

"They didn't understand the lengths we went to stop the drugs problem but at the same time to protect the safety of our customers."

Tony says that he found that each organisation he dealt with in the early days were split between those who supported him and those who wanted the venue shut down.

However, he found support in the present environmental health chief Phil Winsor, who he said 'invested a lot of time and energy' working with the venue.

"He believed that if it was not being done here, it would be done in a warehouse, where the smoke

machine is a pile of burning pallets in the middle of the building," he said.

Despite the controversy, Milton Keynes Council

renewed The Sanctuary's all-night licence.

"They recognised that we were responsible people and we tried to get everything as right as we could. We didn't always succeed but that was not down to us not bothering and they understood that."

Tony says that measures he fought for such as an outdoor chill-out area for clubbers have since become the norm for other venues.