A disabled woman was left devastated after being forced to abandon her 50th birthday present trip to see pop group Bananarama on Wednesday (15 November), as the concert venue lacked adequate facilities for people in wheelchairs.

Heather Sturrock, from Billingham, said she left Newcastle City Hall after three songs because the busy crowd around her stood up to see the Robert De Niro's Waiting hitmakers, leaving her view totally restricted. Despite complaints – and the ticket being clearly marked 'disabled' – nothing could be done.

Officials from the music venue issued an apology and have pledged that upcoming refurbishments will help to fix the issue – but for Heather it was too little, too late.

"When the band came on, everyone stood up and all I could see was legs. I would have been just as well having a CD on," she told the Newcastle Chronicle.

"My husband spoke to the manager but he said there was nothing he could do.

"Two men in the row in front said if I could stand up they would help me, but I couldn't. I was so upset and crying that we left after three songs – I'm devastated.

"I don't want a refund, I'm just upset that we'll never get the performance back."

Heather's husband Paul, who bought the tickets as a gift, said: "My wife's special day was utterly and completely ruined, her face went from joy to upset in one second flat."

Officials have recognised that standards in this cases were not up to modern requirements, according to Philip Bernays, the chief executive of Newcastle Theatre Royal Trust.

He told the newspaper: "We are sorry that Heather and Paul had such a disappointing evening at City Hall and we have been in touch with them directly to discuss their experience.

"Although we ask that artists do not instruct the audience to get on their feet, once this happens we are left powerless to make an entire concert audience sit down again."

Bernays said that there is an "ongoing programme of works" and claimed the Trust had spent more than £1m on "essential repairs and improvements" to date.

He added: "In the meantime, we are constantly looking at ways to improve the experience of our audiences, and we will again review our access procedures to ensure we are giving the best service we can within the constraints of the building."