Festivals - Access All Areas

Access All Areas Should Mean Access All Areas, so Why do Some Issues Remain?

Well, as an avid music and festival fan, this year saw the return of the infamous Glastonbury Festival. Utterly fearless and amazing quite frankly. However, there was a story that I saw in a paper which had me asking the question; how accessible is it to everyone?

Festivals and accessibility

And by that I mean, just how accessible is it to anyone who’s got to use a wheelchair?

In a story, I read a while back there was a woman who is a wheelchair user and she went to the Wireless Festival. Unfortunately due to the lack of accessibility for people with her disability she was left feeling ‘like a second-class citizen’. Here is why;

– No proper designation area for physically disabled people near the stage so she was left with an obscure view of the main stage

–  Lack of clear pathways specifically for wheelchairs 

– Wheelchair ramp with no grip leaving her to struggle to get her wheelchair up it

– Little to no support from staff and volunteers working at the site. According to the statement, she was left alone on a platform that had a tree in the way 

Festivals - Glastonbury

Now although I myself am not a wheelchair user I actually found this to be a deeply disappointing situation. If you were to go back 20-odd years ago it could be argued that the festival wasn’t wheelchair accessible, but we’re in the 21st Century, the year 2022, and this is practically unacceptable.

Quite often in these situations one of the solutions is to be able to adapt the environment to enable the individual with either impairment or disability to be able to have total access to any of the facilities that they’d require.

Let me give you another example. 11 years ago in 2011 a revolutionary nightclub was being opened up in the UK, it’d already been tried and tested with success in the Netherlands, Finland, South Africa and Australia. It was a sensory disco for the deaf 

Now how this worked was that the music was turned up very loud so that the treble, bass and beats could be felt. Various smelling scents were released into the air depending on the type of music 

E.g intimate/Sensual track – chocolate smell 

This also included dancers who could do sign language to translate the lyrics 

I was genuinely impressed when I heard about this as there were a couple of people who I know who had hearing issues that I knew would enjoy this if they went to one 

Some years ago, even in the news, they had sign language interpreters at live festivals. Their sole purpose was to do sign language for the singers and bands where festival goers who were deaf or hard of hearing could go and enjoy the experience.

Now here’s my point, if we’re capable of creating adaptations for the deaf then why can’t we do the same for wheelchair users? 

From what I’ve seen so far according to a 2019 survey there are a handful of festivals that have disability access such as Radio 1 Big Weekend and Glastonbury, so why aren’t we doing this for all festivals out there?

Whenever you go onto websites that advertise and provide potential attendees with information about either the venue or the event they give information in regards to wheelchair access and hearing impediments. Hey, they even go as far as providing support to those with site problems.

This said though, there are numerous festivals all over the country that will go out of their way to ensure that everyone who goes, regardless of their Disability, can at least enjoy a decent festival experience.

Having said that let me give you an example of the lack of accommodation requirements. A couple of years ago I attended a charity music festival which was held in a region next door to mine, I’d make a habit of attending every year without fail and it’s something I looked forward to each year.

Also, it got me off work for the day which was a plus. However, what I did notice was the lack of accessibility there was for disabled people. Now I admit that there were two of these festivals taking place, one in the Midlands and the other a bit further south, and for all, I know there may well have been disability access at the latter one.

It’s only now that I look back on it and ask myself, what if there was someone who we knew that was a wheelchair user who wanted to access the one in the Midlands? How were they going to enjoy the experience? No easy access ramps, no means of being able to enjoy watching the bands perform on stage. More importantly, no toilet access.

Looking back now I realise that I realise that even though the event was for a good cause was that it could’ve gone a bit further to make it more accessible to those with mobility issues.

With all the requirements that we’re capable of doing for the Disabled, and no matter the size of the festival, why isn’t everyone getting in on the act?