It can only mean one thing… the summer music festival season is well and truly upon us. There are festivals up and down the country to suit all music tastes and budgets. It got me questioning just how appealing and accessible festivals are to disabled people?
I went to many of the UK’s major music festivals as a sighted person and stopped going once I acquired my sight loss. This was not entirely due to my sight loss, but it did raise some specific concerns. Last year I went to Latitude and Leeds festivals and this year I have two under my belt so I am well and truly back on the festival wagon! I reckon there are probably loads of other disabled music lovers out there who would love to do the festival thing, but also might have some concerns. I suggested BBC In Touch do a feature on music festivals and this week I made my broadcasting debut on Radio 4!
In making the feature it became apparent (unsurprisingly!) that how appealing a festival is often depends on how accessible it is. I spoke to a number of people who had been to music festivals and they had largely had a pretty positive time. I was inspired by a totally blind woman who was just back from her sixth Glastonbury and was raving (quite literally!) about all her experiences.
I am Attitude is Everything’s freelance disability equality trainer. Attitude is Everything is a charity which improves access to live music for disabled people. They work in collaboration with audiences, artists and the music industry. I regularly train festival organisers and stewards about how to make their event as accessible as possible to disabled people. I have found through doing this work that organisers are usually pretty keen to put things in place to make access as good as it can be.
For example, most of the big festivals have viewing platforms which provide a safe place for people with access requirements to enjoy the music from. These spaces are great for blind and partially sighted people who might feel a bit vulnerable in a large crowd or for people who can’t stand for long periods.
Many of the festivals offer what are known as PA passes. A PA pass is a pass you can apply for at the time of booking which enables you to bring someone with you for free. You need to disclose, and in some cases prove, you have a disability in order to qualify. This means that if you need to take someone along you don’t have to pay twice and you can feel more confident at the event.
The other brilliant thing about going to a festival as a disabled person is access to clean toilets that are stewarded! Believe me, a big bonus!
My advice to a disabled person thinking of going to a festival is to check out the festival website for access information. If there is no information then flag this up with them. The more people do this, the more we have a voice and the more access will be provided.
Attitude is Everything run a mystery shopping scheme and also look for disabled people to volunteer at festivals, so get in touch with them and express an interest. Much of their work is influenced by the experiences of disabled people going to gigs and festivals.
So, if you love live music what are you waiting for? Pack your wellies and head down to a field with a stage and join in the fun.