Guide for "Disabled" festival goers:

Time to swap my shorts for ski pants, for Biffy to become less shirt-less and the butty vans to return back to their industrial estates.  Yes, it’s sadly that time of year. The British summer music festivals have all come to a close. As the abandoned blow up beds and tents finally lay to rest in landfill sights, i thought it was only fitting that I compile a guide for next years disabled festival goers.

Wheelchair-aerial view of The Killers at T – July 2013

Is the “Disabled Campsite” for you?
For first timers, it’s about making the decision on whether to use the “disabled” camping facilities or not. Festivals are pretty open as to what defines a “disability” and a large number of different people are now making use of the facilities on offer. I’ve met people with Chrone’s disease, autism, visual impairment, MS and bumped into the odd spinal cord injured friend. Large festivals, like Reading for instance, are now asking for proof of disability when you register for disabled camping. (They tend to ask you for a copy/scan of your DLA letter.)

Still not sure?  Liberty with autism says “it’s quieter than the other camps and there’s always staff to help.” Iain, who’s deaf, likes to use the “disabled access because it’s easier for all the deaf friends to stay close without having to stress too much as it can be hard to hear with all the crowd making noise!” He also mentioned that he loves the atmosphere of the disabled campsite and feels safer as there are less people which makes it easier when people aren’t necessarily deaf aware.

If you are opting to book and register for disabled camping:

  • Make use of the “2 for 1” carer tickets available.
  • Book and register for disabled camping tickets as soon as possible, so you’re not disappointed…
  • Put the “Disabled registration date” in your diary! Most festivals don’t open up their registration up until about 2/3 months before the festival, don’t buy your tickets and then forget to register!
  • It will give you and (usually one other person) access to Disabled viewing platforms.
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Reading festival: Accessible info and reviewed through my rolling eyes…

What sort of idiot flies from Vancouver on a Monday, arrives back in Chorley on Tuesday, attempts to “pack” on Wednesday but finds themselves falling asleep and not moving all day. Wakes up on Thursday, still feels like a zombie, says to their Mum, “I can’t go today…i’ll die…”, the “Way i tend to be” comes on the radio, “American idiot” plays on Kerrang! and within 3 hours is bombing it 230 miles down the M6 to Reading…?
The sort of idiot who’s looking like this on Friday:

Rocking out to Frank with Nic and kathleen…awesome
fans from Australia! (Hardcore dude didn’t want me to
miss out on any of the set and gave me  a piggy back the
full 45 minutes!


Here’s my review of Reading festival from my usual rolling perspective…as well as a few others thrown in!


Parking

Sarah celebrating self
 sufficiency!

Don’t turn up at 9:35pm with a “white parking” permit. For some reason, i wasn’t given a “Disabled parking” permit and found myself 4 miles away on the completely wrong end of Reading. We made it back, got wristbanded up and found the parking was brilliant. Just like T in the park, right next to the campsite so there wasn’t too much of a roll to our pitch site. Being stubborn, tired and independent young females, we were pretty triumphant in carrying all our kit from the car to the site in one run…

independent living! 

Disabled campsite

It’s pretty huge! Arriving pretty late, in the dark meant that i didn’t really get to have a snoop and meet the campsite stewards straight away, but we made friends with our near by campers who helped us out! (We’d had enough of independent living for one day!) I’d heard that there’d been a crazy amount of applicants who had applied for Disabled tickets.There must have been between 50-100 disabled campers…maybe more! Watch out for guy ropes, they can be deadly for you, your chair and the poor people who’s tent you might accidentally pull down! The info tent appeared to be manned 24 hours with enough extension sockets to power a small village (and everyones’s phones!) as well as powered wheelchairs/motorised scooters! Fires were also allowed, which is pretty cool and a few people made use of this novelty. Jet lagged Miss May can only be bothered to be as outdoorsey as her stamina will let her…so we decided to pop into Reading itself, every morning (early afternoon!)and indulge in a healthy, balanced pub breakfast. As a whole, just like at any other festival, the campsite was chilled, less noisy and everyone was open to making friends, chatting and having fun. Great atmosphere and the stewards were awesome to chat to! 

Tent town! 


General campsite facilities    

  • Porta-loo accessible toilets: The usual, it’s a festival, no flush. Get on with it! Just because you’ve got a disability doesn’t mean you don’t have to experience what everyone else does! I survived!
  • Porta-loo showers: Confession!!…I didn’t use them. They looked totally fine, but the weather had began to turn slightly autumnal, i have long, thick hair that takes about 4-6 hours to dry and i didn’t want to be shivering and getting ill. Other people seemed to be pretty satisfied with them!
  • Water! Outdoor 
  •  sinks were available, which were pretty darn handy!

Getting around


Reading’s pretty flat compared to Vancouver and Chorley so i found it totally fine! Again, i was extremely lucky with the dry weather! (Good choice, not to go to Leeds!) I discovered my freewheel had a loose screw and wouldn’t attach to my chair by the second day, so i just gave myself a good workout navigating myself around. A few people did tell me that compared to Download, the access around the arena is terrible, as there’s apparently a lot of track put down to make navigating on muddy grass a lot easier.

We won’t talk about/mention
how i got here..;)

I’m not sure if this is a reflection on my character, or attitude…but if someone in a wheelchair wanted to buy a beer from the bar, they’d have to roll on to this tiny piece of metal, then once they have their beer in hand…roll off again. It’s pretty impossible to not do this without spilling your drink. So you have to ask someone else to pass you your drink, 9 times out of 10 they ordered for me and paid…so i can’t really complain, can i? 

I also spent 2 nights alone as my buddy, Sarah had to go to work. I was totally fine! This either proves i’m hardcore, or that Reading is a pretty damn accessible festival!

Stages and Platforms


radio 1/nma stage platform entrance
Yes, I sulked at Green Day! I was told the viewing platform was full, so i headed to the front where some woman was “guarding” her 12 year old at the barrier. I nearly burst into tears and said “when i was 12, i wasn’t being “guarded” at Green Day Concerts, i was lying in bed listening to them!” She just gave me a guilty, apologetic look as the security carried me over the barrier and told me to go to the disabled viewing platform…I told them it was full, as i had tried to get on it before…they then asked, some how made room and I watched Green Day from there. Can all venues/festivals please, please, pleeeeeaaaaseee employ a rule that you are only allowed onto the disabled viewing platform if you are after having a good time and are not going to sit, miserable in silence? Green Day were fantastic and amazing and played literally all of my favourite songs. But I didn’t “feel” it. Live music is about more than just having a “good view”, it’s about being part of something bigger than selfish desires to see or be near people you admire that play instruments and sing songs. Green Day are my all time, favourite heroes. I’ve seen them twice live this summer and both times they have been incredible but i’ve not been able to “feel” it due to being at the back or up high on platforms that i’m sharing with people who are just sat listening. One day i will get to a venue that won’t have security turfing me out of the mosh pit and i’ll be able to really feel it! One day…
If you’re 12, wait your turn to go to Green Day concerts and festivals…i did!!

Other than that though…I made fair use of the platforms from time to time. I managed to get to the front of the festival republic stage to see Kate Nash and have the most random conversation with her! I rocked out to Frank in my usual way and sat at the back with disgust, watching eminem rhyme (So glad i’ve never wasted any money in investing in his music). I rocked out in the crowd a little to Biffy…:)A lot of people said the viewing platforms were too small and need to be made bigger. I can vouch for that!
Additional stuff!
Attitude is Everything  are a great organisation that i discovered that weekend! Their aim is to improve disabled and deaf people’s access to live music! If you’re anything like me and love attending live gigs then take a look at these guys and see how you can get involved!

The arena wasn’t very good at selling gluten free stuff…T in the park was awesome for that sort of stuff! (SO ha! South of England stereotyping the scottish…you are 12 times more unhealthy that the scottish!)
                                  
ATM’s were sort of accessible! I could actually reach them to type my pin in, but couldn’t really see the screen…

Great fun! Great festival! Great way to finish off my summer…watch out for a “top tips for disabled festival goers” with a few more hints, tips and experiences from other people with disabilities!

T in the park! Laura May’s rolling review and reflection…

 

 

My
Freewheel, music and the great outdoors are my 3 essential ingredients to a great summer…throw in some Scottish mayhem and you get yourself a great T in the park. My wheels blessed Balado airfield for the first time this year, on the festival’s 20th anniversary. Here is a little review of the weekend, giving hints and tips of festival life with a few extra wheels!

“Disabled” camping

Check out our porch!
If you’re someone with a physical disability who is put off camping at, (or even going to) festivals because you’re unsure whether the facilities will be suitable…don’t be! Whether you’re a newbie to the dreaded mythological “disabled” world or have had a condition your entire life and a little nervous to venture into sleeping in a tent for a few days for the love of music, be aware that most festivals have a lot of experience in this area and, every year listen and review themselves to see what they can do better to make things even better the following year. (Just like the festival as a whole…!)

It’s possible to pack a 3 friends, a wheelchair,
4 man tent and enough supplies for 4 days
of camping into a vauxhall corsa!

The members of staff working and volunteering on the campsite at T were fantastic and great fun to chat and spend time with! They also held the crucial traits of being open minded, thoughtful and one member of staff even held 14 years of experience under his belt, (Shout out to Ian, if you ever read this!) If you needed a hand with anything from arriving with no tent pegs and guy ropes (never borrow a tent off a family member!), to running and getting a towel out of your tent as you’re about to get into the shower, they helped out!

Pretty awesome shower!

Yes, you read that right, the Disabled campsite at T had showers! 2 accessible, warm/hot showers to be precise that in all honesty were nicer than some hotels and hostel facilities I have used.

General campsite tips/info:

  •  If you have “routines” do them! Don’t make your body suffer because you’re worried that other people will be annoyed for waiting, they won’t. And if you take a while, do what i do and get up earlier. I assure you, there is a reason why you have these facilities and they are there for your use, so use them!
  • Disabled Parking was right on the campsite, so it was quick and easy to go back and forth between the car to get extra supplies, when needed.
  • There will be a wide range of different people with different disabilities. I found it really cool and interesting, some amazing stories to be shared!
  • If you struggle with floor to chair/chair to floor transfers, take some strong, male,attractive friends…or, invest in a  good sturdy foldable outdoor chair that you can use as a step and leaver to transfer independently.
  • The Disabled campsite at T (and like most areas where “disabled” people commune, i know this descriptions sounds demeaning, but it’s the most accurate way of grouping such a large number of diverse people, if i referred to it as the “alternative” campsite, it’d sound like i was camping with Josh Widdecombe and Alt-J!) is  a very liberal, free, open community which is very nice to retreat to at the end of the day, if you get tired during or need to have a few hours to rest up.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask if you need anything! (Like Guy ropes…or tent pegs…!)
Getting around!
Kaleidoscope fields looking beautiful, the little hill was
pretty nice to wheel down too!

Weather/ground/freewheel!
To say we were luck with the weather is an insult to the term “understatement”, but we were lucky! The sun was beating down, the ground was rock hard and probably the best conditions a wheelchair user could ask for. However, there are ways to make getting round a lot easier and yet not feel “singled out” if you’re prepared to invest in a freewheel. I wrote about them a few months ago, so check them out!
How to adapt your wheels for the weather!
My freewheel allowed me to push around the entire site independently, yes my friends did push me occasionally but only because of the heat and fatigue. My lovely friend, Danielle, (who won’t mind me saying this!)doesn’t have a freewheel and had to be pushed around majority of the time. Which is totally fine, but sometimes and as most wheelchair users will agree, it’s nice to e abel to have the ability to do something yourself in case you get into a situation where you have to. I live for the outdoors anyway so pushing around a festival for four days is my idea of happiness. For those of you who are more accustomed to tarmac, just prepare yourself mentally and physically for some off-road pushing! (It’s totally worth it!)
If it had been raining and mud (like last years T) I would have struggled, but i’d have done it! Freehweels can withstand mud (to a certain extent), but so can mountain trikes…(see above link).

  • Nearer the time to your festival, figure out/estimate what the weather is probably going to be like to assess what equipment would be best to take with you.
Mild/constructive criticism
  • There were ATM’s in the arena, however none of them were accessible and i had to get my friend to get my cash. That’s totally fine, but having a chair level ATM would be great for next year!
  • (Someone else’s’ observation) Apparently all campsites had a first aid station, the disabled campsite however, didn’t. May also be a good idea to have one of those put in for next year!
Shuttle bus
T also put on a shuttle bus for disabled campers that went around the arena, with stops at the disabled campsite, King Tuts wah wah tent, Radio 1/nme stage, main stage (and another i can’t quite remember!) The buses were really reliable, (if not always in sync) and the drivers we extremely helpful!
 
Stages
All the stages had disabled viewing platforms or at least particular areas for people with wheelchairs to watch in a safe environment. Like most festivals, it run on a “wristband” system, which makes total sense but was a little awkward when there is three of you, as there was only two “platform” wristbands between the three of us. There were families who had booked way in advance who all had wristbands, so if the platform if your place to be and you know you definitely want to go, go ahead and book as soon as you can so you can have access to benefits similar to this. Luckily, i didn’t really spend to much time on the platforms…
At a lot of concerts and events, i get told off and i’m made to go and sit on the platform…luckily at T, the staff within and around the arena were extremely open and happy to let people like me do what we wanted! I enjoy being in the crowd and feeling as well as seeing the music and when it came to Sunday at 4pm…there was no way i’d be sat on that platform! My cousin and his friend promised to stay mildly sober until then so i could get a piggy back. Why? You ask. Two simple words…Frank Turner! Yes, my shorts fell down, and I have had acupuncture because it caused my tendinitis to flare up, but it was the happiest gig ever!  It was always was going to be my highlight, but what Mr T says about forgetting about your crap, leaving it at the gate and sharing space with a few thousand people who just want what you want! Forget about all our different lives, dreams and ideas and live in the moment, having fun! What can compete with the kindness/craziness of cousins offering their best friends to undergo excessive physical exercise to facilitate your frank needs, other fans pulling your shorts up, and complete strangers giving G (chief piggy back-er!)  a rest by giving you a piggy back? Not much really!
T in the Park was pretty damn well happy and fun! If you’re prepared to throw yourself in and enjoy a weekend of living life to the full, go for it…regardless of “ability”. We are all human, and at festivals i think the best of what makes us who we are comes out. Enjoy! 🙂