I’m a 37 year-old chap from the North-West, although I now live and work in my adopted city of Bristol. I’ve long been an avid fan of many different musics. Bands? Off the top of my head, a few recent names would include Toy, Warm Digits, Jon Hopkins, Mogwai, The Cave Singers, Eagleowl, Pictish Trail, King Creosote, the Martins Carthy & Simpson, Three Trapped Tigers, the Mountain Goats, Twelve, Oliver Wilde, the Barr Brothers, Joanna Gruesome, John Wizards, 65daysofstatic… it goes on.
Having been a regular-ish gig-goer through university, my legs stopped co-operating in my early 20s with the onset of Multiple Sclerosis and I promptly stopped going to shows. Several years later I was using a wheelchair part-time, and it was only at the instigation of my then girlfriend that I began going to gigs again.
It was at festivals where I first had trouble seeing bands, and instead spent my time sitting surrounded by crowds - staring at bums in jeans and hearing bass-heavy, muted audio. However, the following year I was lucky enough to get a free backstage pass for Glastonbury from a friend and it was here that I saw Viewing Platforms (VPs) for the first time and met people working for Attitude is Everything.
The VPs transformed my festival experience. As did the locked accessible toilets by the platforms. At other festivals, the toilets were unguarded, which inevitably meant drunken men had been in and urinated all over the seat.
Attitude showed me how things could be done, and so I got in touch as soon as I got back and began Mystery Shopping for them. Working with Attitude has given me more confidence to approach venue and festival organisers to suggest ways that access might be improved. At End of the Road last year, they installed a VP in a tent after several years of my asking. Similarly, after suggesting to the Green Man festival for a couple of years that they should work with Attitude, I was very glad to see that they have started doing so.
In terms of places who have got it right, I would include the O2 Academy in Bristol. It’s accessible, they provide a +1 with no problems, they have a raised bar area that also functions as a great viewing area - and a bouncer will walk you through from the door to the viewing area and politely move other punters out of the way. And also Glastonbury, bless them. Geographically & terrain-wise, it is the most inaccessible festival ever (size, mud), but they have gone so far out of their way to provide for disabled people it is incredibly uplifting. A separate, secured field with lots of facilities & disabled loos and showers; a shuttle bus from parking to camping; a shuttle bus to access further-away parts of the site, and VPs at so many stages. With locked toilets!
Attitude are doing great work by working with the live music industry - the supportively critical friend is far more likely to be listened to, and it would seem that they are. As well as strengthening the voice of disabled gig-goers like myself, they are continually striving to improve access (and attitude!) throughout the live music world, and are successful with a number of events.