I’m originally from South East London and cut my music teeth listening to my dad’s vinyl collection which comprised mainly of 60’s and 70’s mod, rock, folk and progressive rock albums. The first cassette tape I bought for myself was Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite For Destruction when I was ten, and later on I became interested in Britpop, Grunge and Punk music - with a particular passion for Riot Grrrl. My other interests include contemporary art, history, music festivals and live comedy. I am currently studying for an Open University BA in Humanities.
Since my teenage years, I have suffered from bipolar conditions and other mental health issues. These problems have left me with many difficulties, including extreme panic attacks if I venture out without a Personal Assistant (PA) present, or am trapped in a large crowd. I also suffer from somatic symptoms and side effects from nerves and years of medication.
Sadly, I never experienced a live music gig until I was 24 (unless you count The Krankies and Grumbleweeds at Butlins). However, friends from a local day centre told me about some venues having concession tickets and disabled areas, which meant I could afford for my PA to come with me and be away from the crush of the crowds. My first gig was The Bravery - supported by Editors - at the London Astoria. Since then, I have never looked back.
I have encountered a few challenges at smaller venues, either being overcrowded or lacking adequate disabled/quiet areas. This has caused me to leave quite a few gigs early, and I’m wary booking tickets for these types of shows. I have also had issues with the actual booking process - there are still a few places in London where the access tickets telephone line seems to permanently ring without answer.
Because my disability is not immediately apparent, I have had quite a few problems with staff attitudes. At one central London venue, my PA and I were physically ejected from the viewing area, even though the words “disabled access” were clearly printed on our tickets. After rooting through my bag in tears I managed find my DLA letter. And even though the woman in question did apologise, I have not returned.
My favourite venue for live music is Brixton Academy. It was the place where I saw my heroes Courtney Love and Shirley Manson perform, and the venue has both a dedicated access booking telephone line and email address. The phone line is regularly manned by a venue administrator and emails tend to be answered in less than 24 hours. On top of that, the large disabled platform is situated to the left of the arena and has a great view of the main stage. I have always found the platform and security staff really friendly and helpful.
I was excited when I first heard about Attitude is Everything. I believe everyone should be allowed access to live entertainment, and it is reassuring to know that there is an organisation out there striving to promote disability access. I try to go to a live venue at least once a month, either for a gig or to see stand up, and although I don’t always make it to the end of the concert I can feel my confidence boosting and do not feel as left out and alienated as I once did. I’m sure this is the case for many people who have disabilities.