BLOG: My 3-year-old Son’s First Time at Leeds

Posted on 09.09.2016

BLOG: My 3-year-old Son’s First Time at Leeds

Jamie enjoying The Courteeners

by Pete Johnson

Leeds Festival has always meant a lot to me. I’ve been there many times, and in fact I met my wife Vicci at the festival in 2003. We have two kids, Jake who's 10 and Jamie who is 3. This year was the first year we have been as a family. Jake has been to a few festivals with his mum, so is well versed, but Jamie is non-verbal, and has global development delay – it can be a struggle just taking him to the supermarket, so I was very concerned about how he would cope with the whole thing.  We packed for a week even though we only camped for one night – Jamie has a lot of complex needs so we packed as much as we could carry.

Having secured access passes and tickets we headed to the festival. Once there we made our way to the accessible campsite, which was only a short walk from the car – fantastic considering the amount of stuff we had to carry for Jamie. We were greeted by a team of volunteers who helped put both our tents up for us.  That was really appreciated and made our transition into the festival very easy. It was my first time in an accessible campsite and I was very impressed with it – the site itself was very well organised, with lots of space, charging points, and an information tent that had a kettle and volunteers on hand to help when needed. It was only a short walk to the arena. Once there you enter through the accessible/guest entrance which is less busy then the standard one.

The mud at Leeds Festival

It was the final day of the festival and it was muddy, really muddy. This made pushing Jamie’s disability pushchair pretty difficult at times – good old British weather for you! The festival itself has viewing platforms on most stages. We headed to one by the main stage – the view was excellent, and it has its own toilet facilities. The staff there were very friendly and I was impressed by the setup. Jamie loves music, and even though he is non-verbal he loves to clap and dance whenever he gets the chance.

Jamie loved watching Slaves, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Imagine Dragons, but fell asleep through Skindred, who ironically are one of his favourite bands! 

On the viewing platform at Leeds

I filmed him clapping to The Courteeners and posted the video to the Leeds Festival Facebook page. It seen by The LAD Bible who put it on their Facebook page and it went viral, getting over 1.2 million views in 24 hours. The clip was also shown by the BBC, ITV, The Yorkshire Evening Post and the Irish Independent. Even though Jamie can’t speak, his actions that day spoke volumes and reverberated around the world for all to see. Jamie spends a lot of time in and out of hospital and has had a lot to deal with, so it was lovely to share this moment of joy with everyone.

Viral Video: Jamie clapping along to The Courteeners

I’ve spoken to The Courteeners and their management who loved the video of Jamie and say it really touched them. They are sending him some merchandise in the post and we are going to meet them at their gig in Leeds in November. All this really means so much to our family, because Jamie really does love music and he comes alive when it comes on. He really expresses himself through music and it’s a joy to watch. I’m lucky ‘cause I see him do this every day, and no matter how bad a day he’s having he is always happy.

On a final note I would like to thank all the volunteers, staff and management who work tirelessly to provide access for disabled people at Leeds, and every festival for that matter. My family had the most amazing day and it was all down to you guys – so thank you!

Pete has created a YouTube channel to raise awareness about being non-verbal, check it out here.

Having fun at Leeds