BLOG: Volunteering at Reading with Attitude is Everything
Posted on 19.01.2016
Before I became physically disabled, I spent pretty much all of my money as a teenager on going to gigs. Luckily, my health problems at the time didn’t prevent me from accessing those spaces. In fact, they were the few spaces I could exist in as another excitable fan, rather than an unwell and medicated teenager. I remember a particularly good February in 2008 where I went to five gigs in the space of a fortnight. I’ve lost track of how many bands I’ve seen, how many times I’ve been picked up out of mosh pits by people twice my size, and how many hours I’ve spent impatiently squashed at barriers.
But then I developed chronic pain problems, my anxiety disorder became utterly debilitating, and with aching muscles and bones I found it difficult at times to walk, never mind standing for six hours straight – the worry about what could happen made it next to impossible. So I stopped going, resigned myself to Spotify and tried to ignore the irritating feeling that I had taken all those years for granted.
But then a space opened up at Reading, and a fortnight before the festival my manager asked me if I’d consider going to help out with Attitude is Everything, the organisation I was working for part-time.
I was extremely hesitant. I’d only ever been to one small local festival, before my physical health went downhill, and I hadn’t been to a gig since I was 16.
But then I found out I could bring a friend as a personal assistant, at no cost. I found out there would be a disabled campsite and car park, right beside the arena, with accessible toilets and showers and a changing unit. Viewing platforms were a thing that existed, and I wouldn’t need to stand for hours to see a band. I’d do three shifts over the weekend, and the rest of the time was mine. So I agreed.
I wouldn’t have been able to get through the weekend without the help of my PA. Knowing that I would’ve been able to bring one as a volunteer even if I wasn’t on DLA or PIP was really important; applying and successfully being awarded disability related benefits is incredibly difficult, and Attitude is Everything recognise that this isn’t something all disabled people are able to do.
The first band I went to see at the festival was Bear’s Den, on my own. When they began to play, I surprised myself by bursting into tears. I hadn’t even had a drink. I’d forgotten how much I missed it. No, I wasn’t at the very front – a place I was always determined to be when I went to gigs as a teenager – but it didn’t stop it being pretty damn incredible. I had an amazing view, the platform had plenty of seats and space, and no one questioned my disabilities or my right to a space on the platform. The same thing happened three or four more times over the course of the weekend.
When you’ve resigned yourself to not being able to do something that so many other people take for granted, it is both incredibly overwhelming and emotional when you realise that yes, things are still difficult, but they’re changing. You too can buy an overpriced not-even-full pint of beer; you too can curse the inevitable festival rain. You’re not any less entitled to the wonder that is live music just because you happen to be disabled.
If you're interested in volunteering for Attitude is Everything you can find out more here.