Glastonbury – access inspiration for any festival

Posted on 25.02.2016

Glastonbury – access inspiration for any festival

Glastonbury, the UK’s largest and most famous festival, has been working with Attitude is Everything since 2005, and became the first UK camping festival to be awarded Gold on our Charter of Best Practice in 2014. In the Foreword to our State of Access Report 2016, the festival’s co-organiser Emily Eavis says:

Glastonbury has always prided itself of being an event that is open and inclusive. In 2005 we realised that we needed help to improve our offering to Deaf and disabled customers to ensure that this was the case, so we reached out to Attitude is Everything for their advice and guidance.

For any festival, there can come a point when it is time to re-examine access provision, and seek support to get things right for customers. We know that being ‘open and inclusive’ is an aspiration shared many event organisers, which is why we want to highlight the ways in which Glastonbury serves as an example of best practice in this regard. The festival’s commitment to access has led to it providing countless examples of the ways in which basic access can be improved in a DIY and low-cost manner that could be applied to any event.

Underpinning all of the work that Glastonbury does to be as accessible as possible is a commitment to having a dedicated person to oversee things:

When we began working together, it quickly dawned on us that in order to achieve our goals, we needed to appoint someone to oversee - and champion - the accessible facilities at Glastonbury. As a result, we now have a wonderful Access Co-ordinator, Claire Elsam, who acts as a point of contact for customers, artists and crew who have access requirements, alongside overseeing the continual development of access facilities on site and the recruitment of our access stewards.

Across the festivals that we work with via the Charter, we see festivals achieving this in several different ways.  Some recruit dedicated Access Officers whilst others add access to the remit of an existing staff member or give responsibilities to production assistants who are overseen by senior members of staff. In the case of several grassroots festivals we work with, individual festival directors have chosen to take the lead on access alongside their other commitments.

On-site, Glasonbury’s dedicated accessible campsite for Deaf and disabled people is staffed by a team of volunteer access stewards who have received basic Disability Awareness Training.  This team offers information and wayfinding guidance, check wristbands, and provide assistance to customers pitching tents, as well as being a friendly and welcoming presence in the campsite. As Emily says:

We have learnt that having a well-trained and sympathetic team to address people’s concerns and questions gives disabled customers the reassurance they need before, during and after their visit to a festival as big and potentially overwhelming as Glastonbury, as well as ensuring that access at the festival functions correctly.

The campsite also offers a range of facilities that could be emulated at any festival.  Beyond the basics of accessible toilets and showers, the campsite provides power to charge power wheelchairs and scooters, as well as to tents and campervans for customers requiring overnight use of medical equipment.  All of our Charter camping festivals offer this service in some capacity. Customers have access to a fridge for medication storage and during the festival complementary therapies, which are offered at the opposite end of the site, are offered in a tent within the campsite in order to provide an alternative option for Deaf and Disabled customers to access these experience. Any festival should consider how to ensure that Deaf and disabled people have access to everything on offer.

Around the site, Glastonbury, as you might expect, has viewing platforms covering all major stages, all stewarded by members of the dedicated access team.  In recent years, the festival has added a set of viewing areas in spoken word tents. All of these facilities are accessed with pre-bookable viewing platform wristbands.

Also available throughout the site are a series of DIY lowered bars, providing all customers with the ability to easily order their own drinks. In the State of Access Report, we provide a case-study from 2000trees festival on how they implemented their own DIY lowered bars in a very similar fashion. Accessible toilets are not only present at multiple locations around the festival site but either protected by stewards at viewing platforms or locked using a simple system of Glastonbury’s own devising that customers are informed about.

It could be reasonably assumed that travelling around a site as big as Glastonbury might pose a significant barrier for many Deaf and Disabled attendees, but due to a combination of dedicated access routes behind stages, a partnership with a local community transport service that provides a volunteer-run shuttle service around the site, and a service that enables people to hire and collect scooters on site, these barriers are broken down.  Versions of all of the above services can be achievable for any scale of event.

In her Foreword, Emily makes the point that access is not just about on-site facilities:

Our work with Attitude is Everything has shown us that making the festival a place everyone can enjoy is not just about ensuring the site has accessible infrastructure that is fit for purpose. It is also vital that festival goers can easily access clear information about how to buy tickets, what facilities are available onsite and how they can arrange for the necessary support in order to be able to attend.

Glastonbury has a fantastic access information section, which provides information on everything from Personal Assistant tickets to exact distances between the accessible campsite and each performance area. As our Access Starts Online campaign shows, this is an achievable goal for any festival!