INTERVIEW: Volunteer-run TwickFolk join Access Starts Online

Posted on 19.04.2016

INTERVIEW: Volunteer-run TwickFolk join Access Starts Online

TwickFolk is a volunteer-run organisation that has been putting on high quality folk music events at venues in South West London for over 30 years. They’ve just signed up to our Access Starts Online campaign, proving how straightforward it is to provide good quality access information, even for a grassroots group with limited resources. We caught up with John Hocking about the campaign and his reasons for signing up.

How did you find out about the campaign?

I found out about the Access Starts Online campaign through WeGotTickets' monthly email to venues at the start of March. TwickFolk have sold tickets through WeGotTickets for over 10 years.

Our access information on the website was non-existent. That's one of the things that make supporting this campaign a no-brainer.

What was your access information provision like before joining the campaign?

In the past, people have contacted us via the website or social media to ask about access provisions. Our access information on the website was non-existent, other than a map and a defunct link to Transport for London. That's one of the things that make supporting this campaign a no-brainer – it's so obvious that venues should provide this information, and yet we didn't think of it!

Why did you want to get involved?

We have a regular attendee who uses a wheelchair, and some new semi-regulars who are visually impaired, so this was an obvious campaign to support.

On a personal level, I was at a gig a few years ago where for some reason access was via the back of the building. After traversing a rough, badly lit path and a couple of gates, the audience then had to go up and back down some steep steps to enter the building. A bloke in his 40s arrived in a wheelchair, and having negotiated the outside of the building was faced with the steps. Whereupon, he threw himself over the steps and into the room! He said that this was what he was used to having to do in all sorts of situations. I was appalled and the memory of his sardonic smile as he lay on the floor stays with me. At the end of the evening, the front door was opened for him. This could have been done in the first place!

How easy was it to set up your access info to be in line with our guidance?

Creating our access page and document was easy – I followed the instructions on the Access Starts Online page.

Did you have to take any specific actions in order to gather all of the information you needed?

I downloaded the Venue Access Info Template (find it here) and just wrote a paragraph or two under each of the headings. Because we use multiple venues, I re-arranged the formatting slightly to make it as easy to read as possible. The generic sections (bookings, dogs, strobes, etc.) were moved to the beginning and then venue-specific information (travel, arrival, toilets etc.) were assembled under venue headings.

Once I'd assembled the text, I emailed it to the landlord of our primary venue The Cabbage Patch for comment, and he offered some corrections. I then emailed Gideon at Attitude is Everything, who suggested some improvements in content and language.

Having done all of this, I put the page up on our website. For both website and document I’ve kept things simple – using generic fonts and standard html mark-up, so that it is hopefully legible for text-to-speech applications.

The trickiest bit was assembling the public transport information – lots of digging around the Transport for London site gave me what I needed, although one has to search by transport method, rather than specify a location and get all of the transport options aggregated.

In a business where attendances at small venues are dwindling, no potential audience member should have a reason to decide not to attend.

Do you have any message for similar groups / grassroots venues?

My message to other groups is that this is worth doing. It made me think about how we look after people with disabilities at TwickFolk – both where we succeed and where we fail. In a business where attendances at small venues are dwindling, no potential audience member should have a reason to decide not to attend. It is our responsibility to audiences and performers to bring them together in a safe and respectful environment where the only concern is listening to the music.

Check out TwickFolk’s access information here.