Village Underground: creative access

In September 2011, Attitude is Everything were looking for a new venue to host a Club Attitude event. Club Attitude is our way to demonstrate to the music Industry how to put on a fully accessible gig, to showcase Deaf and disabled artists and to highlight venues and festivals with good access. Having used venues such as Cargo, Rich Mix and Islington Academy over the past few years, we were looking to branch out and highlight the access at a new venue.

Our search led us to Village Underground in Shoreditch, who stated in their hire information that they could provide level access and had an accessible toilet. On our first visit in September, we discovered that the main entrance had three steps leading from the interior box office down into the main venue, but there was an accessible entrance at the back of the venue through which they could allow disabled customers to enter. When we enquired as to why this couldn’t be the permanent entrance, we were told that they couldn’t leave that door open all night because of noise restrictions on Great Eastern Street.

However, the Venue Management were very keen on us hosting our Club Attitude night there and were committed to ensuring that the access on the night would be an example of Best Practice, so we worked with Village Underground over several months to get their access facilities up to the standards we expect. The Venue Management expressed an interest in signing up to the Charter of Best Practice, so it was decided that we would work towards signing up ready for the March 2012 Club Attitude event.

Management at Village Underground said they would apply to the Council to allow the back entrance to be used as the main entrance for the night, so that everyone could use the same step free entrance. Other issues that were identified on our first visit included improvements to their accessible toilet and the ramp that led from the main hall to the toilets.

The ramped stage at Village Undergound
The ramped stage being set up at Village Underground

By the time we next visited in late 2012 in order to confirm the booking of Club Attitude, Village Underground had added kickboards to their ramp, added colour contrasting and an emergency alarm to the accessible toilet, as well as moving the flush to the other side of the cistern, as per our advice. They had also added access information to their website, listed a specific access contact, and reviewed and updated their in-house access policies.   

Once the booking was confirmed we discussed further improvements to the access facilities at the venue for our Club Attitude night and so that we could put on a fully accessible club night.

The first topic of conversation was ramping the stage. At previous gigs where we have programmed wheelchair users to perform, we have had to pay up to £900 to hire in ramping that leads up to the stage. With Village Underground, as it’s an empty space that is built up for each event, we were able to turn the venue around, and build the stage opposite the accessible entrance where there was already a ramp leading from the main hall to the toilet and cloakroom area. This meant that we could provide ramped access to the stage without adding to the infrastructure.

On the night, which was headlined by Slow Club and featured Spaceships are Cool, Wilderflower and DJ sets from Ghostpoet, PigPen and Stella Mortos, we got Village Underground production staff to build the bar with a lowered counter. We also taped off a viewing area in front of the stage that would be reserved for Deaf and disabled attendees, which was also right in front of where the sign language interpreters would stand, signing all of the lyrics and banter from the artists.

Gideon marking out the Viewing Area
Gideon marking out the viewing area

We brought in extra seating, which was left in the viewing area and around the venue, especially in the cloakroom area which we wanted to use as a chill out area for anyone that wanted to get away from the crowds. We dimmed the lights enough to get the right atmosphere at a gig, but left it bright enough for people to see where they were going and to lip-read.

We also provided a short Disability Awareness Briefing for all staff working on the night, from Management, to Bar Staff and Security.

The night was a huge success, we sold out of tickets and all the bands, DJs and performers went down amazingly. Village Underground signed up to the Charter of Best Practice the same week and are now currently working towards the Silver level.

We have now planned a second Club Attitude at Village Underground featuring Wave Machines, Yunioshi and IYES. Read all about it here.

Slow Club performing on stage at our Village Underground Club Attitude