ABLE2UK Accessible concert at the O2 Academy Glasgow was my first gig of 2016 and what a gig it was. Kicking off 2016 with a big bang and setting a standard that I hope all music venues strive for in the near future.
It was a night full of amazing music from Prides, Kodaline and Hozier. Gail Porter hosted the event, which included filmed messages from big stars, such as Mark Wahlberg, Chris Martin, Frank Turner and Annie Mac. The films were played on a big screen throughout the night to entertain and help raise awareness of the barriers faced by disabled people.
The stars even got asked questions like “Do you have any disabilities”, “Do you know anyone with a disability” and “If you were disabled for 24 hours, what would concern you the most”. Some of the answers were surprising and some more comical.
Subtitles, hearing induction loop and an on-stage BSL signing interpreter were some of the main features available during the night. As well as a large viewing platform increasing the number of wheelchair spaces considerably from around 3 to 30, ramped access throughout the venue and an increase in accessible toilet provision (accessible portaloos).
It wasn’t just the inside of the venue that was made more accessible. Outside adjustments consisted of Blue Badge Parking, a temporary taxi rank, a pick up/drop off location and step free access to the building.
Scottish band, Prides were first on stage just a little after 7pm. The trio was missing their drummer, but they still put on an unbelievable show as they performed songs from their new album ‘The Way Back Up’. I’ve been a fan of Prides for a while now so it was great to finally see them live.
Next up was Kodaline who also didn’t disappoint. I had only ever heard a few of their songs before, but after seeing them perform I’m definitely a fan and the crowd were absolutely loving them too.
Hozier was the headliner of the night and the one I was looking forward to seeing the most. From the moment he got on stage he blew us away. He was incredible, faultless and his whole performance was on another level. Can’t wait to see him again.
Throughout the gig Gail Porter was encouraging the audience to tweet what they would do if they could do anything with #able2. It got me thinking about the things I’d want to be able to do and it wasn’t necessarily the obvious thing of being able to walk again that I thought of. It was the simple thing of being able to lift my arms and hug my Nephew. Something I’ve not been able to properly do.
The purpose of ABLE2UK’s Accessible concert was to raise awareness to the issues disabled music fans face and I have to say they done an incredible job of doing just that. It often feels like disabled people are an afterthought or even worse forgotten about, but not by the organiser Howard Thorpe and everyone that helped make this Accessible concert possible. They made us feel like we mattered by making us a priority from the very beginning even if it was for one night only.
Howard gave a powerful and moving speech, which provided encouragement that anything is possible whether you are disabled or not. Mark Wahlberg was even watching Howard’s speech on Facetime and cheering him on (see the guy on the right holding the phone in the photo below).
I do believe with people and organisations like ABLE2UK changes will happen and venues will start to make improvements no matter how small. They all have to start somewhere and hopefully the time is now.
We only had a slight issue at the gig and I don’t think it had anything to do with ABLE2UK or their customer service assistants. I believe it was the security staff for the O2 Academy and information not being properly passed on that I had a free PA ticket when I booked the tickets. This caused confusion and miscommunication between the security staff, which almost resulted in my boyfriend having to sit in a different area away from me because they said he didn’t have a ticket (even though I had an email confirmation stating otherwise).
Thankfully the issue was sorted after a discussion with them and we both got to sit beside each other on the accessible viewing platform that was perfectly situated close to the stage giving everyone on the platform a great unrestricted view. I found it quite ironic that at an accessible gig we would have issues with our PA’s being able to sit with us. Like I said though, it was a slight issue and it didn’t ruin our experience of the gig.
It was great that our friends and family had a seat beside us as well, allowing us to interact and speak more easily to each other. I always find it more comfortable when I’m on the same eye level as the people I’m with at a gig (it also doesn’t hurt my neck looking up so much haha).
It’s sad to think that the next time I go to the O2 Academy Glasgow it won’t be set up like it was for the ABLE2UK gig. There will only be a small section for wheelchairs at the back of the room. Packed in like sardines with a sea of people jamming me in so even if I wanted to go to the toilet or go to the bar I’d have to fight my way through everyone and equally create a scene on the way back as everyone moves out the way to give me enough space to get my chair through.
I really do think any gig I go to after this (not just at this venue) is going to be compared to ABLE2UK’s gig until the rest of the venues step up and take action to address the barriers disabled people face when attending music gigs. Especially when I read Nikki Fox from BBC report that “Fewer than half of the UK’s music venues are wheelchair accessible, and where there is access, fewer than one percent of tickets are for disabled customers on platforms.” Surely this needs to change to make it accessible for all.
There’s been talk of ABLE2UK making this an annual event so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for that as I found it to be a huge success.
If you were #able2 do anything, what would it be?