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Are Independent Music Venues Shutting Out Disabled Gig-Goers

Recently I’ve been left feeling disappointed with the lack of accessibility at independent music venues around the UK.

Living in Central Scotland my first choice is Glasgow or Edinburgh for attending a gig, but I also enjoy a road trip to England if it means seeing a great gig if the Scottish venues don’t have access. Who doesn’t enjoy a road trip, right?

Taking away my independence

Independent Venue Week is the UK’s annual 7-day celebration of independent music & arts venues and the people that own, run and work in them.

It got me thinking about some of my experiences with independent music venues. My most recent experience was just last month when I couldn’t attend a gig at Broadcast in Glasgow due to a lack of wheelchair accessibility.

Broadcast said it would be fine for me to attend as the staff would take me down to the venue via the back stairs. My first thought was “WTF”. My wheelchair alone weighs over 21 stone. I couldn’t believe they were offering to carry me in my wheelchair down a flight of stairs and then carry me back up again at the end of the gig. I replied stating my disappointment at the lack of access and safety for their staff and customers, but they didn’t seem to bother as they’ve done it before at other shows they said.

Surely this isn’t allowed? What happens when they are carrying the wheelchair user down the stairs and they accidentally drop them? Is someone/venue held liable or is it at the wheelchair user’s own risk? Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not willing to put my safety in the hands of complete strangers when I don’t have to.

Accessible vs inaccessible

Independent Venue Week sounded interesting so I had a look on their website and noticed that there are 9 Scottish independent venues. The curiosity got the better of me and I ended up contacting them all to ask if they had wheelchair access. This is what I found out.

Krakatoa, Aberdeen – YES

The whole venue has recently been refurbished and has easy access to wheelchairs. There are no steps anywhere and there is a large disabled toilet. It might be difficult to manoeuvre through the crowd to reach the toilet during a gig, as the passage leading to the toilets exits from the dance floor. They also said “If the person is attending a gig and would like a decent view, then we can arrange to position them in front of the stage, off to the left-hand side. There’s a natural gap that forms there due to the way the room is laid out.”

Buskers, Dundee – NO

“Unfortunately not. Being a listed building, there is not much we can do but offer to help lift the person in the chair up the stairs into the venue. There are 2 more stairs from the main floor to the toilets which could be an issue once inside.”

Electric Circus, Edinburgh – YES

I was at this venue a few months ago to see the amazing Karima Francis. It does have wheelchair access and a portable ramp to get you up the two steps at the entrance. There is also a disabled toilet.

Review: Karima Francis at The Electric Circus Edinburgh

La Belle Angèle, Edinburgh – NO

There is no access to this venue. They explained to me that there are 6 steps up to the venue and then, when inside, 6 down from the top bar onto the main dance floor.

Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh – YES (fairly)

They are fairly accessible with just one small step in and then easy access to the stage area. A downside is their toilets are not widened. They offer a free pass for a carer/companion. I may be going to this venue during Independent Venue Week, so I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

Audio, Glasgow – YES

I didn’t have to contact this venue because they had disabled access info on their website. The venue is accessible with no stairs or restrictions for disabled customers. If you have a disability they can help make your visit more comfortable by reserving a seating place for you if you call to arrange it.

Broadcast, Glasgow – NO

As I explained above, this venue doesn’t have any wheelchair access as it’s down a set of stairs. If you’re a bit of a risk-taker and don’t mind the possibility of broken bones or broken wheelchair parts, then the staff can carry you down.

The Glad Café, Glasgow – YES

This venue has wheelchair access and an accessible toilet. Two thumbs up for The Glad Café.

The Hug & Pint, Glasgow – NO

No wheelchair access as the ground floor is accessed from the street via a stairway of 4 steps and the venue is in the basement, which is accessed via a wide metal staircase of approximately 20 steps. This venue also offered to carry me down the 20 odd steps. They did say there are possible future plans to make the venue completely wheelchair accessible, but it comes down to money, which they don’t have.

Have you had any issues with accessibility at independent music venues? Do you have a favourite venue you love to go to?

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Meet Emma

Hello I’m Emma. My mission is to show you the possibilities of accessible travel through my travel guides, tips and reviews. I also share personal stories, live event reviews and more.

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