When you hear the word accessible, camping probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Music festivals can throw out so many additional barriers for disabled music fans; from camping out, storing medication, standing or sitting all day without a break, large crowds that appear much faster than they disappear and without a doubt the biggest barrier of all – MUD! Lots and lots of mud.
Volunteering with Attitude is Everything
I got involved with the charity Attitude is Everything as I searched for guidance on accessibility and wanted to educate myself on what was out there that I might benefit from as a disabled music fan. When I noticed that they were recruiting for access stewards at festivals this year I jumped at the chance. Volunteering as a steward is brilliant fun and I have found it to be so rewarding.
In my experience as a disabled music fan, stewards can make or break a gig or festival. I was keen to experience access from their perspective and hoped that with the right attitude I could be a small part of making a difference to the experience of other disabled music fans.
My first festival as an access steward was Glastonbury and it was wonderful. It was also my first time camping in the accessible campsite which allowed me to learn more about the creative initiatives in place to make the festival experience inclusive for all disabled music fans. At Glastonbury, I did two shifts stewarding the viewing platforms (one on the Acoustic stage and one on the Gully stage) and one shift on the gates of the accessible campsite (Spring Ground).
Accessible camping at Leeds Festival
This August bank holiday took me on my second access steward mission; this time to Leeds festival. With Glastonbury already under my belt, I felt even more prepared. There are so many things to think about when you go accessible camping and you learn more and more each time. For example, all tents are accessible because they don’t have steps. It’s a good start, but tents also tend to be incredibly low down, so this time we bought a taller tent to make it easier to get inside.
I also had to consider storing all of my medications and finding somewhere to prepare and administer it all. I was contacted by several different members of the access team before I arrived to ensure that they all understood what I required. They arranged for my medication to be stored in the wristband office, and allowed me a table to prepare and administer it. Charging ports were available on the campsite so that I could charge my feeding pump and power is also available in the accessible campsite for campers who require electricity direct to their tents or campervans.
There was also a spare gazebo for all the muddy wheelchairs to be stored, to give campers more space in their tents. There are accessible toilets and showers in the campsite at Leeds and Glastonbury and also provisions for adult and child changing. Festival minibuses and buggies are run regularly to assist festival goers who can’t walk long distances or who may struggle in the mud.
All the stages have at least one viewing platform (main stages have two!) with an excellent view for festival goers and their friends to watch the music.
The accessible campsite is open and stewarded all day meaning that you can come back for a rest whenever you need to. In case there’s anything here that might not cover your disability – there is an information tent, full of helpful volunteers who understand what it is like to be a disabled camper!
Disability awareness & training
I was so well looked after on and off my shifts. I was allowed to bring a PA along, who could come on the platforms with me both on and off shift, making it possible to enjoy myself and carry out all my volunteer duties.
Leeds was much more demanding than Glastonbury due to the audience that it attracts, which meant back to back casualties on my last shift. Fortunately, we managed to sort every problem we encountered and all our disabled customers and their friends and families were so wonderful and grateful, which made the experience so extra special for me.
Best weekend of my life
My favourite band were performing and luck had it that I was off shift all day. Leeds Festival was definitely one of the best weekends of my life. In addition to all the music that I saw during my three shifts on the Radio 1 dance stage viewing platforms, I saw a huge selection of my favourite bands and as well as a handful of new music in my free time off shift.
Fun & Rewarding Experience
I will definitely be volunteering with Attitude is Everything next year and would snatch up Leeds and Glastonbury in a heartbeat if the opportunity was offered. I can’t recommend it enough. Free ticket, free PA, free meals, free camping and an absolutely wonderful time! Next time you think about camping remember that it certainly can be accessible!
If you’re interested in finding out more about Attitude is Everything and volunteering with them you can click HERE for the details.