UK Based Travel & Disabled Blogger


Bristol Beacon | Disabled Access & Wheelchair Accessibility Review

I’ve been a huge fan of the hit TV show “Nashville” ever since it first aired way back in 2012. So I was excited when it was announced some of the cast were bringing their ‘Nashville in Concert’ tour to the UK after the success of their US tour.

If you haven’t watched Nashville before, I’d highly recommend you do. The show is a musical drama about the lives of fictional country music singers living in Nashville. It was created by Callie Khouri and stars big names such as Connie Britton (who is also a producer on the show) and Hayden Panettiere.

If you’re thinking it’s the typical musical with the characters randomly bursting into song and dance then think again, Nashville isn’t like that at all. It’s great and I’m so glad it’s been renewed for season 5 by CMT after ABC decided to cancel it after season 4.

Nashville in Concert @ Colston Hall Bristol Access Review Cast encore

The cast kicked off their string of UK shows on 13th June in Manchester before heading on to Birmingham, Glasgow, Bristol, London, and Dublin. I was unable to get tickets for their Glasgow show, as all the accessible tickets had sold out immediately. Not wanting to miss out on seeing them in concert, I searched for the nearest venue I could travel to and hoped there were accessible tickets left.

Bristol Beacon to the rescue

Colston Hall

Luckily, Bristol Beacon had accessible tickets left, and I couldn’t believe my luck. The only downside was we’d have to drive over 800 miles roundtrip to Bristol from Scotland.

Bristol Beacon impressed me from the very beginning when I emailed them to ask if there were any accessible tickets left. I expected to receive a reply from them stating I’d have to call the box office or accessible ticket line to find out, they surprisingly got back to me and said yes.

Not only that, but they went ahead and reserved two tickets until I got in touch with them. How good was that? I’ve never had service like that from any venue. Booking accessible tickets at other venues can often be a total nightmare.

Booking Accessible Tickets at Bristol Beacon

In order to go ahead and book the tickets, all I had to do was complete an Access Requirement Register Application Form and email it back to the venue to be processed. Once they received my application form, they let me know almost right away, and I was then able to phone the venue to buy the tickets by quoting the sales reference number I was given.

I found the whole accessible ticket booking process extremely easy and hassle-free, unlike many venues.

The Access Requirement Register (ARR) is to improve the service to disabled customers by allowing the venue to find the best available seats quickly and easily by having our information already on file. This makes the booking process quicker in the future, which could be good for high-demand gigs.

There is a section on the ARR that can be filled in if you require a Personal Assistant to attend with you. Proof of eligibility must be sent with the application, for example, a DLA letter, PIP letter, CredAbility Access Card (with +1 icon), a Recognized Assistance Dog ID card, or evidence that a person is registered as sight impaired.

Pre-arrival at Bristol Beacon

In the lead-up to the event, I received several emails and text messages from Bristol Beacon informing me of the start time for the Nashville in Concert and where best to park due to road closures.

I found this very helpful as it allowed us to plan our journey to the venue better especially as we were driving from Liverpool earlier that day.

We decided to stay in Liverpool the night before the concert so we didn’t have a huge drive from Scotland straight to Bristol. This is also good for people that are arriving by public transport or need to make other arrangements.

Wheelchair Accessibility at Bristol Beacon

Bristol Beacon offers great accessibility for people with disabilities, which has earned them an Attitude is Everything Bronze Award. Amazing! Attitude is Everything (AiE) is a fantastic charity that works with venues and people in the music industry to improve access to live music for deaf and disabled people.

So for a venue to receive an award from AiE is a great achievement, and as a disabled gig-goer, it reassures me that the venue is going to meet my access requirements.

Nashville in Concert @ Colston Hall Bristol Access Review

Bristol Beacon also has a detailed section on their website for accessibility, which covers numerous things from wheelchair spaces, wheelchair access, and ramps, personal assistant tickets, facilities for deaf and hearing impaired visitors (infra-red hearing system), accessible toilets and much more.

Nashville in Concert @ Colston Hall Bristol Access Review accessible seat area

If necessary, the Bristol Beacon will provide a BSL interpreter for events at the venue. This is amazing and something that all venues need to start providing for their hearing-impaired customers.

The only time I’ve seen BSL interpreters was at a fully accessible concert I attended that was organised by Able2UK. It’s not fair that this isn’t a standard service at venues. Well done, Bristol Beacon.

Entering the foyer at Bristol Beacon is fully accessible and there are lifts to take you up to the main auditorium. Once we reached the first level, we had our tickets checked by a lovely woman, who then escorted us to another wheelchair lift that took us down a few stairs.

She then guided us into the auditorium to our accessible seats. There were already another two wheelchair users in the accessible spaces when we arrived. I believe the auditorium can accommodate 9-11 wheelchairs.

The view of the stage was good from the wheelchair area, but there were a few negative points. The first was that due to the layout of the spaces, I couldn’t sit next to Allan.

The wheelchair spaces are directly in front of the row of seats (see photo above), so whoever is with you will have to sit behind you.

I don’t like this when I go to live events. I want to feel like I’m actually with the person I went with rather than feeling like I’m sitting on my own the whole night -unable to see or interact with him.

The second negative point about the accessible seat area at Bristol Beacon was when the crowd stood up, it left me and the other wheelchair users unable to see the stage at all (see photo below). Luckily this only happened near the end of the show when Charles Esten asked the crowd to stand up for the last 3 or 4 songs.

I understand his intentions were good and he only wanted the crowd to have a great time, unaware of the consequences, shutting wheelchair users out from enjoying the end of the show like everyone else when all the cast joined together onstage for a few songs and perform the encore of ‘A life that’s good’.

Nashville in Concert @ Colston Hall Bristol Access Review wheelchair viewing area

I’d like to know what happens at other Bristol Beacon shows when the audience stands for the majority of the show. Do people sitting in the accessible seats see at all? We pay for our tickets like everyone else, so why should our view of the stage be restricted?

I would have been more infuriated if the audience stood up the whole night, especially as we had driven the 850-mile round trip to attend the show and not been able to see the stage at all.

Nashville in Concert @ Colston Hall Bristol Access Review accessible exit

At the end of the show, a member of the audience safety staff let us know when the accessible exit was open, which meant we could leave the building comfortably and avoid the crowds of people going out the other exit.

Nashville in Concert

Cast members Chris Carmack (Will Lexington), Sam Palladio (Gunnar Scott), Clare Bowen (Scarlett O’Connor) and Charles Esten (Deacon Claybourne) put on a fantastic show for the Bristol crowd.

Performing hits from the show as well as original songs from each performer. They were all amazing, but my favourites were Chris and Sam during their solo and duet performances.

It was good to hear them tell personal stories before each song, giving us an insight into the stories behind the music. Chris Carmack isn’t just a talented actor and singer, he is also extremely talented with an acoustic guitar, electric guitar and saxophone.

Hit songs from the show included What If I Was Willing, Count on Me, When the Right One Comes Along and A Life That’s Good.

Nashville in Concert @ Colston Hall Bristol Access Review Chris Carmack & Sam Palladio
Nashville in Concert Bristol Beacon Access Review Chris Carmack & Sam Palladio

Final thoughts on Bristol Beacon

Bristol Beacon deserves its Bronze Award from Attitude is Everything, as they clearly view accessibility as a major priority. My only concern is the view from the accessible seats where we were sitting when the audience was standing up. The position of these accessible seats means the view is extremely restricted, leaving wheelchair users with no view of the stage at all.

My view of the stage was great when the audience was seated. I’d definitely go back to Bristol Beacon as everything else was perfect from customer service, booking accessible tickets, and the venue’s access and staff disability awareness.

Nashville in Concert @ Colston Hall Bristol Access Review Clare Bowen & Sam Palladio
Nashville in Concert @ Colston Hall Bristol Access Review Clare Bowen & Chris Carmack

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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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