P&J Live is the brand new multi-purpose indoor arena in Aberdeen, Scotland. It officially opened in August 2019 and holds an impressive 15,000 people. Last week we visited the P&J Live for the first time to see one of our favourite bands, The 1975. Since it is a new arena we had high hopes in terms of accessibility and the overall experience. Unfortunately, we were left somewhat disappointed, but hopeful for improvements. Here is my P&J Live Aberdeen disabled access review.
Booking Accessible Tickets
Being a relatively new arena, I wasn’t aware of what the accessibility would be like and their ticket booking process for disabled customers. When it came time to book the 1975 tickets I checked the P&J live website and it explained that accessible tickets could be booked by calling the arena.
Fortunately, when I called I was able to get through quickly without having to queue. I booked one wheelchair ticket and one free companion ticket. Then I was asked to provide proof of disability which can include a benefit award letter (eg PIP or DLA), a letter from a doctor/specialist etc. I emailed my proof of disability via email and received confirmation it had been accepted.
I believe P&J live are now part of Ticketmaster new accessible ticket system where accessible tickets can be booked online.
Arrival at P&J Live
We were staying at the fantastic Aloft Aberdeen TECA hotel on the night of the show. The Aloft hotel is located on the same grounds as the P&J Live arena as part of the complex events area.
Staying at this hotel is ideal for attending a show at the P&J Live with only a two-minute walk to the arena. You literally walk or roll out the hotel and directly into the arena. Perfect.
If you are not staying over and instead are arriving by car to the arena then there is an undercover car park charged at various tariffs. Up to 3 hours for £3.50, 8hrs at £10.00 all the way up to £75 for 72hrs. There are also buses to and from the arena.
Wheelchair Access at P&J Live
As we approached the first security steward let us through the barrier. There was a sea of barriers zigzagging in and out to filter the queue, but it was too narrow for me to fit and manoeuvre between. We asked him if there was another way I could go (we could clearly see there was). Instead, he began pushing every second barrier out the way until he got fed up and stopped, leaving us to do the rest. Allan took over moving the barriers out the way himself. Thankfully there were no crowds at this point.
There needs to be a better way for wheelchair users and disabled people unable to weave themselves in and out of the narrow barrier lanes, to access the arena. The staff need to be given awareness training if they haven’t already. I wouldn’t like to have experienced that when it was full of crowds.
Once we got to the end of the barriers we then went through metal detectors. The signs overhead indicating ‘seated’ to the left and ‘standing’ to the right. We went to the left for seated, but the steward seemed a little confused if we were in the right lane. So we explained we had ‘seating’ tickets on the platform, still unsure, she let us through anyway.
We then reached the entrance doors to the arena where our tickets were checked by the door steward. He was friendly and advised us to come in out of the cold until he checked our tickets.
We were asked if we knew where we were going, we didn’t and neither did he. He passed us onto one of the venue staff, but he didn’t know either. We waited while he went and asked someone else. Another member of the venue staff approached us and guided us through the concourse to the block our seats were in.
When she was showing us the way I asked where the Changing Places toilet was located and if it was near the accessible seating area. She looked slightly confused but said, “yes, it’s up here”.
On our way, I spotted the Changing Places sign on the wall near two standard accessible tickets. I wondered why she didn’t stop to advise us that’s where it was. I assumed there was possibly one further up nearer the block we were seated in.
As we got closer she pointed to accessible toilets and then walked away. I knew there wasn’t a Changing Places toilet there. It concerned and frustrated me that she didn’t know where it was located.
We entered the arena hall and made our way to the viewing platform, which was positioned in the far left corner of the hall. A steward guided us up onto the platform and advised we could sit anywhere we wanted as there was barely anyone on the platform.
It seemed like we were the only disabled customers on the platform as the other six people appeared to be VIP ticket holders. I’m not quite sure why VIP ticket holders have access to a disabled viewing platform? Fair enough on this occasion there weren’t many disabled people, but I’d love to know if VIP always have access to the viewing platform because I don’t agree with that. They are taking up the already limited space that disabled people have access to. We were told that other wheelchair users who were on the platform moved up to level two to see the stage better. Although, we weren’t asked or given the option.
The view of the stage was okay but not great. The seats were all lined up facing forward but the stage was to the far right which would mean sitting with your head turned to the right. This would leave you with a twisted and sore neck.
Since I was the only wheelchair user, we and the other six people positioned our chairs at an angle facing the stage. I’m not sure this would work if the platform was full. To me, it seems like the position of the viewing platform hasn’t been well thought out. The management has clearly not given this much thought.
Accessible Toilets and Changing Places
We left five minutes before the show ended so we could find the Changing Places toilet without the busy crowds. We headed towards the area with the Changing Places sign on the wall. There were two doors with a wheelchair symbol on them. Both were standard accessible toilets with no radar lock. They were small so not a lot of space especially for a wheelchair user and carer to safely do transfers.
The toilets were also untidy with empty drink cups on the floor and bins with foot pedals. As the toilets didn’t require a radar key, they were constantly being used by everyone hence the mess left behind.
Next to those two toilets was a blank door with no sign at all indicating what it was. There was no keypad to access the door either. There was absolutely no way of gaining access or knowing if it was a Changing Places or not.
A steward spotted us and came across. We asked him where the Changing Places toilet was and he walked across and opened the disabled toilet door and said here. After a bit of back and forth, he radioed a colleague and asked them where it was. He was told through his earpiece that there wasn’t a Changing Places toilet.
Respectfully, I disagreed and pointed out the Changing Places sign on the wall and explained it clearly states on the arena’s website that there is one. He then spoke to another two people on his radio and while waiting for an answer from them, he uses a key to check what is behind the blank door. Sure enough, there is a Changing Places toilet. Hooray!
Inside is a spacious and clean fully accessible Changing Places with adult-sized bench, hoist and toilet. I’m glad we got there in the end with the staff and finally got to see the Changing Places facility. I’m just very disappointed and frustrated that it took so long and the amount of staff that didn’t know it’s location let alone it’s existence.
P&J Live management need to train their staff better. It is not acceptable to be waiting for around 10 -15 minutes while staff are completely unaware of the facilities and provide incorrect information. It’s undignified and embarrassing for the disabled person and shows the staff and venue to be unprofessional.
We are massive fans of the Manchester band The 1975. Having seen them live too many times to count, they were once again spectacular. We had already travelled to Newcastle two weeks before to see them at Utilita Arena so we knew we were in for a treat. The following night we saw them at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow. The 1975 have the most incredible stage and light set of any band we have ever seen. We are always mesmerised by it. If you get a chance to see The 1975, please do it. You won’t be disappointed.
P&J Live Aberdeen is a super sleek and modern live events arena. It is wheelchair accessible but it can and should do better in terms of training its staff in disability awareness and disabled facilities. It is ridiculous that none of the staff knew where the Changing Places toilet was located. Having to wait around while the staff passed on incorrect information and trying to hunt down someone who knew was unacceptable and embarrassing. I’d hate to think someone was desperately needing access to the Changing Places.
Overall the staff seemed like they didn’t know what was going on at all. Access in and around the arena is very good and the smooth concrete floors make it a dream to drive a wheelchair across. The view from the viewing platform needs to be better. This could be easily achieved by moving the viewing platform to a more central position. There are also accessible seats on level two, but I haven’t been up there to comment on the access or view. Would I attend another show at P&J Live? Yes, but only if I could get tickets for level two as I think it would give a more comfortable viewing. Failing that if I get reassurance the viewing platform has improved, I would go again.
Have you been to P&J Live? What did you think of the disabled and wheelchair access?
You May Also Enjoy
Aloft Aberdeen TECA | Wheelchair Accessible Hotel Close To P&J Live
Joe Bonamassa at AECC Aberdeen | Wheelchair Access Review
Where to Stay in Aberdeen: Park Inn by Radisson Aberdeen Hotel
The 1975 at FlyDSA Arena Sheffield | Wheelchair Access Review
The 1975 were Better than chocolate at The Hydro | Venue Access Review
Feature image courtesy of Conference Partners