I was supposed to see Birdy at the 02 ABC Glasgow, but due to the lift being broken at the venue I couldn’t attend. Upset and disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to attend Birdy’s show, which I had been looking forward to for such a long time, I was relieved to discover she was performing the following night at The Edinburgh Corn Exchange. I quickly looked online to check ticket availability. Things were looking good as it hadn’t sold out yet, but was the venue accessible?
Before booking tickets for a gig, especially at a venue, I’ve never been to, I always check their website for accessibility information. Do they have wheelchair access? Is there a lift/stairs/level access? Is there an accessible toilet? Do they offer a free PA ticket? How do I book accessible tickets? These are some of the basic questions among others, which I’d expect to see on a venue’s website. Unfortunately, I didn’t find out much accessibility information on The Edinburgh Corn Exchange website, apart from that, each room within the venue had an accessible toilet. However, this was not easy to find and required looking in the FAQ’s under the ‘Our Rooms’ section. This should be much easier to find and located in a section clearly marked ‘Accessibility’.
At first glance, it appears like The Edinburgh Corn Exchange values their disabled customers by having an ‘accessibility’ section on their website, but it’s not what it seems and in actual fact, it’s all about the accessibility of the website and explains which web browser you should be using. This can be quite misleading and confusing when trying to find out accessibility information from a disabled customers perspective.
With so many questions and no answers, I decided to call the venue for more information. The woman I spoke to on the phone wasn’t the most helpful person, but she did tell me the venue was accessible and that I could book my tickets online as there was no separate accessible ticket line. Since most venues offer a free PA ticket to disabled customers, I was surprised when told that The Edinburgh Corn Exchange didn’t.
Something in the way the woman told me this, made me question whether this was true. The following day I called the venue again and spoke to someone different. This time I got a different answer to my question and in actual fact, they do offer a free PA ticket. This was great to hear, but I shouldn’t have had to call the venue again to question the information their staff were giving me, but by calling the venue for the second time I ended up saving myself £30 on a ticket for my companion, which wasn’t actually required.
All venue staff should be made completely aware of basic accessibility information like this. It’s concerning that other disabled people have likely been given false information about PA tickets and had to fork out more money than they should have or even worse not be able to attend a gig because they couldn’t afford to pay for their PA to accompany them.
I was told to book a standard ticket online for myself and that the sales and marketing manager would email me in order to add my PA to the guest list. So off I went and booked my ticket online and waited to receive my email from the manager.
A few days had past and I still hadn’t received an email from the manager, so I sent an email explaining the situation and asked for my PA to be added to the guest list. The following day I received an email from the manager informing me that his name would be on the venue’s guest list when we arrive.
All venues should have accessibility information on their websites. Access starts online is a great campaign by Attitude is Everything. It’s easy to do and saves disabled customers a lot of time and effort.
We drove to The Edinburgh Corn Exchange and having never been to this venue before we were unsure what the parking would be like. Fortunately, parking was a breeze and we were able to park right outside the venue.
As we arrived at the entrance a friendly member of the event staff approached us and instantly offered to help. Chatting away and asking us questions about Birdy as he escorted us into the venue. He then passed us onto another member of staff who wasn’t as helpful. She checked our ticket before handing it back and then saying nothing. Left wondering where to go we had to ask where the accessible seats where. Without saying a single word to us she just pointed in the direction we had to go and turned her back on us. I found her manner off-putting and very unprofessional.
Access into the venue was all on one level and completely wheelchair accessible. There are no steps, ramps or lifts.
Viewing Platform At The Edinburgh Corn Exchange
We entered the room where Birdy would be performing and the only way I can describe it is it looks like a big hall. The viewing platform was right at the back of the hall, which I personally thought was too far back. There was a big gap between us on the viewing platform and the rest of the crowd. Potential space that could accommodate a larger viewing platform.
The steward guarding the platform checked the guest list and couldn’t find my PA’s name. We explained I had email confirmation from the manager that the name was added to the guest list, but the steward kept insisting it wasn’t and wasn’t interested at looking at my email. Even though he eventually let us on the platform, he made us feel like we were being dishonest with him, which wasn’t the case.
The ramp up to the platform was quite tight, which could be a problem for larger wheelchairs and mobility scooters to navigate around. Once on the viewing platform, we had to squeeze in between other wheelchair users and their friends. This created problems when someone had to leave for the toilet as we all had to move, which made that person feel uncomfortable and an inconvenience for causing others to move even though it wasn’t their fault.
The platform was too small for its purpose. A bigger platform would accommodate more people and provide a more comfortable space for moving around easily. The cramped space could potentially be a health and safety risk especially in the event of an emergency or if someone became ill because it would be difficult for everyone to get out quickly and safely. As I said before, there was lots of space between the platform and the crowd so I think the hall could definitely take a bigger platform.
Birdy At The Edinburgh Corn Exchange
In the shadows, Birdy appeared like an angel and instantly began to mesmerise the audience with her haunting vocals and flawless piano playing. It’s very evident why this young virtuoso sits in front of this captivated audience.
Birdy’s real name is Jasmine van den Bogaerde and was discovered at the age of 14 on YouTube. Now 19, she has just released her third album, Beautiful Lies. If you haven’t heard this album or any of Birdy’s albums for that matter, you are seriously missing out. It’s difficult to choose a favourite from her stunning set list of tracks, which included Keeping Your Head Up, Wild Horses, Words, Shadow and Deep End. Birdy is an extremely established songwriter and tells stories beautifully through her music. Make sure you go check her out as soon as you finish reading this review. You won’t regret it.
Leaving the venue was just as easy as entering. At the end of a gig, we sometimes wait until the crowds have eased up, but we decided to leave as soon as Birdy left the stage. We headed for the accessible door we came in and the same steward who had helped us in was waiting to help us out. It was very easy and hassle-free. We managed to get back to our car and began our journey home within a few minutes of leaving the Corn Exchange.
The Edinburgh Corn Exchange has good wheelchair accessibility. Access into the venue is good as it’s all on the one level with no need for ramps or lifts. The viewing platform could be improved to allow better access and accommodate more people whether wheelchair users or not. It would be helpful for The Corn Exchange to have accessibility information on their website which is easy to find and gives disabled gig-goers instant information they require, saving them having to call the venue.
Booking tickets is simple once you know the procedure and that the venue offers free PA tickets. Again this is something that should be stated on the website so that disabled gig-goers know before booking their tickets. It would also be helpful if all staff were aware of free PA tickets and other accessibility information. #AccessStartsOnline.