Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand another accessibility review. This one’s about the Kingston Hippodrome in well, Kingston (yes, I know, shockingly I technically left London for a concert). I’ll be splitting it into the ticket buying process, the journey to/from venue and seating/general experience at the event.
(Disclaimer: I’m aware “accessibility” means different things to different people, as I said before, these are MY views on my experience of accessibility at this venue as an electric wheelchair user, I obviously can’t speak for others experiences but feel free to add your experiences in the comments!)
With regard to buying tickets, my experience may be a little different than others. That’s because the shows I’ve been to have either been album release shows or New Slang live events run through Banquet Records (shout out to the Banquet Records team for always being super helpful with orders and stuff!). Therefore, I can order my ticket and CD online like everyone else and just leave a small note about what access I’ll need in the comments of my order. I also like to email to confirm that my comment has definitely been seen and access will definitely be arranged (it probably annoys the staff at Banquet Records, but I’ve always said it’s better to be safe than sorry).
In terms of travel, it takes 2 buses to get there. Specifically, the U3 to Heathrow Central Bus station and then the X26 to Wood Street, which by the way has a ramp at the front as opposed to in the middle like on a London bus and it perplexes me so very very much. The route back involves the 65 bus to Ealing and then the 427, 607 or N207 (depending on the time) to Uxbridge.
The experience and seating was a hit and miss thing. I was one of the first in, which is always useful and gives me time to find the right seating spot and settle in. There ARE 2 ramps up to the wheelchair area (yay!) but they’re both quite steep (not so yay) AND the second one is not flush to the platform (i.e. there’s still a considerable gap between ramp height and platform height) which in my mind means it’s not actually a ramp. The lovely fellow gig goer who helped me down the ‘not ramp’ (basically holding the chair so I didn’t tip) commented that it was the worst ramp they’d ever seen, and when the people who aren’t on wheels say it’s a bad ramp, you KNOW it’s a bad ramp! I did end up with my own personal dancefloor through being the only one in the wheelchair area though, which is a bonus (and oh did I make the most of it by dancing like a crazy person). The staff also removed banners from the barrier in front of wheelchair area so I could see properly without straining my neck, so that was appreciated. The only problem with that wheelchair area is that with people standing behind (out of the roped off wheelchair area but still on the same larger platform section) it can get a little claustrophobic when the shows are as full as the ones I went to.
So, Kingston Hippodrome, thanks for how accommodating you were in areas and generally attempted to be, but there’s still work to be done. And shout out to Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls and Don Broco for putting on great shows!