Back to gigs, and a new venue this time! Which means another access review. This one is of the O2 Academy in Islington where I saw Picture This. As always, the review will be split into purchasing tickets, travel and experience/seating on the night.
(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!)
The process of purchasing a ticket wasn’t straightforward. The venue website’s access page provided a phone number through which tickets could supposedly be purchased so I thought it was just going to be the standard disabled access booking line. However, when I called I was told to buy a general admission ticket and email them afterwards to request a wheelchair space and carer ticket. If that wasn’t irritating and confusing enough, I then got a private Direct Message on Twitter from the venue following a tweet (that they were tagged) stating my confusion about disabled access tickets (I’d raaaaather they dealt with access issues and mistakes in public where everyone else can see steps being taken, but as long as it gets sorted it gets sorted). There they told me tickets sold over the phone were sold through a different number than the one on the site, all of this left me wondering exactly what the protocol was for disabled access tickets at this venue. Not to be deterred from my mission, I bought a general admission ticket from Seetickets (my go-to ticketing company if I need one) and sent the “I bought a ticket” email to the venue as requested. I was then sent a form to fill in stating my details and accessibility requirements and was also asked to send in some proof of disability such as a PIP (Personal Independence Payment, British disability benefit) document. Now, while I understand filling in these forms for disabled access to stop misuse of the spaces by those who do not need them (or whatever the reasoning is) It definitely extends the ticket buying process, and believe me, I’d be dancing at the barrier with everyone else if I could! After all that rigmarole I was FINALLY able to obtain a wheelchair access ticket and carer ticket!
In terms of travel, I first took the train from Chippenham to London. Then, in terms of getting from editor extraordinaire Nikki’s house in Uxbridge (where I stayed for the evening) to the venue, I took the Metropolitan line from Uxbridge to Kings Cross, which was fine. I then took a bus to Islington which was NOT fine. I was not allowed on the first bus as the driver insisted that the wheelchair space was given to wheelchair users OR people with buggies on a first come first served basis (FYI that’s not how it works, and I tried telling the driver that, but he refused to listen). On the second bus I was able to share with a buggy in the wheelchair space. For the journey back, I took a bus to Kings Cross and then the Piccadilly line from there to Uxbridge.
Experience & Seating
When we arrived at the venue, we headed straight to the front of the queue, so we could pick up the carer ticket. We were then taken upstairs in a lift and led to our space at the side of the stage. We were on same level as those with floor standing tickets which gave us a near perfect view (other than a few small issues with people blocking my view following a stage invader) I don’t know exactly what happened with the whole stage invader incident, one moment I’m singing and dancing along to one of my favourite tunes and the next there’s a random guy on stage and security are stressing out trying to get him off the stage. I didn’t quite know whether to be amused or concerned or how I was supposed to react since this was the first time I’d seen a stage invader at a gig, but I’m sure the person meant no harm. So, when I say “people” were blocking my view following a stage invader, I mean security stood in front of me for a while, obviously stressing about a repeat of the minor stage invasion. On that topic, just a little extra note on where we were, we were at the front of the building to the right of stage. We had direct access to the bar as it was right beyond us (bonus!) and but we simply separated from the main crowd by a single metal barrier. There were chairs for carers to sit on if they wished and there was also a member of security in our area the whole time who we could ask questions to (and who could move the barrier back and stop people from squishing us when they leant over said barrier to get closer to the band). After the gig, we were helped to get out of the venue (from our spot at the front to the exit door at the back) by fellow fans. I really appreciated that because I was nervous about how difficult it was going to be leaving such a small venue in a wheelchair, so many thanks to those fans!
I know this is an accessibility review, so I don’t often speak about the show itself, but I have to say I don’t think I’ve ever seen a band look so genuinely excited to be up on stage that Picture This (perhaps the intimate small venue setting was part of that). The atmosphere was utterly electric, and I’ve probably never smiled as much as that gig. The happiness was infectious, and I could go to a Picture This gig every day forever and still come away as happy as that every time (side note: lads if you ever want a disability access review for a show, you know where to find me!). If you ever get a chance to see these guys live I urge you to do it!
Thanks to Picture This for putting on a fabulous show, and to O2 Academy Islington for (other than the laborious ticket buying process) being quite an accessible and accommodating venue.
Em (Invincible Woman on Wheels)