Another access review! This time Symphony Hall in Birmingham for Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls
(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!)
I bought my ticket through an accessible booking line. One issue is that, of course, these ticket lines are only open at certain times, which delayed my ticket buying from when I found I could go until the next morning. It doesn’t sound like that much of an issue since I’m a student but can prove a big problem if you have a job and can’t make calls during certain hours. I was also told when I bought the ticket that I’d have a restricted view if people stood, but bought it anyway. It seems from speaking to a fellow attendee and wheelchair user that the venue informs wheelchair users of possible restricted view regardless of their seat. It may be that the access seating at the side of the venue (basically in a box rather than at the back of stalls) is slightly higher up and as such provides a better view. It’s important to note that this is my experience of buying a single ticket without a carer as, as far as I can gather from the website, there is a form that needs filling in prior to ticket purchase for a free carer/assistant/companion ticket. The wheelchair user that I spoke to did acquire a companion ticket and assures me that form is quite simple to fill in and could possibly even be done over the phone. Once the form is filled in, the companion ticket is automatically added to your booking.
Travel for this gig was quite simple as it was only a 25-minute walk from my accommodation at Aston University to Symphony Hall.
Experience & Seating
Once I entered the building I headed down the ramp into the main foyer section. The box office was on one side and this is where I headed to collect my ticket as it was a last minute ticket. I then headed across the other side of the foyer for the theatre entrance. I had to go through a security pat down alongside bag check since I cannot go through a metal detector/scanner since, well, wheelchairs are metal. However, depending on when you arrive, this security set up outside the theatre can cause a bit of an issue as a long security queue goes all the way down the ramp, which blocks wheelchair users (like the fellow attendee I spoke to) from joining the back of the queue as instructed. This leads to staff panicking about what to do and as a result fast tracking wheelchair users through the queue and security checks. I was then led through a set of double doors to my seat which was pretty much in the back row of the stalls and looked as though a seat had simple been removed from the standard row of seating to make a wheelchair space, simples! The merch stall was also directly outside that set of doors (which meant Em bought a new band tee because how could I not with such temptation?!). As expected, my view was obstructed when people stood for the last 3 songs, but when Frank begins that song trio with “I won’t sit down” (Photosynthesis I will forever love you) I kind of expected people to stand. Besides which, I knew already that a restricted view was like for at least part of the show and kinda expected it from that song, so I made the best of the situation and my own little dance party while no one could see me!
Overall, accessibility at Symphony Hall is good but I think there are things that could be improved, particularly around the possibility of a restricted view. Thanks to Frank and The Sleeping Souls for a great show as always and a quick extra shout out to the Solo Armada for making sure it didn’t feel like I was going to the show alone even though I only bought one ticket.
Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)