Back again with another wheelchair accessibility review. This time for Picture This at the O2 Academy 2 in Birmingham. I do a review out for the O2 Academy in Birmingham but, whilst these 2 venues are in the same building, I see it that a different room equals a different venue which deserves its own separate accessibility review.
(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!)
First up in the ticket buying process was to email the disabled bookings email for the venue to clarify exactly WHAT the accessible ticketing process was and also how we would go about buying 2 accessible seats at once (something I hadn’t done before) since my friend Lizzie who is also a wheelchair user would be joining me. They told us to just buy 2 standard tickets through Ticketmaster and then email them back with the order number and the tickets would be converted to accessible ones. Once that was done, we realised we had 2 accessible tickets and a carer ticket each (I hadn’t requested the carer tickets). We gave one of those tickets to a new friend from the Solo Armada (an online group for gig goers which I have mentioned before). Why did we give a ticket away to a stranger? Well because we had a spare and making gig friends is always cool.
Well, there was no real travel involved since neither Lizzie nor I live particularly far from the venue. So, it was simply a case of getting ready, then heading round to Lizzie’s for pre gig food and beers before heading to the train station to collect our new found gig friend and head to the gig.
Experience & Seating
When we arrived at the venue, it was very busy with a VERY long queue outside. I soon realised that was because there were 2 gigs that night in the same building since, like I mentioned in the intro, Academy and Academy 2 are in the same building. We were able to find a staff member who directed us to the queue for our gig. Once we got to the front of that queue were then pulled into the other queue for the Academy in order to use the lift to get up to venue level. We couldn’t all fit in the lift at once so Lizzie went up first and then our new mate and I followed afterwards. When we got up there, we realised that Lizzie was already situated so we all grabbed drinks from the bar and then settled into our seats (or what we thought were our seats). When we settled in, I remarked that the view looked familiar when I didn’t expect it to (I hadn’t visited Academy 2 before but I HAD visited Academy). I also noticed that the crowd below didn’t look how I expected a Picture This crowd to look (I’d seen the boys live before so, I kinda knew what crowds they drew). But I figured I was just thinking too much into it and carried on. Lizzie and our new mate then headed off to get merch as I’d told them what I wanted. They came back and said that there no Picture This merch at the merch stand and that was because… WE’D BEEN PUT IN THE WRONG GIG. Where we were sat felt so familiar to the Academy show I’d been to because we WERE SAT in Academy and Academy 2 was actually next door. With that figured out we were moved into Academy 2 where our gig actually was. This just meant going through one door out the side of Academy, then through the door straight onto the small access platform in Academy 2. When I say small, I mean there was space for about 8 people and it was quite cramped. I think there was space behind us too but I think that was reversing space for wheelchair users rather than more seating.
I must say I really enjoyed the gig (although I knew it would be good as I’ve seen the boys live before ). I also really enjoyed getting to stand at the “barrier” for the whole gig (even if it was only the barrier to the access platform and I was only able to do it with Lizzie’s help) as standing at barrier isn’t something I’ve ever been able to experience, what with being a wheelchair user and often having to be on a separate platform.
A couple of things I didn’t enjoy. Firstly, as wheelchair users we had no access to the merch stall which was on the main floor. This meant that my only way to get merch was to loudly yell our entire order down to the merch staff and then have them bring the order up to us and take payment with a mobile card machine. Which, like, they did, but it was a massive faff and made me feel very self-conscious yelling down in front of a full venue. I also couldn’t see a disabled toilet in the Academy 2 section which meant that, If I’d have needed to, I’d have had to leave the gig and go across into Academy to use that disabled toilet, and obviously I’d like to not have to leave the gig. But at the same time, I couldn’t see anywhere in the Academy 2 side of the building that would be able to house a disabled toilet.
Once the gig was over, we went back through into Academy and then down in the lift and out. Whilst our friend headed home, Lizzie and I decided to try our luck at stage door. Once we’d asked around and figured out which was the correct stage door to be at., we pulled up and waited. We were lucky to get some photos with the boys and Ryan (the lead singer) was kind enough to sign the copy of his poetry book that Lizzie had bought me at the gig as an early birthday present.
After making a quick detour into a hotel on the way home for a toilet break (we were waiting longer than I expected at stage door) we headed back to mine for tea and a post gig debrief.
Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)
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