The accessibility reviews are BACK! well sort of. Today I’m collaborating with Artie Carden (check out their Instagram and Youtube too!) to compare our experiences with accessibility at the Electric Ballroom in Camden at 2 different types of event, comparing my experience at a club night to their experience at a concert.
The first thing to say is that Artie and I have different disabilities which means we have different access needs. Those different access needs will of course make our experiences somewhat different, alongside attending different events.
Now, in terms of those differing disabilities, those of you who know me personally or have been following for a while will know I’m Em, I’m a wheelchair user with cerebral palsy and this means for events I usually need a wheelchair accessible venue with a wheelchair accessible spot for me alongside a carer/assistant ticket. In terms of their disability, In Artie’s own words:
“I have Crohn’s disease, hyper mobility syndrome and Takayasu’s arteritis. I am able to walk and stand but not for long periods of time, and occasionally use a walking stick (I normally will use one for concerts). I need to know if a venue has loads of steps, as I can walk up and down them but not many of them so lifts or ramps are better for me. I have been to a few gigs without a carer/assistant but I think I would prefer to go with someone after my few experiences. I would need a chair with a back, at least, and an easily accessible bathroom. My Takayasu’s has also led to limited mobility in my dominant arm which can make it hard to walk with a stick and carry something (drink or ticket etc). Access to water is also really important for me in case I feel like taking pain medication is necessary.”
In terms of the ticket buying and collection experience, for the club night you could either prebook a space on the guest list via social media or pay on entry on the night. There was no specific accessible ticket. In terms of the gig, it was a case of sending a form of evidence of disability (such as receipt of disability benefit ) and then the venue stated they would sort an accessible seat and Artie would not have to queue. All seems fine right? nope, there was then a problem collecting ticket from the box office as the staff were not aware that accessible tickets were for box office collection and were therefore, how to put this “less than helpful” and quite dismissive and tried to insinuate that accessible tickets couldn’t be picked up at the box office.
On arrival at the club night, I made myself known to security and was then led to a separate entrance to get in, that meant going over the famous Camden cobbles which my back did NOT appreciate. Artie’s experience at the gig was somewhat similar in terms of the risk of injury because, unlike most venues which let those in accessible seating areas in first to get situated before the rush of the general standing and seated ticket holders, Electric Ballroom just let everyone in at once which of course risks injuring people, especially disabled patrons and those with extra needs who may be more prone to injuries.
In terms of my overall experience at the club night, I had to stay on one level of the club as there was no lift to the upper level. This was kind of an issue since there were different types of music playing on each level and the kind of music I like was on the level I couldn’t reach. The night out becomes somewhat pointless if you can’t do what you want to do or listen to the songs you enjoy most.
Artie’s experience at the concert was even more inaccessible as the “accessible seating” was upstairs (bear in mind my “no lift” comment from earlier) the concept of seating upstairs is a very inaccessible version of accessible seating, at least check the access needs of your patrons so you can provide them with an actual accessible experience! The toilets were also inaccessible as they were down more stairs, which is quite the issue because those of you who’ve tried singing along to an entire concert without at least water to keep you hydrated will know it’s pretty near impossible (and also not the best idea in general). There were also no backs to the “accessible” seating which caused Artie an injury. Yet another instance of “actually ask the access needs of your patrons so you can provide an accessible experience that doesn’t, you know, actually injure them!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this collaboration and it provides some insight into how our experiences at different types of events within the same venue can present both similar and different issues.
Emma and Artie