The Castle and Falcon Birmingham Accessibility Review

The bar in the concert room at Castle and Falcon. Above the bar is a sign (black text on a white background) which reads " LIVE AT THE CASTLE AND FALCON BEANS ON TOAST"
Photo Credit: Alexandra Quinn. Image Description: The bar in the concert room at Castle and Falcon. Above the bar is a sign (black text on a white background) which reads " LIVE AT THE CASTLE AND FALCON BEANS ON TOAST"

Back with ANOTHER venue access review. This time I headed to Castle and Falcon in Birmingham for a dance with Beans On Toast.

(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!)

Ticket Buying

This was one of the easiest ticket buying processes I’ve ever had. I just bought a general admission ticket and then sent the venue a courtesy email to let them know I was a wheelchair user and would require an accessible entrance.

Travel

The travel was also easy as I just caught a bus from the end of my street and then took a 10–15-minute walk to the venue once the bus dropped me off. On the return, I took a bus back to the city centre, dropped my mate off at the train station and headed home.

Experience & Seating

When it came to the venue, I was a little sceptical as the website just said “100% wheelchair accessible, including accessible toilet”. Every disabled person can tell you of a time they’ve read that phrase on a website and then found the venue to not be as accessible as claimed. Thankfully, the statement was (as far as I could see) entirely true and the venue WAS entirely accessible. Whilst the main entrance has steps, there is a side entrance which is step free.

Once I had made my way in and found my new friends from Solo Armada, we hung out in the bar before heading into the gig room and to the front. I rarely get chance to be at the front because access platforms are usually towards the back of the room. But there was no specific access platform or access seating at this show, so I saw my chance to get a front row spot and took it! I also noticed that there was an accessible bathroom (with radar key access) which was well kept and very usable. You might not spot it immediately because I believe that side of the room (where the accessible toilet is) has a curtain across it during the actual gig, but the bathroom is still accessible if necessary.

With absolutely ZERO accessibility worries or issues, I could just chill out and dance, get a beer in between acts, and then head back to the dance floor. Once the gig was over, we just had to ask someone to reopen the accessible side entrance.

This has been a short review, but that’s just the way I like them. Because short and sweet means it was accessible. And Castle and Falcon was, without a doubt, the easiest and most accessible I’ve ever attended.

Before I leave you, I need to say something about the actual gig. It was just the most chilled vibe and felt like I could entirely be myself and enjoy the gig without worrying what people were thinking (something I often wonder about on the occasions that I’m with the general crowd at gigs and not on a separate platform). I was hoping to make another Beans on Toast gig (the upcoming show in Bilston) which shows the impact that the show made on me. However, metro works and general travel issues means no Bilston gig for me, curse you metro!

Castle and Falcon, thank you for an easy and accessible gig experience as a wheelchair user, just how it should be. I WILL be back!

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

Camden Electric Ballroom Wheelchair Accessibility Review

A view from the front wheelchair access platform at Camden Electric Ballroom, London. The stage (illuminated by blue lights) is visible with a drum kit and amplifiers on it. The words "Holding Absence" are just about visible on a backdrop behind the drum kit.
Image Description: A view from the front wheelchair access platform at Camden Electric Ballroom, London. The stage (illuminated by blue lights) is visible with a drum kit and amplifiers on it. The words "Holding Absence" are just about visible on a backdrop behind the drum kit.

Finally back with another venue access review. This time Holding Absence at Camden Electric Ballroom back in November. You’ll remember that my last blog post was a review of O2 Institute 2 in Birmingham (also for Holding Absence), and in that post I said that wasn’t my last show. Well here (extremely belatedly) the access review for my Holding Absence tour round 2!

(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!)

Ticket Buying

The ticket buying process for this one was a little different than usual. Some lovely soul on Solo Armada (an online group for solo gig goers that I’m part of) posted that they were giving away a general admission ticket to the show. I enquired as to whether there would be any way to convert it to an accessible ticket so I could go. This ANGEL refunded their original ticket and purchased an access one instead just so I could go! So, with ticket sorted, I had just 2 days to book travel and a hotel.

Travel

Travel was also pretty simple. I traveled with West Midlands Trains on the way there and Avanti on the return and both trains were a direct trip from Birmingham New Street to London Euston. I booked tickets through Trainline and then the assistance through the relatively new Passenger Assistance app. I turned up to New Street around 20 minutes before my train as suggested and was then escorted to the train by staff. Once I arrived in London it was about a 15 minute walk to my hotel.

Experience & Seating

I SAY hotel, it was technically a hostel. Specifically Generator London hostel near Euston. I try not to use hostels but with the last minute nature of the trip I was low on accessible option. So I rang around a few places and Generator said I could just book a room the standard way and then send them a message to get the booking moved to an accessible dorm, so that’s what I did. When I arrived I noticed that I’d have to go down a cobbled street to get to the entrance, which is always fun for the wheelchair user spine. I then had to wheel all the way around the car park section to the entrance as there was no drop kerb to allow me to cut across to the entrance side of the pavement. Once I made it to the entrance section, I was greeted by a large staircase, LUCKILY I saw a sign for an accessible entrance which I followed around and then pressed the intercom to be buzzed in.

Once inside, I was greeted by a stairlift to take me down a few steps, the old and slow kind of stairlift that I see in my nightmares. The nightmares were accurate, because I was told the stairlift was being dodgy, only to board it and find it out was faulty and wouldn’t actually work!

Faulty stairlift escaped, staff took me on a short walk around to the “alternative” accessible entrance. This was behind a gate which meant I’d have to be buzzed in every time I entered, I then wheeled through another car park/delivery point and then through some double doors into the laundry storage room, before going along a corridor and up in the lift to check in. This made me wonder why the “alternative” accessible entrance wasn’t just the outright accessible entrance. I know some people feel a bit odd about entering via car parks and everything, but this entrance was way more accessible than the dodgy stairlift one.

All checked in, I was shown down to my room (a standard dorm room with me in a low bunk but in the basement level below the check in level which meant no lift to contend with). The accessible bathroom was also pointed out to me and was just a few doors down from my room.

However, when i’d dropped my bags in the room and went to use the bathroom, i discovered that the toilet wasn’t in the accessible bathroom/shower room that had been pointed out to me (the pipe work was there, the toilet just…wasn’t) It took 3 staff members to figure out that the toilet had been moved to a separate, poorly signposted segment. And to add to the issue, I got into the toilet to find there was no soap dispenser in the holder (great news in the current COVID situation). Luckily, thanks to being ambulatory and using bed frames as a mobility aid, I was able to access the sink in the dorm room, something staff didn’t think would be accessible to me. So, bags dropped off, I headed for the venue.

It was about a 30 minute walk from hostel to venue (I did attempt to catch a bus but the driver just ignored me because…London, and I wasn’t about to hang about in the rain and wait on that happening again, so 30 minute roll it was). I probably sound a bit blasé about being ignored by the bus driver, because obviously it’s a shit thing have happen. But frankly, as a wheelchair user, being ignored by bus drivers happens so often in London that my reaction just becomes: “oh this again? Right, onto plan B”. Plan B being a 30 minute wheel in the rain.

When I arrived at the venue, I pulled up to the side of the main entrance doors and made myself known to staff. After a little while, they came to check our COVID passes and tickets and then a staff member led us on a fairly significant walk to the accessible back entrance. Once there it was through a large gate, across a little car park, up a ramp and into the venue. Since I’d entered the venue straight onto a platform with stairs down to the main standing area, I assumed we were just dropping off some other attendees who were heading down to the standing area and then we’d out again to somewhere else for my seat.

Nope, turns out this platform with stairs down and the only exit being out of the venue WAS my seat. No independent access to merch or bar but I DID get a personal dance floor, silver linings to everything eh? Seriously though, this lack of independent access to anything felt really quite isolating (obviously security could get me water or whatever)

The isolating platform situation meant I was even more grateful when fellow attendees from Solo Armada decided to pop up between bands and say hello, but even that was somewhat soured. I must preface this by explaining that there was a member of security basically stood with me on the platform all night, which didn’t feel entirely necessary (I’m pretty physically incapable of causing trouble at a gig and a tiny human, and also sassy and gobby enough to talk anyone who’s giving ME trouble into shutting up and leaving me alone, but maybe there is some security rule I don’t understand). Anyway, my friends came up to say hello and security almost immediately said “you’re not supposed to be up here”. This itself felt a little unnecessary as we weren’t doing anything other than chatting and my friends would have headed back to the main floor before the next band anyway. Needless to say (and sadly) this interaction with security meant my friends immediately headed back to the main floor to avoid getting themselves in any trouble. Once the gig was finished, I had to wait for the security (who by this point, annoyingly enough, had left my personal platform) to help me with the exit doors because trying to open both doors of a double fire door and drive a wheelchair requires about 6 hands, and I am a human, not an octopus. Venue exited. I made my way back through the big gate and out onto the street to begin the 30 minute walk back to the hostel.

Before I leave you, just a quick word on the actual show, and on Holding Absence in particular. There are few bands/artists where I would consider doing multiple dates on a tour. Even fewer that I’d organise a trip to London on 2 days notice to see. But the energy at their gigs is something else. This was only my second time seeing them live (the first being the other access review I mentioned) but I could live off the energy of gigs like that forever. Gigs like that fuel my soul. Go see them live I beg you, you’ll probably see me there. Should I just do the whole tour next time? I think I’ll do the whole tour next time.

I hope this access review of Generator London and Camden Electric Ballroom was insightful.

Stay Invincible!
Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

Birmingham O2 Institute2 Accessibility Review 

Photo of Holding Absence performing at the Scala in London, taken from the crowd. Frontman Lucas Woodland, a young man with blonde hair in a black t shirt and tattoos on his arms looks out over the audience with his left arms raised in a fist. The crowd is lit with warm green lights. Several fans are on shoulders, elevated above the audience singing along to the band’s song ‘Wilt’.
Photo Credit: Dev Place Photos, Image Description: Photo of Holding Absence performing at the Scala in London, taken from the crowd. Frontman Lucas Woodland, a young man with blonde hair in a black t shirt and tattoos on his arms looks out over the audience with his left arms raised in a fist. The crowd is lit with warm green lights. Several fans are on shoulders, elevated above the audience singing along to the band’s song ‘Wilt’.

Back with another venue accessibility review! This time, O2 Institute2 in Birmingham. 

(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!) 

Ticket Buying 

Once again, I was not the one that actually bought these tickets because once again it was part of birthday plans from my best mate Dev (she bought us tickets to Bring Me The Horizon in Birmingham for my 2020 birthday present and this was part of the 2021 celebrations). What can I say? I have the best pals. It was a case of buying one general admission ticket and then emailing the venue with the order number to request a space on the accessible platform and a carer ticket. I was pretty sure they’d probably have my disability “proof” on file since I’m often at venues in the city and I believe the O2 venues are all linked in some way (although I could be wrong) but I had the proof ready to send if necessary. 

Travel 

Travel wise, there wasn’t actually much travelling to do once Dev was in Birmingham. Since I live fairly close to the venue, it was just a 30 minute or so walk into Digbeth, through some of the works going on in the area. 

Experience & Seating 

On arrival at the venue, it was clear there was already a pretty decent queue, probably since (as far as I’m aware) there were shows in all 3 of the Institute rooms that night, so the queue wasn’t just our gig. There was also fencing cutting off half the width of the pavement (those works I mentioned earlier). Once we were in the queue our tickets and COVID passes were checked. We were then directed past the main entrance to the accessible entrance which had a ramp. I did get a little stuck on this ramp and have to be helped in, but I’m not sure if it was an issue with my approach or the actual ramp/entrance. Once in the building, we walked along a short hallway and turned into the main foyer where everyone else was entering. The Institute2 is on the entrance level, so we headed through a door and into the venue. 

When we entered the venue, I noticed that both merch and bar were on the main floor, down a set of stairs from the access platform, so Dev headed down to grab merch and water. I also noticed that there was a metal barrier in front of us and closer than the actual permanent platform. Given that I wanted to be as close as possible, we decided to shift the metal barrier out of the way and keep drinks on the shelf at the back of the platform to prevent any possible spills on important electrical equipment. 

After a little while, a member of security came and pulled us back from the main barrier and told us we’d have to stay where we were told to be (about mid platform) or the metal barrier would go back in. They said it was something to do with not spilling drinks on the electrical equipment below us. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the intention but like, we already HAD a plan to have the metal barrier out of the way, be at the platform barrier AND keep the equipment unharmed? Needless to say, we moved back to the platform barrier later on and no one else said anything, so I think us moving the metal barrier was actually a non-issue. 

In terms of the actual show: As Everything Unfolds, Yours Truly and Holding Absence were all AMAZING. I’ll admit I hadn’t really heard any of these bands when Dev suggested the gig (I took the “it’s my birthday, it’s in Brum, fuck it why not?” approach) but I thoroughly enjoyed the show. So much so that, when Dev asked my thoughts on the show, my response was “fancy a road trip to Sheffield tomorrow [for the next show of tour]? 

We didn’t make it to Sheffield because they didn’t have any space left on the access platform, but (SPOILER) I did make it to another show on this tour and there WILL be another access review from this tour. 

Overall, FANTASTIC show and a fairly accessible venue (other than getting stuck on the way through the door and the minor barrier issue with security) .

Stay Invincible! 

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels) 

Utilita Arena Birmingham Wheelchair Accessibility Review

Emma, a young woman with brunette hair and glasses, is sat in her wheelchair at the Utilita Arena Birmingham smiling broadly and throwing the "metal horns" hand signal at the camera. She is wearing a red leather jacket, black jeans, black Bring Me The Horizon band t shirt and a red face covering around her neck.
Image Description: Emma, a young woman with brunette hair and glasses, is sat in her wheelchair at the Utilita Arena Birmingham smiling broadly and throwing the "metal horns" hand signal at the camera. She is wearing a red leather jacket, black jeans, black Bring Me The Horizon band t shirt and a red face covering around her neck.

Back in September, I went to my first gig since live music started up again after the lockdowns. I saw Bring Me The Horizon at the Utilita Arena in Birmingham with my best mate Dev. This was a new venue to me. And you know that means just one thing: A NEW ACCESSIBILITY REVIEW! With that said, let’s get started.

(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!)

Ticket Buying
I wasn’t the one buying these particular tickets as Dev actually bought them as my birthday present and left a note in my card to say we were going. Once I knew we were going, Dev had to ask me for my “Access Card” number or other form of disability “proof”. I suppose this was to prove I ACTUALLY needed the wheelchair access seating she had booked for us. Having to prove these things will always feel odd to me but here we are. Then, a couple of weeks before the gig, Dev realised she still hadn’t received our e tickets. THEN she realised never actually received the email confirmation of booking and had just been given a reference number over the phone. After yet more hours spent on the phone to TicketFactory (who I believe handle all access seating for the venue) we FINALLY had our tickets and could actually head
to the gig.

Travel
In terms of travel, once Dev was in Birmingham there wasn’t really much travelling to do as the venue is only a short walk from my house. We did stop by a canal side pub (and a couple of other bars) because, you know, pre gig beverages and all.

Experience & Seating
Soon enough we made our way to the gig, and this is where most of the issues occurred. I must stress none of this was to do with the actual gig itself (Nova Twins, You Me At Six and Bring Me The Horizon were all brilliant and my perfect reintroduction to live music) and everything to do with the venue. First off, it was very difficult to cross the bridge in order to get to the venue as there were so many people. It was these same people we were walking against in order to follow the signage to the “accessible” entrance. I used quotation marks for a reason, because the accessible entrance wasn’t really that accessible. We had to walk all the way down a steep path with a questionable drop kerb at the end, before walking THROUGH a cark park, cutting a left turn THROUGH the queue and then standing outside a door in a dark unlit section of said carpark. Sounds dodgy right? Once we were inside, we underwent the security/bag check and then were sent up to the main level in a lift. There was only one person to direct people from the lift round to their accessible seating block (hold onto that piece of information, it will be become important again later). One good thing I did spot is that the arena has a Changing Places toilet (this is a bigger accessible toilet with additional equipment such as a hoist for those who need it). We did walk past merch on the way to our seats but took one look at the queue and Dev decided she’d come back for us during one of the support acts instead. We were then led to our seats. I would say pretty good seats overall, on an accessible section of the arena with a seated height barrier, so I could actually see without having to fuss too much. The accessible seating was actually positioned in between two sets of standard tiered seating (with some tiered seating below us and some above) so I really felt in with the crowd rather than as though I was on some separate platform away from crowd atmosphere. It seemed like the accessible seating went all the way around that level of the venue as well which I was pleasantly surprised by as it actually looked like a decent amount of accessible seating.

*Little update on this from Royal Blood’s show at Utilita end of March 2022: It turns out there is an alternative accessible to the one I described above. THAT entrance was entrance G (turning right outside the Costa as you head over to the bridge towards the arena). There is also an entrance C which I used for the Royal Blood gig. You turn left as you come over the bridge and should see a giant Lego giraffe around the entrance. This is a flat accessible entrance with no car park to drive through. Once you’re through security you just take a lift up to arena level. The only thing I would say here is the door that leads from arena level to the lift is different than the general exit door for this entrance, and you can easily go through the wrong door if you’re following the crowd on the way out and then have to fight back through the crowd to get to the lift exit door. Take a tip from the girl who learned this the hard way.

View of the stage at Utilita Arena Birmingham from wheelchair seating block 4
Image Description: View of the stage at Utilita Arena Birmingham from wheelchair seating block 4

When it came time for Dev to pop out and get merch, she realised there was STILL a massive line at both sides of the merch stand (we figured that it would be quieter once the gig had actually started). When she FINALLY made it to the front, my contactless wouldn’t work. So, she had to have the merch staff put the shirt I wanted aside whilst she came to get me so I could use my pin. Merch purchased, we headed back into the gig.

The gig, I must say, was excellent. Nova Twins, You Me At Six and Bring Me The Horizon all absolutely brilliant. They say you don’t know how much you miss something and how much you need it until it’s gone. Well, this gig certainly showed me how much I missed and needed live music. When I had finished cathartically screaming every lyric to every song and the gig was over, it was time to make our exit. This is where things get “interesting”. We figured that there couldn’t POSSIBLY be just that one accessible entrance we had entered through. Having drawn that conclusion, we decided to make a quick dive out of the nearest exit opposite our seating block.

Reader, our earlier conclusion was wrong. Once we made our exit, we soon realised that the only way down from the arena to street level the WHOLE WAY AROUND was stairs. Realising our mistake, Dev went to speak to some security on the door to ask that we be let back in or directed around to another exit so that I, obviously a wheelchair user, could accessibly exit the building. The security guard heard what Dev was asking and pointed down the stairs (don’t ask me how he thought the stairs and wheelchair was going to go, I must be missing the levitation button on my wheelchair). After about 10 minutes of arguing that the stairs weren’t an option, I decided to just head back inside to see if the staff inside would be more helpful, since re-entering the building seemed our only option for an accessible exit. Once back inside I managed to speak to a staff member who told me we would have to fight against the crowd to head back to the same lift and entrance we’d entered through. Once we made it back to the lift, I realised that the same person was stationed there as when we entered, which meant it made sense why we’d struggled to exit as there was no one to tell us this was the ONE accessible entrance/ exit. This also meant we had to go down the same lift, through the same dodgy car park and up the same dodgy drop kerb to exit. Then it was over many bridges (which had weird speedbumps in the middle for some reason) and THROUGH a pub (due to lack of drop kerb) to get back onto the canal path to head home.

Overall, thoroughly excellent gig with good accessible seating and the first time I’ve ever seen a Changing Places toilet a gig. However, there is still much improvement to be made to the ticket buying process and accessible entry/exit system (in that having one accessible entry/exit point in a venue that size really ISN’T a system.)

Stay Invincible!
Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels

O2 Academy Birmingham Wheelchair Accessibility Review

Emma, a young woman with glasses and brown hair, is sat on her sofa smiling broadly. She is showing a bright yellow book (Her copy of Daniel Sloss 'Everyone You Hate Is Going To Die') to the camera.
Image Description: Emma, a young woman with glasses and brown hair, is sat on her sofa smiling broadly. She is showing a bright yellow book (Her copy of Daniel Sloss 'Everyone You Hate Is Going To Die') to the camera.

I finally went to a LIVE. EVENT. again,  IN. PERSON. And it was a venue that was new to me. So that only means one thing: A BRAND NEW VENUE ACCESSIBILITY REVIEW (I was genuinely questioning whether I’d ever type those words again). This one is for the O2 Academy in Birmingham.

(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 a manual wheelchair user, I obviously can’t speak for others experiences but feel free to add your experiences in the comments!) 

Ticket Buying

Back in June, my best mate Dev came up to visit me. When we were deciding what to do with our Saturday evening, we remembered that the comedian Daniel Sloss was doing shows in Birmingham that day and it turned out the venue was only a 15 minute walk from my house, so we figured we’d try and grab some last minute tickets. It was one of those “if it happens cool, if not we tried” situations but hey, other people can buy last minute on the day tickets to events if they’re available so why can’t disabled people?  With the mission outlined, we set about contacting the venue through all avenues: all social media, phone calls (which were the first form of contact but we weren’t getting through) and email. It became a matter of principle that we needed a response because like I said before, others can get last minute tickets, disabled attendees should have that option too. After a while, the venue replied to Dev’s email and said that access tickets for the show were sold out. That is what I thought the outcome would be so it was a case of “ok mission unsuccessful” and carry on with the day. THEN the venue replied to my tweet and asked for my contact details. Once I’d handed those details over, I received a call from the venue box office and we were able to book tickets over the phone for the evening performance.

Travel

Since the venue is only 15 minutes from my house, we decided to just walk. We also decided to make a canal side stop for a pre-show drink, because you know, celebrations, and that.

Experience & Seating

Once we arrived at the venue,  we were able to collect our tickets from the box office. I was also recognised by one of the social media team from my Twitter picture (since I was wearing the beloved red leather jacket that’s in that image). We were then taken in one of the entrances and up in the lift to our seats. The lift was one of those where you have to press and HOLD the button to make it move. We also couldn’t have anything touching the sides of the lift otherwise it wouldn’t move. I must say that it was quite difficult to keep holding the buttons down in the lift. Also, whilst I fitted in the lift okay in my  manual wheelchair, I was wondering whether that lift would be able to fit my electric wheelchair. Our seats were balcony seats with an ok view once we had removed one of the chairs and angled my wheelchair towards the stage. However, I wasn’t too bothered about the view since in my mind comedy isn’t as visual as a concert or something else like that. But I do wonder what the view would be like with those seats at a concert as everything on the stage looked pretty small because we were on the highest level.

*A couple of additional notes having attended a concert at this same venue since writing this review: Good additional points: My electric wheelchair DOES fit in that lift, which is something I was a little worried about since it’s a bit tight, AND the view of the stage from the wheelchair space is pretty good, which IS something I was concerned about as I mentioned above. Now for the less positive update: At the concert, my bestie/companion/holder of “carer” ticket, Dev headed down to the main standing area on a couple occasions. This is something we’ve both agreed is absolutely fine and something that happens at near enough every show we’re at together. I know she’ll return at some point, and frankly I quite enjoy knowing what the show was like from the moshpit/standing area as it’s something I’ll never see myself really. However, at the recent concert, we ran into a bit of an issue because security in the standing area wouldn’t allow Dev back up to the wheelchair seating with me even AFTER she showed proof of her carer ticket. I have also heard from other wheelchair using friends that security at the venue won’t even allow wheelchair users to leave the access seating level to buy MERCH. This issue with security (mixed with the lack of signal/Wi-Fi in the venue) meant that Dev and I weren’t reunited until the end of the gig and actually had a pretty difficult time finding each other which put a bit of a dampener on the the evening for me.

In terms of the disabled toilet, it was on the radar key scheme and the emergency pull cord went all the way to the floor; both of which were welcome sights, however, the space in the toilet was a little tight. There were also some COVID related changes (other than masks) such as being socially distanced. This meant there was a gap for one carer and wheelchair user between us and the other people in the accessible seating. There was also mobile ordering and delivery for drinks from the bar, as well as staggered exiting so that everyone wasn’t exiting at the same time.

All in all I must say Daniel Sloss is HILARIOUS and I was saying to Dev that we need NEED to go and see him again when he does a new show. A much needed night of laughs after the last 18 months or so. As for the venue accessibility, bar the struggles acquiring tickets, I thought it was pretty accessible and was fairly happy, although I’d probably have to retest the accessibility in my electric wheelchair just to be certain.

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

Camden Electric Ballroom Accessibility Comparisons – Collaboration with Artie Carden

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.

Stay Invincible!

Emma and Artie

Cage Warriors 111 (Train Travel from Birmingham New Street to London Euston as a Wheelchair User, and Indigo At The O2 Wheelchair Accessibility Review)

An absolutely mammoth train travel/access review post for you today. Birmingham New Street to London Euston and back with West Midlands Trains and Virgin Trains (which now no longer exists) and an access review of Indigo At The O2 for Cage Warriors 111.

(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!)

Train & Tube Outbound

Tickets

Tickets were booked through Trainline as usual and I booked the train assistance through Cross Country Trains. I did it this way, despite Cross Country not being one of the companies I travelled with, because both West Midlands Trains and Virgin trains insisted on having my wheelchair dimensions before booking the ramp and this was not something I’d ever previously been asked for before on any journey with any train company so it wasn’t information I was willing to suddenly have to give.

Birmingham New Street to Euston to Uxbridge

I arrived at the New Street assistance reception 20 minutes before the train and was taken to the platform and put on the train with a ramp by assistance. There are no wheelchair space reservations allowed on West Midlands Trains (operator for this leg of the journey) but luckily there was a free wheelchair space for me to occupy. The catch was that it was next to the toilet, which is interesting when the toilet door slams every 10 minutes and you have a ridiculous startle reflex like mine. When it came time to get off the train, I had a short wait for assistance before the ramp turned up, then it was time to head for the Tube. Specifically, I headed for Euston Square. I made my way through a gate line and to the platform to find there were no staff anywhere to call ahead to Uxbridge and confirm I could disembark. The only staff member I could see was stood at a gate line which was up some stairs, which meant I had to sit at the bottom of said stairs and shout for assistance (it’s a good job I’ve learned to yell loudly over the years). However, the staff member did inform that the wheelchair access at Euston Square was only in one direction so in order to make the return journey for my train home I’d have to go on to Kings Cross on the Metropolitan line and then come back on myself, oh if only the return journey was that simple!

Indigo At The O2 Access Review

Tickets

Initially, I phoned Indigo At The O2 for a wheelchair space ticket and carer ticket for Cage Warriors 111 and was told there were none left, with no mention of possible single wheelchair space tickets being available. Of course, as is standard in 2020, I headed to Twitter to express my disappointment at not being able to secure a ticket. I was particularly disappointed as there was a specific fighter (shout out Paddy Pimblett) who I was desperate to see fight live (and still am). That tweet kind of exploded and gained reaction in a way I never expected with many people trying to help me out (shout out, Paddy, Molly McCann and MMA Twitter for helping me secure an answer and a ticket from the venue). Through this reaction, I was put in touch with the venue who were able to tell me there was a single wheelchair space (no carer) ticket left for what I believe was the venue’s only access platform. Forget Cinderella shall go to the ball, Em shall go to the fights!

Travel

Travel was pretty similar to all my other trips to the O2 complex. I took the Metropolitan line from Uxbridge to Wembley Park with no ramp used, although they do have ramps. I could have used Finchley Road but they refused as it would be “easier” to use Wembley Park (easier on them I assume). I then went from Wembley Park to North Greenwich on the Jubilee line and was met off the tube and guided out of North Greenwich station. On the way back into the station post event, I was bumped and barged repeatedly whilst queuing to enter the station and on my way through the station. I then HAD to get on the busiest tube out of North Greenwich to make sure I didn’t miss the last Metropolitan line train out of Wembley Park towards Uxbridge. This meant I had to sit in the middle of the train not in the designated wheelchair space (because people were stood there). THAT meant I had to just lock my arm straight to hold onto the central pole and steady my chair in case it slid around. My arm was also repeatedly leant on to the point I thought my joints might dislocate. Thankfully I made the last Metropolitan line from Wembley to Uxbridge and then had a short wait for the ramp at Uxbridge.

Experience & Seating

On arrival at the venue, I went through a ticket check and was then led to my seat on the platform. In terms of view, I had probably one of the best views of fighter walkout that I’ve ever had, with fighter walkout being immediately to my left, I was, however, a little further back than I have been for other shows in terms of view into the cage. There was also only the one small platform which meant it was quite packed and full. I did hear an assistance staff member say the platform was “not meant for so many big wheelchairs” which baffled me completely because wheelchair dimensions had never been mentioned when I bought my ticket an, let’s face it, if access is only accessible for those with certain sizes or types of mobility aids, it’s not REALLY access. The good thing about this platform was it was right next to an accessible toilet which meant toilet trips didn’t involve trekking across the venue.

*July 2022 Update: This recent visit in July 2022 was a significantly less accessible experience in terms of the view. This was because the big screen next to the accessible platform was COVERED BY A CURTAIN (screen still actually showing the fights, we just couldn’t see because curtain). See below for what I mean. This meant that I had no view of a portion of the fights as the platform wasn’t positioned for a clear view of the whole cage and the big screen (which I would have used when I couldn’t see a section of the cage) was covered by this curtain. Whilst this was an annoyance for me, I was particularly thinking of those attendees who might be low vision (like my friend Alex) or short sighted and so have trouble seeing the cage from this distance. Having the screen NOT covered by this curtain would have meant they could use the view from the screen to better understand what was going on in the cage, leading to a more accessible and more overly enjoyable experience.

View from the accessibility platform. A curtain covering a large portion of the big screen which is to the left of the access platform.

Photo Credit: Alex Ramzan. Image Description: View from the accessibility platform. A curtain covering a large portion of the big screen which is to the left of the access platform.

Tube, Bus & Train Return

For the beginning of my return journey back to Birmingham, there were maintenance works on Metropolitan line between Wembley Park and Aldgate. That meant that my journey back to Euston was as follows: Metropolitan line from Uxbridge to Wembley Park, then the Jubilee line from there to Bond Street, THEN the Central from there to Tottenham Court Road and finally a bus to Euston station. I made myself known at the Euston assistance desk and was then told to make my own way to the platform. I waited there and was then met by assistance staff who used a ramp to put me on the train. As per my usual gripes with Virgin Trains, there was a tight corridor and door to navigate to make it to my seat, but there was more space in the wheelchair space than I expected given how insistent they were about knowing my wheelchair dimensions prior to my attempted assistance booking. Once I arrived back at New Street, I was taken off the train pretty immediately and was able to wheel away out of the station and back to university accommodation.

I hope this shows my adventures as a wheelchair user for a weekend in the capital for the fights. Thanks as always to Cage Warriors for putting on a brilliant show and I can’t wait to be back in March for CW113

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

Birmingham Symphony Hall Wheelchair Accessibility Review

Interior of Symphony Hall, Birmingham. Image is taken from the back of the Stalls seating area, with balconies on either side. There are many rows of brown seats between the viewer and the stage, with about 30 people already seated. A curtain obscures the stage other than some purple and blue lights that can be seen on the stage floor.
Image Description: Interior of Symphony Hall, Birmingham. Image is taken from the back of the Stalls seating area, with balconies on either side. There are many rows of brown seats between the viewer and the stage, with about 30 people already seated. A curtain obscures the stage other than some purple and blue lights that can be seen on the stage floor. (Credit Lizzie Iles for description)

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!)

Ticket Buying

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

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.

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

Asylum Wheelchair Accessibility Review

Time for another access review. This time of Asylum in Birmingham, specifically for Uprawr Rock 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!)

Tickets

Ticket buying is an easy enough situation as you just buy a ticket on the door, roll in and collect a stamp.

Travel

Travel there is also fairly simple as it’s a 15 minute walk from my room at Aston University. The only vaguely tricky bit is when you reach the road Asylum is on you have to come off the drop kerb, cross the road to the side of Asylum and then go further up in the road (not on the path) and come back on yourself round inside the barriers, but that’s only tricky as it involves driving in the road.

Experience

The experience inside is also very accessible. There is a ramp from the main entrance and bar to the dance floor which can be tricky to navigate if not approached straight on so I would be careful but it’s definitely a very usable ramp. Once on the dancefloor there was plenty of space and a general nice atmosphere which negated the claustrophobia that I find can sometimes be an issue at club nights (particularly when you’re a wheelchair user constantly at bum height and surrounded by those taller than you). Maybe the atmosphere is just a difference between a rock night and a standard club night? I’m not sure.

While there is an accessible toilet, it is not a radar key toilet as the key is kept behind the bar or with security staff. I’d always recommend making toilets radar key over staff held key as it allows for independence in using the bathroom and then going about your night rather than having to hang around waiting for a key, but I’m also aware that not everyone who uses an accessible toilet will have a radar key. The other point to note is that the accessible toilet is situated with all other toilets so queues for the standard toilets can cover the accessible toilet door. Keep that in mind if you want to avoid hitting people with toilet doors!

I hope this review is useful and helps my fellow wheelchair using rockers enjoy an accessible club night!

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

Mama Roux’s Wheelchair Accessibility Review

Credit: Shann Wright

Another access review, this time for Mama Roux’s in Birmingham, specifically for Not Safe For Work Rock 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!)

Tickets

Tickets buying was a very simple situation as they were simply available to be bought on the door.

Travel

Getting there was…an experience to say the least. The actual distance isn’t the problem as it’s only about a 20 minute walk. However, Digbeth (the area) is sort of notorious for its lack of drop kerbs and for Uber drivers parking on said drop kerbs so I’d get ready to fight for your drop kerb access if I was you. I know I tapped on the windows of several Ubers that night to get them to move off the drop kerb.

Experience

Once I was in the door, it was a mixed experience, although overall a good one. I had to use my chair riser to raise up to bar level to pay since the card readers did not seem to be detachable. However, I did manage to make my way through the dancefloor to the barrier, which is not something that happen often but is the kind of situation I LOVE, so I’m not ashamed to admit that made my night. The accessible toilet wasn’t actually in Mama Roux’s but in another section/building on Lower Trinity Street. They’re all connected but that toilet also wasn’t radar key so I had to wait and get the key from staff which made the simple process of going to the bathroom a long process and quite the mission. I would suggest making the toilet a radar key toilet as I usually do but I think that may be quite pointless because there’s the factor of distance between Mama Roux’s and the actual accessible toilet, so I’m not sure make the toilet a radar key toilet would streamline the process any more.

I hope this post is useful and helps someone enjoy a great night out at Not Safe For Work.

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)