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!)
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.
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.
Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)