Travelling the length and breadth of this fine island for concerts and MMA shows, I’ve been to a variety of venues with varied accessibility. With that in mind, here is a comprehensive list of the highs and the lows of my experiences with venue accessibility.
So here it is, every venue I’ve reviewed on this blog ranked with a quick word as to why it was ranked that way. I do intend for this to be an evolving document with rankings changing as venue access changes and I visit new venues.
The number one spot on this goes to Bristol Bierkeller. This may seem like a bit of an odd one since the Bierkeller could not be classified as “accessible”, but the venue team were aware of that and did everything they could to make sure I could attend , which yes included carrying me up a set of stairs in a manual wheelchair. I’d rather that kind of attitude to accessibility than being turned away completely (obviously full wheelchair accessibility is the best option, but I know that can’t be instantly achieved at some venues). I was sad to hear that the Bierkeller had closed and it will always have a piece of my heart for making sure I could attend a gig I didn’t think was possible.
Next up is The Viola Arena in Cardiff. The winning element here is the fact that the wheelchair spaces are amongst the standard seating rather than on some specific accessible platform . This meant I felt more a part of the atmosphere which is definitely one of the best parts of attending Cage Warriors shows like the ones I’ve attended here.
The bronze medal goes to Lyric Theatre Hammersmith. Even though our seats were pretty far back here, the staff assistance was great and really made me feel welcome. I had heard that the theatre had undergone refurbishment since my visit so I would be interested to see how the refurbishment changed accessibility or not.
I won’t lie, when I researched this venue, I was slightly nervous about what their access would involve as I knew it was an older (possibly listed?) building. However, this was possibly the simplest access in terms of knowing how access was going to work and not having to jump through too many hoops. It showed me that access to older buildings is possible and that “it’s an old building” isn’t a get out of jail free card for not providing access
Symphony Hall Birmingham
I felt this was a quite accessible venue, one where I was able to comfortably attend solo and not feel like I was going to struggle getting around. There was the issue with the restricted view, but this was explained to me BEFORE I bought my ticket for the gig so I was able to make an informed decision that I was ok with a possible restricted view.
O2 Arena London
This is probably the venue I’ve been to the most, for both concerts and MMA shows. I am sad to say that the accessibility and experience for disabled guests seems to be decreasing, particularly when I compare my concert experience to the experience I had at the second UFC show I attended there.
Indigo At The O2
The reason this venue drops behind its “big brother” venue O2 Arena London is mostly due to the VERY limited amount of wheelchair spaces, just a single cramped platform. Add to this the distance from the cage (it was an MMA show I was watching) and I sort of felt like this venue wasn’t entirely built for me to be there and I was intruding somewhere I wasn’t expected to be.
Resorts World Arena
Next up is Resorts World Arena in Birmingham. Now, I’ll be honest here, this ranking is probably a little harsh on the arena and it should probably be higher. Having attended both with a friend and solo, there were no issues with the access here but also nothing mind-blowingly brilliant, and it’s difficult to rank it amongst the others when there’s nothing specific to remember (good or bad) about the accessibility.
The thing that struck me about the Excel London is just how busy and difficult to get around it could be despite being such a large venue. The fact that I was attending Comic Con London probably factored into that, but I think my experience at the Excel opened my eyes to the issues with accessibility at conventions in general.
This is another one of those “not terrible but not great” access review situations, other than the accessible toilet being in an adjacent building and the card readers not being detachable. There was nothing particularly terrible about the access here but nothing particularly great either.
The main reason this drops below Mama Roux’s is because, despite better access on the ground floor and similar accessible toilet issues to Mama Roux’s, I can’t access an entire floor of Asylum as it’s up a flight of stairs which downgrades the access rating a fair bit.
M&S Bank Arena
Next up is M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool. My main issue here is that the wheelchair space was at the top level of the arena seating which limited the view. This was specifically annoying as being able to see the action is a major part of seeing a UFC show live, which is the event I was attending
Similarly to the M&S Bank Arena, the problem with the Roundhouse in Camden was that the wheelchair space was higher up at the top level of the venue which limited the view.
O2 Islington Academy
This one was a bit of a double edged sword. On the one hand, the accessible “platform” section was at the front of the venue next to the stage which of course was fantastic in terms of view and what I could hear. However, on the other hand, having the platform right at the front meant having to fight all the way through to the back of the venue when you wanted to leave. This is quite difficult, as you can imagine, when an entire venue full of people is trying to do the same thing.
This venue goes here as it improves on my one issue with its predecessor Kingston Hippodrome (see below) with a lift to the accessible viewing area rather than a slightly dodgy ramp.
My only issue with this venue was that it was difficult to navigate ramp up to the access platform. Despite the access issues, I’m sad that this venue has now closed but look forward to checking out and reviewing the new venue for Banquet Records New Slang events (Pryzm Kingston).
The problems here started before I’d even entered, and to be fair I’m not sure there’s that much the venue themselves can do about this. What am I talking about? COBBLES, the cobbled path to the accessible entrance was REALLY not fun for my back. Once we were in, the view from the accessible section was poor and we had to move around the section to near the toilets to be able to get a decent view.
Ahh Alexandra Palace London, those of you who have read my review of this venue will know it’s not a nice review, and that’s all I’ll say. It would have been last in these rankings but for contact and a very lengthy email that was sent discussing the concerns I had raised and informing me about changes that had taken place since my visit.
HMV Oxford Street
I know that since I visited, this “venue” (technically it was a shop, but I attended an in store concert there) has closed but I still thought it worth mentioning. The accessible platform ticket policy, whereby I bought a ticket first and then rang to see if I could secure the one wheelchair space, was odd and felt slightly unfair. It also meant I missed out on multiple shows and had to throw away perfectly good, already purchased tickets and let them go to waste just because I had nowhere to sit.
I hope this helps put everything I’ve written regarding access reviews into one place!
Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)