Photo Credit: Dev Place Photos
Time for my second venue accessibility review, this one, as the title suggests, is about Alexandra Palace in Muswell Hill. I’ll be splitting it into the ticket buying process, the journey to/from venue and seating/general experience at the event.
(Disclaimer: I’m aware “accessibility” means different things to different people, these are MY views on my experience of accessibility at this venue as an electric/manual wheelchair user, I obviously can’t speak for others experiences but feel free to add your experiences in the comments!)
Now, with the number of times I’ve visited Alexandra Palace for events (always concerts), my experience as a disabled concert goer at this venue seems to get worse and worse every time, to the point that, from now on, I will travel to other cities for concerts if Alexandra Palace is the London venue, and here I’ll explain why.
Alexandra Palace has probably the easiest ticket buying system of all the venues I’ve been to. You can buy disabled and carer tickets for the disabled platform online, just the same as a standard ticket, rather than through a dedicated accessible phone line and while this seems like a small thing, it’s nice to be able to order my tickets like everyone else does. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much the best part of Alexandra Palace as far as disabled gig goer experience is concerned.
Travel by Car
Travelling to and from the venue is an experience in itself, and, since I travelled there by both car and public transport, I’ll give you both experiences. While car journeys with Dev are always fun, this particular one was a journey and a half, firstly, the North Circular is a pain in the backside to travel on, but that’s a problem for everyone who drives to the venue and I guess unless you move the entire venue there’s not really much that can be done. There also seemed to be very little signage directing towards the venue for such a large venue (again not sure if that’s something the actual venue can change or whether it’s a local area problem) AND THEN, when we actually got to the venue, we were told there was no Blue Badge disabled parking in the car park right next to the venue (even though the sign at the car park entrance said there was) THEN we were almost waved away from the other Blue Badge parking area because the stewards didn’t think I was disabled (I was sat in the front seat of Dev’s car and my manual wheelchair was VISIBLE in the boot), the only way to exit that car was by walking down a road ( you know, like an actual road that cars drive on!) or by using stairs (am I the only one that sees the glaring irony in having stairs in the “wheelchair accessible” car park? Stairs and chairs don’t mix).
Travel by Public Transport
The public transport journey there is looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong. For me it means getting the Metropolitan line from Uxbridge (where a ramp is required for me to board) to Kings Cross and then the Piccadilly line from Kings Cross to Caledonian Road (which really needs a ramp to safely disembark a wheelchair from the carriage but apparently doesn’t have one) THEN 2 buses and a 20-minute walk to the actual venue. The return journey is just as loooooong back, for me it’s a bus to Finsbury Park Station, a bus to Euston Station, a walk to Euston Square Station and then the last Metropolitan line train back to Uxbridge. Annnnnnnnnnnnnd that’s finally it for the accessible public transport travel to the venue, I did not realise how complicated those trips were until I wrote it down!
Seating and Experience
And now here’s the FUN bit (note the sarcasm here this, the seating and experience as a disabled gig goer was NOT fun) now that’s nothing against the music that was actually happening on stage (shout out to Enter Shikari for putting on one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen) just an issue with stewards and handling of the event from my view as a disabled gig goer. Firstly, we had to walk through the guestlist queue as there was no accessible way to access the standard ticket queues (cue feeling super awkward standing in a queue I wasn’t supposed to be in).
Our tickets were then taken in exchange for wristbands for the disabled platform (completely fair and fine) but then weren’t returned to us at the end of the night despite us being told they would be, as the self-confessed nerdy girl who likes to put her gig/convention/event tickets in a scrapbook, that put a bit of a dampener on the night.
Someone also climbed on the disabled access platform railings where we sat, and security did the sum total of NOTHING until Dev literally pulled the guy off the railings BY HERSELF, there are 2 problems here: 1. Dear railings climber dude, you are, to put it EXTREMELY politely, a complete idiot and I SINCERELY thankyou for partially ruining my view of Shikari! And 2. My best friend shouldn’t have to be doing security’s job for them, or does crowd control not include dragging idiots off climbing the disabled platform railings?! Please explain because I am rather confused.
So, the gig finishes up and I decide a bathroom trip before we set off trying to get through London traffic is probably a good idea, and THAT’S when we find out there’s only 1 disabled toilet in the whole venue! 1 disabled toilet total in a 10,000 capacity venue, really?! Now I get that not every one of those 10,000 people would need to use the disabled toilet, but that platform has been packed out every single time I’ve been to the venue, and surely even THAT amount of people potentially needing a disabled toilets warrants having multiple of them within the venue?!
Then, just when you thought the issues were over, we were made to wait ON THE ROAD down to the car park in the cold for lorries to drive up (lorries that we could not see) because there was no drop kerb for me to be get onto the actual path and the only way we got up there was through some fellow Shikari fans lifting my chair onto the path (yet again the FANS and not the STEWARDS helping me out here) Now, anyone with Cerebral Palsy (the condition that I have) knows that waiting in the cold + Cerebral Palsy = muscle stiffness = ouch, which isn’t a fun equation and definitely put a massive dampener on the evening.
I was really rather shocked at the poor customer service, as a disabled gig goer, that I got from Alexandra Palace, particularly with it being such a large venue. I hope this blog can show the venue where things need to be improved so I can continue being the #invinciblewomanonwheels at every gig I go to.