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Thursday, 12 September 2013

Guide for "Disabled" festival goers:

Time to swap my shorts for ski pants, for Biffy to become less shirt-less and the butty vans to return back to their industrial estates.  Yes, it's sadly that time of year. The British summer music festivals have all come to a close. As the abandoned blow up beds and tents finally lay to rest in landfill sights, i thought it was only fitting that I compile a guide for next years disabled festival goers.
Wheelchair-aerial view of The Killers at T - July 2013

Is the "Disabled Campsite" for you?
For first timers, it's about making the decision on whether to use the "disabled" camping facilities or not. Festivals are pretty open as to what defines a "disability" and a large number of different people are now making use of the facilities on offer. I've met people with Chrone's disease, autism, visual impairment, MS and bumped into the odd spinal cord injured friend. Large festivals, like Reading for instance, are now asking for proof of disability when you register for disabled camping. (They tend to ask you for a copy/scan of your DLA letter.)

Still not sure?  Liberty with autism says "it's quieter than the other camps and there's always staff to help." Iain, who's deaf, likes to use the "disabled access because it's easier for all the deaf friends to stay close without having to stress too much as it can be hard to hear with all the crowd making noise!" He also mentioned that he loves the atmosphere of the disabled campsite and feels safer as there are less people which makes it easier when people aren't necessarily deaf aware.

If you are opting to book and register for disabled camping:

  • Make use of the "2 for 1" carer tickets available.
  • Book and register for disabled camping tickets as soon as possible, so you're not disappointed...
  • Put the "Disabled registration date" in your diary! Most festivals don't open up their registration up until about 2/3 months before the festival, don't buy your tickets and then forget to register!
  • It will give you and (usually one other person) access to Disabled viewing platforms. (scroll down for more info!)
My faithful Hi Gear proton 2 man tent: £36.27
(discount card price) Go Outdoors.
Equipment tips!

Granted this is mainly aimed at wheelchair users, but it's something to think about, regardless of ability!
Festivals are a good introduction to camping with a disability, as you're in a safe environment with people who can help you out.

  • Big tents that are big enough to stand up in and have a "living space" are great for wheelchair users at festivals. It gives you privacy to get dressed etc. without having to use the bathroom (queues don't often occur, but  sometimes you don't always want to trek!) 
  • Huge tents also give you privacy when transferring from floor to chair and prevent the rain from pouring down on you as you are about to jump into your chair for the day. (It happened to me!)
  • Porches are a saviour! If you don't want to invest in a super huge tent with compartments, that's fine. Just make sure you have  a tent that has some sort of "porch". Most tents do come with this as standard, however some don't. 
  • If you're leaving your chair outside, make sure you take your cushion off and tip your chair upside down! (rain and dew are not nice friends to make first thing in a morning!)
Sleeping stuff:
Temperature regulation is a common issue for people with physical disabilities. It might be summer, but the clearer the sky, the cooler the night!

An example of what camp sites look like on Monday
  • Have at least a 3 season or 4 season sleeping bag. (And if you're a para/tetra, make sure your legs don't fall out in the middle of the night!)
  • When it comes to sleeping mats, i have a self inflating rolling one. It's extremely portable and pretty comfortable. Don't opt for  a basic, flat sleeping mat. You will either get pressure marks (apparently) and will wake up every morning with a killer back. 
  • Inflatable mattress? If that's your thing...go for it. To me, it's not camping but it's great entertainment for fellow campers! One of my highlights at T in the Park was watching a semi-drunk scottish man attempt to squeeze a double blow up mattress into a two man tent whilst holding a can of Tennents!
    Roll up sleeping mat...pretty small?
  • Don't be wasteful! think of the environment! I hate seeing people dumping mattresses, tents and all sorts. Feel free to get drunk and have a blast but think about how you're going to have just as good a time next year or on another camping're wasting your own money and leaving a mess for other people to clean up.

Clothing (obviously from a girls POV, but boys, take note!
Shorts, tights strappy tops and hoodies, lots
of hoodies!!!

  • Shorts for the day! Disability or not, make the most of the sun! Strappy tops; great for when you've got lots of pushing to do!
  • Tights at night. As mentioned, temperature regulation is a bummer. Tights are great, better than jeans and tracksuit bottoms for warming cold legs up. They're "tighter" and improve regulation...especially for paralysed legs. 
  • Hoodies! Take at least two. Remember, festivals can be wet and muddy, there's nothing worse than a wet, muddy hoody! 
  • Waterproof trousers! Later in the season...rain can be chilly...if it's one of those days, shove the waterproof trousers on! (Put them on the top of shorts, so you can take them off when the sun comes out.)
Extra handy things! (pretty general)
  • Don't forget your medication and take more than you need.
  • Alcohol gel is a must! (leg wash, and portaloos!)
  • Wet wipes.
  • make sure your medication and personal care items are protected in different bags.
  • Pack a few extra blankets in your car, just in case you get really cold or all your hoodies get muddy.
  • Lots of towels! 
  • Dry shampoo. (I didn't use the showers at Reading. It's late August and i have long hair that takes ages to dry...)
The reality of "Viewing platforms."
I'm concerned that i've given them a bad press. They're not bad, i just personally never really have a great time on them. Most people i talk to say that they need to be made bigger and the atmosphere on them tends to feel pretty damp compared to the rest of the gig...and most people agree! One issue that is pretty hard for festival organisers to deal with is the fact that some people abuse the platforms. Wristbands have been introduced so that the person with the disability and one other member of their party can use the platform. I completely understand why this is the case. If you're with a group of friends however, it can kill the buzz and people can feel a little left out. As a whole viewing platforms give you a fair and good view and if that's all your after, then you're in luck!

So that's that. I hope this helps you out! Any questions, you know where to ask. I hope to bump into you and not your guy ropes somewhere in the middle of a field, next summer!

Monday, 2 September 2013

Reading festival: Accessible info and reviewed through my rolling eyes...

What sort of idiot flies from Vancouver on a Monday, arrives back in Chorley on Tuesday, attempts to "pack" on Wednesday but finds themselves falling asleep and not moving all day. Wakes up on Thursday, still feels like a zombie, says to their Mum, "I can't go today...i'll die...", the "Way i tend to be" comes on the radio, "American idiot" plays on Kerrang! and within 3 hours is bombing it 230 miles down the M6 to Reading...?
The sort of idiot who's looking like this on Friday:
Rocking out to Frank with Nic and kathleen...awesome
fans from Australia! (Hardcore dude didn't want me to
miss out on any of the set and gave me  a piggy back the
full 45 minutes!

Here's my review of Reading festival from my usual rolling well as a few others thrown in!

Sarah celebrating self
Don't turn up at 9:35pm with a "white parking" permit. For some reason, i wasn't given a "Disabled parking" permit and found myself 4 miles away on the completely wrong end of Reading. We made it back, got wristbanded up and found the parking was brilliant. Just like T in the park, right next to the campsite so there wasn't too much of a roll to our pitch site. Being stubborn, tired and independent young females, we were pretty triumphant in carrying all our kit from the car to the site in one run...
independent living! 
Disabled campsite

It's pretty huge! Arriving pretty late, in the dark meant that i didn't really get to have a snoop and meet the campsite stewards straight away, but we made friends with our near by campers who helped us out! (We'd had enough of independent living for one day!) I'd heard that there'd been a crazy amount of applicants who had applied for Disabled tickets.There must have been between 50-100 disabled campers...maybe more! Watch out for guy ropes, they can be deadly for you, your chair and the poor people who's tent you might accidentally pull down! The info tent appeared to be manned 24 hours with enough extension sockets to power a small village (and everyones's phones!) as well as powered wheelchairs/motorised scooters! Fires were also allowed, which is pretty cool and a few people made use of this novelty. Jet lagged Miss May can only be bothered to be as outdoorsey as her stamina will let we decided to pop into Reading itself, every morning (early afternoon!)and indulge in a healthy, balanced pub breakfast. As a whole, just like at any other festival, the campsite was chilled, less noisy and everyone was open to making friends, chatting and having fun. Great atmosphere and the stewards were awesome to chat to! 
Tent town! 

General campsite facilities    
  • Porta-loo accessible toilets: The usual, it's a festival, no flush. Get on with it! Just because you've got a disability doesn't mean you don't have to experience what everyone else does! I survived!
  • Porta-loo showers: Confession!!...I didn't use them. They looked totally fine, but the weather had began to turn slightly autumnal, i have long, thick hair that takes about 4-6 hours to dry and i didn't want to be shivering and getting ill. Other people seemed to be pretty satisfied with them!
  • Water! Outdoor 
  •  sinks were available, which were pretty darn handy!
Getting around

Reading's pretty flat compared to Vancouver and Chorley so i found it totally fine! Again, i was extremely lucky with the dry weather! (Good choice, not to go to Leeds!) I discovered my freewheel had a loose screw and wouldn't attach to my chair by the second day, so i just gave myself a good workout navigating myself around. A few people did tell me that compared to Download, the access around the arena is terrible, as there's apparently a lot of track put down to make navigating on muddy grass a lot easier.
We won't talk about/mention
how i got here..;)
I'm not sure if this is a reflection on my character, or attitude...but if someone in a wheelchair wanted to buy a beer from the bar, they'd have to roll on to this tiny piece of metal, then once they have their beer in hand...roll off again. It's pretty impossible to not do this without spilling your drink. So you have to ask someone else to pass you your drink, 9 times out of 10 they ordered for me and i can't really complain, can i? 
I also spent 2 nights alone as my buddy, Sarah had to go to work. I was totally fine! This either proves i'm hardcore, or that Reading is a pretty damn accessible festival!

Stages and Platforms

radio 1/nma stage platform entrance
Yes, I sulked at Green Day! I was told the viewing platform was full, so i headed to the front where some woman was "guarding" her 12 year old at the barrier. I nearly burst into tears and said "when i was 12, i wasn't being "guarded" at Green Day Concerts, i was lying in bed listening to them!" She just gave me a guilty, apologetic look as the security carried me over the barrier and told me to go to the disabled viewing platform...I told them it was full, as i had tried to get on it before...they then asked, some how made room and I watched Green Day from there. Can all venues/festivals please, please, pleeeeeaaaaseee employ a rule that you are only allowed onto the disabled viewing platform if you are after having a good time and are not going to sit, miserable in silence? Green Day were fantastic and amazing and played literally all of my favourite songs. But I didn't "feel" it. Live music is about more than just having a "good view", it's about being part of something bigger than selfish desires to see or be near people you admire that play instruments and sing songs. Green Day are my all time, favourite heroes. I've seen them twice live this summer and both times they have been incredible but i've not been able to "feel" it due to being at the back or up high on platforms that i'm sharing with people who are just sat listening. One day i will get to a venue that won't have security turfing me out of the mosh pit and i'll be able to really feel it! One day...
If you're 12, wait your turn to go to Green Day concerts and festivals...i did!!

Other than that though...I made fair use of the platforms from time to time. I managed to get to the front of the festival republic stage to see Kate Nash and have the most random conversation with her! I rocked out to Frank in my usual way and sat at the back with disgust, watching eminem rhyme (So glad i've never wasted any money in investing in his music). I rocked out in the crowd a little to Biffy...:)A lot of people said the viewing platforms were too small and need to be made bigger. I can vouch for that!

Additional stuff!
Attitude is Everything  are a great organisation that i discovered that weekend! Their aim is to improve disabled and deaf people's access to live music! If you're anything like me and love attending live gigs then take a look at these guys and see how you can get involved!

The arena wasn't very good at selling gluten free stuff...T in the park was awesome for that sort of stuff! (SO ha! South of England stereotyping the are 12 times more unhealthy that the scottish!)
ATM's were sort of accessible! I could actually reach them to type my pin in, but couldn't really see the screen...

Great fun! Great festival! Great way to finish off my out for a "top tips for disabled festival goers" with a few more hints, tips and experiences from other people with disabilities!