Accessible festival-going

tintheparkEnable’s Lindsay Cochrane paid a visit to Scotland’s premier music festival T in the Park yesterday – and she was pleasantly surprised by the disabled access facilities…

I’ve wanted to go to T in the Park for years. Growing up in Scotland, it’s pretty much all anyone talks about in their teen years and every year, I’d get a little pang of jealousy when everyone else was trotting off to Balado to see the likes of Kings of Leon, Rihanna and the Arctic Monkeys tear up the airfield.

Why didn’t I go? In all truth, I was a bit scared – not of the drunken revellers (a Saturday night on Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street lets you experience that), but because I have Crohn’s disease.

I was diagnosed with the inflammatory bowel disease when I was 18, at the peak of every festival-goer’s life. My Crohn’s doesn’t affect my life too much – I had surgery to resection my small intestine shortly after diagnosis and, following a five-year course of immunosuppressant drugs, my condition has, thankfully, been stable. But my guts still have their moments – there are certain things I can’t eat, I sometimes have to make a mad dash for the loo, I get the odd painful day and I get tired quite easily compared to other people my age. Symptoms like this are rare for me, but the condition is unpredictable, so if I’m doing something different or going somewhere I don’t know very well, I do always have the words Crohn’s, toilets and food hovering in the back of my mind – but I try not to let it hold me back. All the same, the thought of a day at a festival, standing for hours on end, and queuing for grotty portable toilets, filled me with dread.

And then I read about how access has improved at festivals, and thought – well, why not? It was definitely worth trying out for a day at least. If I could get access to the disabled loos, where queues were shorter and fewer people were using them, it might make my experience a little easier. So I purchased my ticket, contacted the T in the Park access team and hoped for the best.

I needn’t have worried. Fairly quickly after contacting T in the Park, I got an email to confirm that I’d been put on the list for a disabled access wristband, which I’d to pick up on the day. Right at the gates to T, there was the disabled info point. It turns out that my name wasn’t on the list, but a flash of my Crohn’s and Colitis UK Can’t Wait card proved my point, and a very kind lady issued myself and my friend with wristbands. These, she told us, would also get us onto the wheelchair platforms. We were set.

I really can’t enthuse enough about access at T. The loos – with one wheelchair accessible toilet and a regular one for carers, companions or non-wheelchair users close to the wheelchair platform for each stage – were all really clean and queues were practically non-existent which gave me real peace of mind. There were also signs up outside the doors to say that, if you hadn’t registered for an ASN pass, you’d still be allowed access the toilets with a Can’t Wait card from Crohn’s and Colitis UK or CICRA or a Radar key. This was a huge relief for me and allowed me to enjoy the likes of Twin Atlantic, Pharrell Williams, Bombay Bicycle Club and Katy B without panicking about finding the nearest toilet, having to queue for ten years and then nearly passing out when I saw the state of the thing.

The wheelchair platforms, while a bit away from the stages, were well placed to watch the show on the big screens (and under cover – a huge bonus when the heavens opened!) and had plenty of space and foldout chairs. When you book a disabled ticket, you can apply for a companion ticket so you know at least one other person can join you on the platform – but, from looking round the groups we saw, it seems like you can get extra bands if required. The festival’s staff were incredibly helpful and understanding too, with no questions asked once you showed them your green band – something that I really appreciated with my non-visible health condition.

A grassy expanse of land might not be the most easily-managed terrain for wheelchair users or those unsteady on their feet, but the access team are able to step in and help out where required and fellow festival-goers are really understanding and helpful too. We spotted a member of staff creating a makeshift rain-cover out of a plastic bag to protect one wheelchair user’s feet form the mud.

If you’ve booked up to go to a festival this summer, or you’re thinking about attending, check out the event’s website and look for contact details for the access team. If my T in the Park experience is anything to go by, they’ll be more than happy to make sure that everyone can enjoy the music, mud and mayhem this summer.

For more details of the Crohn’s and Colitis UK Can’t Wait card, follow this link:

What’s your experience of access at music festivals? Share your stories in the comments section below…

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