Just So Festival to boost disabled audiences with Gold Award on Attitude is Everything’s Charter of Best Practice

  • The festival, celebrating its 8th anniversary this year, is among the most inclusive and accessible family event in the UK.
  • For 2017, the festival launched an innovative online audio programme and 360-degrees Virtual Tour.
  • The award comes on the heels of the festival winning an Attitude is Everything Outstanding Attitude Award in December 2016 for an inclusive programme made in partnership with performers.

With one month to go before Just So Festival re-opens its gates for a weekend of imaginative outdoor adventures, live music accessibility charity Attitude is Everything is delighted to announce that the event has been awarded the ultimate Gold award of their Charter of Best Practice. The Charter recognises the efforts made by UK venues and festivals to be accessible for Deaf and disabled people. Just So joins other Gold awardees Glastonbury, Greenbelt and Liberty Festival in being recognised by Attitude is Everything as one of the most accessible outdoor events in the UK.

The 5,000 capacity festival produced by Wild Rumpus is the only arts camping festival in the UK dedicated solely to children and their families, and features a vast range of innovations that cater to the access requirements of Deaf and disabled attendees.

Having previously passed through Bronze and Silver levels, the Gold award recognises the ways in Just So has gone beyond best practice recommendations and demonstrated to the wider events industry what is possible when creativity and audience-engagement combine. Of particular note are three innovations in the area of pre-event information provision that demonstrate how online access provisions can benefit all customers.

In December 2016, the festival won an Attitude is Everything Outstanding Attitude Award for its inclusive programme, which includes a range of categories, such as “Sit Back and Relax” and “Make Some Noise”, to enable audience members to make informed choices about activities best suited to their needs for each of the 200 events at the festival. This sort of resource is invaluable for families with members who have learning disabilities or autism.

This year, organisers Wild Rumpus have created two new resources in advance of the festival. A new audio programme will enable attendees to explore an online map that will unlock information about different areas and specific events. The festival also has a new 360 virtual tour of the site, providing a virtual “walk around” with embedded information of activities. Both additions will enable disabled customers to plan their weekend and familiarise themselves in advance of what the festival has to offer.

Beyond these innovations, the festival has also invested in ensuring the site itself is as accessible as possible – employing a dedicated Access Manager, and implementing a range of access provisions such as a Changing Places adjacent to the accessible camping area, signage marking slope-free routes, early access to the accessible campsite and certain performances and flexible viewing areas. 

This on-site provision is supported by disability awareness training of staff, including dedicated briefings for area leaders on specific potential barriers around site, and continuous consultation with customers. 

As a result, the festival has seen significant increases in Deaf and disabled customers over the past 5 years.

Members of the festival team have also worked to champion the subject of accessibility in the events industry, joining Attitude is Everything and independently advocating for best practice at various industry events and in industry press.

Suzanne Bull MBE, CEO of Attitude is Everything, said:

I’m absolutely delighted to see Just So Festival, such an innovative and creative family event, gain the Gold Award via our Charter of Best Practice. The organisers are a fantastic example of how access does not need to be treated as a niche, bolt-on addition to a festival. They demonstrate how access can be at the core of creative event-planning, and how this can benefit the experience of all attendees. Exciting things can emerge from consulting with disabled customers and striving to make the festival experience better each year. We can’t wait to see what the festival does next

Sarah Bird, Director of Just So Festival, said

We are delighted to have achieved this prestigious Gold Award on Attitude Is Everything’s Charter of Best Practice. Since first encountering AIE 4 years ago, their guidance and advice has really helped us to think differently about what our deaf and disabled audiences need. From the outset they encouraged us to think of access as a conversation with our audience and it’s turned out to be a really inspiring and exciting conversation to have started. We look forward to continuing to work with them to help shape a more holistic approach to accessibility across all areas of Just So Festival

Caroline Bowditch, performance artist and choreographer, said:

My co-creator and I attended Just So last year as festival goers and were so impressed by the incredibly welcoming and accessible environment that had been created. We are so excited to be coming back to the festival this year with our Unlimited and Northern Festivals Network commissioned piece ‘The Adventures of Snigel’. This piece has partly come about to acknowledge the lack of disabled and diverse bodies represented in performance work for young audiences. The fact that Just So is also recognising this fact and actively commissioning disabled performers is a brilliant step forward. I really hope that more families with disabled children come to Just So and get involved – it’s so much fun!

Just So Festival is the only combined arts camping festival in the UK solely for families. With a love of stories and childhood escapades at its heart, it is a wonderland of literature, arts, theatre, dance, music, comedy and creative pursuits underpinned by the Tribal Tournament, the most bonkers competition in the land. 18 – 20 August, Rode Hall Estate, Cheshire www.justsofestival.org.uk

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