Explore Issue 01 of LOOP Magazine

Featuring Sam Tompkins and Victor Ray as our cover stars, as well as internal spreads from Girli, Jords, Mysie, Finn Askew, Kara Marni and Master Peace

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Disabled Access Nightmare at Wireless 2022

I’m lucky enough to have made music journalism my career, and due to this, I spend a large amount of my time at gigs and festivals, so being in a large crowd is nothing new to me. However, as a child, I was diagnosed with ADHD and ASD (autistic spectrum disorder, for those not versed in the world of neurological conditions).

General symptoms of people with my diagnosis include social anxiety, fear of noises and big crowds, and difficulty adapting to change. At the time of diagnosis, I was told I would never go to a mainstream school, never be able to form friendships and never be able to cope with everyday tasks on my own. Luckily in the years post-diagnosis, I found ways to cope with my condition and, to my delight, proved the doctor’s predictions incorrect.

However, my diagnosis never leaves me, and as I get older, especially post-pandemic, I find myself becoming increasingly anxious, even at times prone to panic attacks. Luckily for me, my diagnosis of ADHD has meant that I am often accredited a “PA” (Personal assistant) pass to gigs, festivals, and theme parks, free of charge. This means that I can often be found with a “carer” at most gigs and festivals. My carer is always a friend who is as chuffed to be at the event as me, and we usually split the price of the ticket, but it’s incredibly useful to have someone around me in case disaster strikes.

My story of disaster with wireless Crystal Palace 2022 started from the offset before the festival began. When applying for a PA Pass for a festival, one would usually email the access team before purchasing tickets and confirm that a PA pass would be possible for the event (it’s helpful to know if you will be allowed to be accompanied by your career, or if you’ll be facing the terrain as a solo traveller, especially if you are physically disabled). However, wireless 2022 worked things differently for this festival. Instead of speaking to somebody directly, you were forced to purchase tickets to the event and then fill out a GCSE research methods style survey monkey questionnaire to enter your hat into the ring of proving your disability.

Once the form is completed, you’re greeted with a hopeful “you should receive a response in a month” message. I waited almost three months for my response, all phone calls to the access team were declined, and I wasn’t confirmed a personal assistant until two weeks before the event was scheduled to take place. This, however, wasn’t a problem that the access team can take responsibility for. After conversing with an access team representative from Live Nation on the festival grounds, I was informed that festival Republic had only allocated three members of staff to run the Access team for over fifty festivals in the UK.

The blame for any of the misdoings of the festival shouldn’t fall into the hands of the overworked access team doing their best to accommodate people with specialised requirements. The blame should instead fall onto the shoulders of the festival organisers for a poorly planned event and an embarrassing choice of venue.

As I arrived at the festival on the first day, it was clear that the event had been fumbled together. My questions of “where is the disabled entrance?” And “where can I pick up my wristband for my carer?” were all met with “not a clue Bruv” and “I don’t know, somewhere over there, or something” (“over there” was a different place every time). Before long, we decided to try for the main entrance and speak to the security running the gates. On our way in, we were informed by security that we should “just blag our way through into the festival, they probably won’t care anyway”, so that is exactly what we did; it didn’t take much to convince them.

“Hey I’m an access customer, and this is my career; we’re trying to get into the festival”, I said to the lead supervisor of the entrance. “No worries, just put your stuff into the scanner and come in”. No tickets were checked, and we were allowed straight into the festival. Now I’m not usually one to complain about getting into a festival for free, but after the Astroworld tragedy and Manchester Arena bombing, you would think that security would be on high alert or at least check our tickets. However, security at the festival caused nothing but issues throughout the weekend.

As the Friday progressed, my carer and I made our way over to the pathetically small second stage (complete with a tree slap bang in front of the staging) to see Fivio Foreign. During the performance, a fan fell at the back of the crowd and had a seizure. Like any empathetic human, I ran to the security nearby and pleaded with them to help him, but my implores were shrugged off and ignored. It wasn’t until the crowd started screaming stop, and the New York rapper reasoned with security that they finally listened to our reasonable demands.

It was apparent that the security were undertrained and largely uninterested in working during the festival. They were instead choosing to watch the live acts rather than helping fans in need at any point during the event.

I was later involved in a dispute with security as I tried to meet my assistant, who had arrived at the festival shortly after me. I was informed as I entered the poorly planned, on-top-of-a-hill access entrance that I would be able to enter the festival without my carer and meet him when he arrived when his delayed train got him to the venue. So off I went to enjoy Sunday’s opening acts from afar until he arrived. However, as I tried to return to the disabled access point, I was stopped by an angry security guard. “Where do you think you’re going?” He questioned me for almost five minutes as I explained that I was informed only an hour prior that I was to come back to the access entrance to meet my carer. He wasn’t having any of it; his patience for me grew thinner the more I tried to explain the situation to him. It wasn’t until I was recognised by one of the security I had seen as I entered the venue that my newfound festival saviour explained to the now cartoonish-ly angry security guard that I was allowed to pass him.

Once in the festival, the conditions were less than accommodating for differently-abled customers. The disabled entrance was positioned on the top of a steep hill, complimented with potholes and gravel that made travelling down solo impossible. Once down the hill, the now infamous disabled viewing platform was planted strategically at the back of the festival, with no ramp down to the main arena, so wheelchair users had to hope they didn’t get hungry, thirsty or have bad eyesight.

I am lucky that my disability is a neurological one rather than a physical one, however, at one point I saw a wheelchair-bound, and very rightfully angry-looking festival attendee forced to pop a wheelie in her chair to traverse the uneven ground as she was pushed along by a man dressed head to toe in high-vis as if her inconvenience wasn’t eye-catching enough.

Despite some incredible performances, the event as a whole was a logistical nightmare. However, access customers were offered full refunds on their tickets in a positive move to make good on their underperforming. Only time will tell if this move will make up for their misdoings and if disabled fans like me will forgive them for their poor treatment again.  

Words by Mason Meyers

Posted On 4 October, 2022