I love going to gigs and festivals. I live my life for them. It brings magical, spectacular, incredible, amazing, explosive and memorising feelings and emotions. But to gain these experiences, there is one battle every disabled music lover faces; booking accessible tickets!
For instance, just today, I tried booking tickets for Queen + Adam Lambert at the O2 in London. I checked days in advanced for the general sale date and time, woke up at a reasonable time, got my phone out and pressed call at 9am on the dot. I then was told the lines are extremely busy and to call back later and it hung up. Yes I know they’re busy and Queen are one of the biggest bands in the world, but there is no need to hang up on me. Why can’t they let everyone join the queue and get a chance, then if the gig is sold out, tell us and we’ll leave the queue.
I know the O2 do have a way for people to book accessible tickets online now. However, with my poor sight, it would take me twice as long and by the time I find the correct page, seats and put in my card details, all the tickets maybe sold out anyway.
Also I had a prior engagement this morning so did not have time to continuously keep calling. After having care, I phoned again 30 minutes later and an automated message said the gig is sold out. Therefore I have been unsuccessful this time.
I have experienced similar incidents like this booking tickets at the O2. In 2016, I tried booking Green Day tickets for a gig date in March 2017. I was on hold 2 hours. When I finally got through to an agent, they said it was sold out. Why not make an automated message announcing this 2 hours ago? Another occasion, Foo Fighters had announced a date at the O2 in September 2017. I heard on the radio they were giving away tickets. I tried entering twice and no luck. I thought general sale would be a day or two later at 9am like most ticket releases. Apparently not in this case. It turned out they were on general sale at 4pm on the same day as the radio’s competition. I was unable to try book then as I was at a hospital appointment.
Most recently, I tried booking tickets for Jeff Lynn’s ELO. I phoned the O2 accessible booking line at 9m exactly, on hold 10 minutes to then be told they are already sold out. I was shocked by how quick they sold out. Luckily the band added extra dates and managed to purchase tickets second time round. If all bands and artists added several dates to a venue it would make booking gigs slightly easier.
On the positive side of the O2 Arena, they have a dedicated booking line for people who require accessible needs. Whereas some other venues do not have that service and just have the general booking lines.
In some smaller venues, such as Portsmouth Pyramids, The Wedgewood Rooms and O2 Academy Bournemouth, they do not have particular disabled seating or PA/Carer tickets. You basically book the number of general tickets then contact the venue nearer the event date to organise a PA/Carer entry. There are no chairs at these venues (unless requested) and no wheelchair parking areas. So you just stand amongst the crowd. I prefer this myself as you feel part of the crowd. Plus I can raise my chair up so I’m at the same level as the rest of the audience.
Another issue I sometimes occurred when booking accessible tickets is allowing more than one able-bodied person join me. At a gig in 2015 at the Genting Arena in Birmingham, we had 7 of us going. When booking the tickets, I explained to the operator I would have 6 people accompanying me and can we sit together. The operator said they would make it possible. However when we arrived at the event, I had to sit in the wheelchair section with one person and everyone else was standing on the ground floor. The is the same problem at O2 Guildhall in Southampton. I’m due to see The Wombats there next month with my best friend but I’m only allowed one person with me. So my PA will have to drop us off and wait for us.
Last year I booked tickets to see The Kooks at Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff. When booking this one, they said they do not provide PA/Carer tickets which I thought was ridiculous. So instead I had to purchase a total of 3 tickets; for me, my friend and my PA.
Surprisingly booking festivals is an easier process. You book your general ticket first then a few months later you ask for an access application pack and tell them what access requirements you’ll need (e.g PA/Carer, viewing platform and accessible camping).
There are so many different ways to book accessible tickets and every venue has different access requirements. My dream would be to have a national booking line which can book any event in the country and all venues have the accessible requirements available. Also every venue should have seats that can be removed so a wheelchair user can sit anywhere within the venue rather than in allocated disabled seats.
What experiences have you had with accessible gigs and festivals? Share your thoughts in the comments box or on social media.
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