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Audience Access Alliance outlines checklist for reopening

Accessibility charity Attitude is Everything has published a ten-point ‘live music checklist’ to help ensure deaf, disabled and neurodivergent fans are made welcome when full-capacity events are allowed to resume in the UK.

Created by the UK’s cross-sector Audience Access Alliance, the initiative is designed to apply to any kind of venue or event and has been widely endorsed throughout the music industry.

With full-scale events in the UK anticipated to resume in coming weeks, Attitude is Everything has urged the country’s music and event industries to adopt its checklist as part of their reopening plans – making sure that the needs of deaf, disabled and neurodivergent (mentally ill or developmentally disabled) fans are considered as included in the reopening strategies for gigs and festivals.

The Audience Access Alliance, launched last year, is a coalition of 13 disability and accessibility organisations and networks that have united to remove barriers for cross-sector audiences across the UK, and is being replicated across the cultural, entertainment and sports sectors.

Designed to apply to any venue or event – from football matches and outdoor festivals to heritage sites, music venues, tourist attractions and theatres – the checklist enshrines the key understandings and policies required for reopening to be fully accessible for deaf and disabled people, many of whom are desperate to start attending shows again.

“The ten-point Accessible Reopening Checklist is designed to help any venue or event get ready to welcome back deaf and disabled people,” says Attitude is Everything founder Suzanne Bull. “It’s free and easy to use, so there’s no reason for promoters, venue managers and event organisers not to embrace and implement this checklist.

“Deaf and disabled people are looking forward to returning to an inclusive world of sports, arts and culture”

“Deaf and disabled people are artists, employees, volunteers and fans, and they’re looking forward to returning to an inclusive world of sports, arts and culture.”

The full Accessible Reopening Checklist runs as follows:

Any venue or event reopening to the public should be able to say “yes” to these things:

1. We agree that every person has the right to assess their own level of risk.
2. People can find facts on our website about accessibility and Covid-19 safety to make informed decisions.
3. If we have tickets on sale, deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people can arrange the access they need.
4. No one is advised against visiting our event or venue.
5. No one will be challenged about their ‘risk status’ at our entrance due to a perceived ‘vulnerability’.
6. Attendees are not expected to bring a doctor’s note if unable to wear a mask.
7. Our Covid-19 safety measures are accessible for everyone.
8. Our street furniture does not obstruct accessible parking or access routes for attendees or pedestrians.
9. Our staff have been trained in disability awareness and understand our access provision and COVID-safety measures.
10. We are committed to listening to deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people and engaging with any new audiences gained online during lockdown.

Jane Beese, head of music for Manchester International Festival and chair of the LIVE Equality, Diversity & Inclusion group, comments: “When live music returns, it’s imperative that all audiences are able to head back into venues as quickly and safely as possible. This checklist is a great reminder of the needs of deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people.”

“Attitude is Everything continues to provide guidance and awareness raising about access issues that are practical but also acknowledge that not everyone might have this in place,” says Beverley Whitrick, strategic director for Music Venue Trust. “The Accessible Reopening Checklist helps identify areas that might need further work so we will be sharing this within our grassroots music venue community.”

The checklist follows recently published guidance from Attitude is Everything on venue reopening and accessible employment.

Read Suzanne Bull’s recent piece for IQ, which urges the UK industry not to shut out disabled people when it reopens, here:

Live music’s recovery must be inclusive


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Live music’s recovery must be inclusive

Like everyone, I’m feeling hopeful as the live events industry slowly starts to open up as best it can after what we hope is the worst of the pandemic. The impact of this on the industry, further compounded by Brexit, has been immeasurable for those working in it, the artists, and also the fans.

However, the consequences for deaf and disabled people have also been profound and of real concern to me. I’m well-placed to comment on it because I’m a disabled person and founder of Attitude is Everything – a charity set up to improve deaf and disabled people’s access to music and live events.

For 21 years, Attitude is Everything has worked to connect deaf and disabled people with music and event industries to improve access together. Over 200 music venues and festivals have signed up to our Charter of Best Practice, endorsed by government as the industry standard for accessibility. With our support, the live music industry has worked hard to make gigs and festivals inclusive and accessible, but I fear that the current landscape is now looking grim for our community being able to return to live events as we wish.

We need the industry to actively welcome back deaf and disabled people. In a bid to support the industry in this effort, we recently published our Access Guide: Reopening Your Venue.

Being in the group deemed clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) myself, I was angry to be told that I could not attend early pilot events. Thankfully, following interventions by us and other partners, the language has now shifted away from this. Disabled people simply need the facts about accessibility and Covid-safety measures in order to make our own judgments about what we attend. No venue or event should ever make that decision for us.

Online information has never been more important. I know from previous data collected by Attitude is Everything that 60% of disabled people won’t buy a ticket if there isn’t any access information, and subsequently feel that the event “isn’t for them” if they can’t find the information. While I’m delighted to see live music returning to our towns and cities, I’m deeply concerned about deaf and disabled people being forgotten about or simply viewed as ‘vulnerable.’ I know of at least ten events that have gone live selling tickets without having staffed access booking services. Without strong policies in place, there is also now a real risk of disabled people being challenged on entry if staff make assumptions on a person’s vulnerability based on a ‘visible’ disability. This cannot happen.

I’m currently left wondering just what I have achieved in 30+ years of work to improve the cultural offer to disabled people

I’m currently left wondering just what I have achieved in 30+ years of work to improve the cultural offer to disabled people in the UK. However, I am heartened to know that many trade bodies, promoters, festival organisers and venue managers share my concerns about the current levels of exclusion and where this might lead in the future if left unchecked.

There needs to be a collective effort now to reverse recent messages that make certain people in our society feel unwelcome in the drive to return to live music events. I’m finding that disabled people need lots of reassurance and not all disabled people are confident about attending events in the future. We are not talking about a few people: in the UK, over 2.2 million people were told to shield, and 20% of the UK population is classed as ‘clinically vulnerable’ to Covid-19 – millions of whom are disabled people. And when I say disabled people, I mean audiences, artists, volunteers and employees.

To bring it home, some of the staff, trustees and volunteers at Attitude is Everything are in the clinically vulnerable groups. Of course, inclusion isn’t just a Covid-19 or reopening issue. Our most recent publication – our Accessible Employment Guide – provides tips on how employers can make workplaces as accessible as possible, far beyond responding to the times we find ourselves in currently.

I’m expecting to return to live music shortly, to work and to enjoy myself! For the first time in my life, I found myself excluded from society when the pandemic hit. Given the choice, I’d go out every single night of the week. I’ve spent over a year locked away in my flat because I was also diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2020, and this, plus my impairment, placed me in the CEV group. For 30 years, I partied my life away and then I was told to stay in. Who in their right mind would want to do that?

Why would I want to stay home when there are so many beautiful bands out there?

 


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Accessible Employment Guide for music industry launches

UK charity Attitude is Everything has published its first Accessible Employment Guide to boost the inclusion of deaf and disabled workers in the commercial music industry.

Research suggests that disabled people are underrepresented at all levels of the British music industry, despite significant increases in disabled audiences at live music events and the fact that 19% of working adults are considered disabled under the UK’s Equality Act 2010. Additionally, a study published by UK Music in April found that one in five disabled people in the industry had faced discrimination at work.

Aimed at businesses of all scales, but particularly small companies without extensive HR resources, the free downloadable publication offers simple and straightforward tips on how to attract talented deaf and disabled workers, with advice on job interviews, accessible meetings, suggested adjustments to office and work environments and more.

Paul Hawkins, Attitude is Everything’s head of volunteering and skills development, says: “Our research shows that deaf and disabled people face barriers applying for jobs in the music industry and that many of those with impairments or health conditions who do work in the industry are concerned about the consequences of identifying themselves as disabled, especially if they are freelance or not in secure employment.

“Over the last year, we’ve found that there is a lot of desire for a more inclusive and diverse industry but that organisations are not always sure of the steps needed to make that happen. Our Accessible Employment Guide is designed to be clear and concise and to give companies the information they need to start making changes today.

“The music industry should lead the way when it comes to ensuring that everyone with an impairment has the opportunity to forge a successful career”

“The events of the last year have turned many conceptions about the workplace on their head and we’re keen to support the music industry to build back for all and for the industry to come back a stronger, more effective and more diverse place where everyone can succeed based on their talents. We hope that this guide will help to make that happen.”

“This fantastic Accessible Employment Guide from Attitude Is Everything outlines how everyone can help improve access for disabled people to work in the music industry,” adds UK Music chief executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin.

“Around 12% of people working in the music business have an impairment or long-term health condition, according to the UK Music Workplace Diversity survey. The music industry should lead the way when it comes to ensuring that everyone with an impairment has the opportunity to forge a successful career in a sector that employs 200,000 people and contributes £5.8 billion to the economy.”

The Accessible Employment Guide is part of Attitude is Everything’s Beyond the Music programme, a three-year initiative funded by the National Lottery Community Fund to improve accessibility to the music and live events industries for deaf and disabled professionals, employees and volunteers.

As part of the programme, the charity has already established the Beyond the Music Network, comprising deaf and disabled people working or seeking to work in the industry, and a Venues Advisory Group that can contribute expertise from the Barbican, the Brighton Centre, Manchester Arena, the SEC, the South Bank Centre and Norwich Arts Centre.

To download the Accessible Employment Guide, click here.

 


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Countdown to the Arthurs 2020: Andrew Parsons

Individuals and events will be crowned across 11 categories at the Arthur Awards Winners’ Dinner on 5 March, as the music industry’s response to the Oscars returns to the glamorous Sheraton Grand Park Lane hotel.

Last year’s 25th anniversary awards saw success for Britannia Row’s Bryan Grant, FKP Scorpio’s Folkert Koopmans, ICM Partners’ Kevin Jergensen and Live Nation’s Selina Emeny, as well as the teams at the Royal Albert Hall, British Summer Time Hyde Park and Mad Cool Festival, among others.

As the Emma Banks-hosted ceremony draws ever closer, IQ chats to some previous winners to find out what receiving an Arthur meant to them and to discover their biggest hopes and dreams for the future.

Up first is Andrew Parsons, managing director of the UK division of Ticketmaster, four-time recipients of the Arthurs’ Golden Ticket award.

 


Arthur has been very kind to us over the years. Well, every other year really but who’s counting? (I am). It is always great to receive recognition from within the industry but all the more so from a room full of event partners past, present and future to whom we owe so much. Even if half of them won’t remember who actually won anything come that painful next morning!

Arthur resides on the edge of a desk, where all awards should be kept. He unfortunately took a bit of a battering on the night though from victory laps with team TM. So, Arthur’s head is now somewhat disconnected from his pedestal.

It is always great to receive recognition from within the industry, all the more so from a room full of event partners past, present and future

Emma Banks’ regal-like presenting performance at the Arthurs is always very good value. And Alex Hardee’s stand-up routines are now pretty legendary. Overall though, it is that the awards do not take themselves too seriously that makes them so unique and such a positive experience – nothing that will overly get in the way of a good dinner with friends.

ILMC is a great opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues from other territories. Our Ticketmaster Australia ticketing cousins always live up superbly well to all the stereotypes and are a guaranteed excellent night out every time.

On a serious note to finish, 2019 was the year we brought accessible ticketing online and mobile. All fans should be able to have the same level of access to buying tickets the way they want on any given on sale and we were determined to make that happen. It was also the year that digital tickets exploded onto the scene opening up so many opportunities. We can’t wait to see where 2020 takes us.

 


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Arena Birmingham debuts audio-described live show

NEC Group’s 15,800-capacity Arena Birmingham offered audio description to its visitors for the first time at the Marvel Universe Live shows on 5 to 8 December.

To provide the service, Arena Birmingham partnered with VocalEyes, a charity supporting blind and partially sighted people’s access to the arts. The implementation of audio description followed a request from a customer whose sons are visually impaired.

A team of describers, who view an early performance of the show and prepare a script, offered real-time narration via headsets, making the show more accessible to those with all levels of visual impairment.

“It meant so much to my family that we were able to enjoy Marvel Universe Live! with audio description,” comments Claire Eccles, the customer who requested audio description at the arena. “My sons are both severely visually impaired and love coming to live events, but it’s often hard for them to work out what’s going on. I try my best to explain but it’s difficult.”

“We believe that blind and partially sighted people should have the best opportunities to experience  the arts, and it’s great to work with a venue the size of Arena Birmingham to offer audio description”

Eccles adds that, “the smiles when they put the headsets on said it all. They can’t stop talking about the fantastic time they had – it made such a difference to their experience. I can only hope more local venues will follow suit.”

According to Emma Ball, operations manager at Arena Birmingham, both the venue and Resorts World Arena, “put a relentless focus on ensuring our world-class entertainment is as accessible as possible for our broad and varied audiences.”

The arenas have introduced British Sign Language interpreters to shows over the past year, with audio description being “the next logical step”.

“We believe that blind and partially sighted people should have the best possible opportunities to experience and enjoy both the arts and heritage, and it’s great to work with a venue the size of Arena Birmingham to offer audio description to even bigger audiences,” says Michael Kenyon from VocalEyes.

“They are the first arena to come on board with us and to be able to help bring a show of this scale to life is very exciting for us.”

NEC Group arenas also recently committed to rolling out teams of mental health first aiders across a number of shows.

 


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Japanese live biz focuses on accessibility

Improving accessibility is a new priority for the Japanese music business, as industry associations work with UK-based music charity Attitude is Everything to establish the first steps to becoming more inclusive.

Japanese promoters’ association, the All Japan Concert and Live Entertainment Promoters Conference (ACPC), hosted the charity, which is dedicated to improving deaf and disabled people’s access to live music, as its first international guest at the Tokyo International Music Market (Timm) conference last month.

Attitude is Everything presented five key, universal concepts that underly its work: access is about identity, connection, passion and escapism; accessibility is relevant to everyone; people are disabled by the barriers they encounter; creativity and collaboration are key; and disability affects a diverse range of people, who are the real experts on accessibility.

“Although there are some challenges in terms of budget limitations and venue facilities, let’s get the ball rolling from what we can fo on our own”

A panel discussion entitled ‘Music Without Barriers: Improving Accessibility to Live Entertainment’, followed the presentation, hosted by ACPC, Japanese Music Culture Export and supported by Japan’s British Council.

The panel was moderated by Manami Yuasa, head of arts at British Council Japan and featured panellists Gideon Feldman, head of programming at Attitude is Everything; Jacob Adams, head of research and campaigns at Attitude is Everything; and ACPC director Nobuhiro Nagai.

“Although there are some challenges in terms of budget limitations and venue facilities, let’s get the ball rolling from what we can fo on our own,” urged the panellists.

 


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Ticketmaster launches accessible tickets online

Ticketmaster has launched online tickets sales for disabled fans in the UK, allowing customers to buy accessible tickets online for the first time.

Ticketmaster’s online booking validation process allows fans with accessibility requirements to purchase the correct tickets easily. Customers who make an online accessible order are asked to submit their requirements, such as a seat for a personal assistant, a wheelchair-accessible space or access to the best location to view sign language interpretation, via their Ticketmaster account. All information will be saved for future purchases.

The system will be rolled out for upcoming events as Glasgow’s Scottish Event Campus (SEC) venues, which include the 13,000-capacity SSE Hydro, Glasgow and Motorpoint Arena Cardiff.

“At Ticketmaster we believe equal access to live entertainment is paramount,” comments Ticketmaster UK managing director Andrew Parsons.

“We knew we had to do more for disabled fans and our team has worked hard on this ground-breaking technology that endeavours to make ticket buying simple for all. Every fan should have the same access to the events they love, it’s an ongoing process and one we continue to prioritise.”

“This is real progress for millions of disabled fans who are entitled to a variety of ways in which they can book their tickets”

A recent survey compiled by music accessibility charity Attitude is Everything (AIE) found that 83% of disabled gig-goers have been deterred from buying tickets due to inaccessible booking systems. Many reported paying extra to be able to buy a ticket online, or having no option to purchase online at all.

Suzanne Bull MBE, CEO of the charity, says she is “delighted” that accessible tickets are now available online.

“This is real progress for millions of disabled fans who are entitled to a variety of ways in which they can book their tickets,” says Bull. “In designing their new service, Ticketmaster has worked closely with us and our Ticketing Without Barriers Coalition to achieve the five steps to inclusive ticketing that we set out in our February 2018 State of Access report. We wish them every success.”

The new system will roll out across more events, venues and countries in the near future.

Motorpoint Arena Cardiff and Ticketmaster UK were among nominees for AIE’s Outstanding Attitude Awards this year.

 


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BST, Latitude, Standon Calling praised for accessibility

The UK minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson, has called on festival sites to continue improving accessibility, noting efforts by British Summer Time (BST) Hyde Park and Latitude festival.

Poor access, unsuitable camping arrangement, restricted visibility and a lack of representation both on and off the stage are the most common issues facing disabled people at live music events, says Tomlinson.

AEG Presents’ BST Hyde Park (65,000-cap.) is one festival leading the way in terms of accessibility, recently receiving Attitude is Everything’s (AIE) gold status for best practice for inclusivity. BST offers accessible viewing platforms, sign language interpreters and hearing induction loops.

BST 2019 took place over two consecutive weekends from 5 to 14 July, with performances from Celine Dion, Stevie Wonder, Barbra Streisand and more.

Latitude festival (35,000-cap.), which took place in Suffolk from 16 to 19 July, provides additional tickets free of charge for personal assistants, fridges to store medication and an accessible campsite, complete with accessible showers and charging points for wheelchairs and mobility scooters.

“Everyone should be able to experience the joy of attending one of Britain’s world-famous music festivals, no matter their circumstances”

Embarking on its second day today (26 July), Standon Calling (15,000-cap.) has a dedicated team to support customers in its accessible campsite, as well as sign language interpreters across the site.

“Everyone should be able to experience the joy of attending one of Britain’s world-famous music festivals, no matter their circumstances,” says Tomlinson.

“Disabled fans are spending more than ever on live music, but it’s clear there is still more to do to improve festival access and facilities.”

According to AIE, disabled people spent £8.3 million on live music last year, up £3.4m from 2013.

The government’s disability champion for live music, Suzanne Bull, says these figures shows that “UK festivals have made great strides in improving access”.

However, says Bull, “there is much more to do beyond just audience provision. We need to plan for disabled artists and disabled employees to be working throughout all levels of the industry.”

 


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AEG pegs BST 2019 as greenest event yet

AEG Presents has introduced a series of new sustainability initiatives and community-based activities to make British Summer Time (BST) Hyde Park 2019 its most eco-friendly and inclusive yet.

BST Hyde Park returns this Friday (5 July) with an exclusive European performance from Celine Dion. Other performances over the ten-day event will come from Stevie Wonder, Barbra Streisand, Florence and the Machine and Robbie Williams.

Sustainable practices at the event include a zero waste to landfill policy, achieved through the use of biodegradable food packaging and cutlery. Heineken, BST’s drinks partner, is trialling a new plastic-free, 100% compostable paper cup. The majority of food traders (80%) will also offer meat-free options.

A post-event litter pick-up team will ensure no trace is left behind once the festival is over and a dedicated ‘Green Team’ will maximise recycling rates, introducing a new bin system to recycle previously non-recyclable plastics such as crisp packets, carrier bags and bottle caps.

Biodiesels such as hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO) will be the fuel of choice to avoid the harmful diesel emissions produced by many live events.

Situated in the heart of London, a community impact management will be on site at BST, helping AEG to limit the effect on the local area. A four-day midweek event, Open House, will take place from Monday 8 to Thursday 11 July with movie nights, live music, street food, tennis screenings, family theatre and an ambient performance from Icelandic avant-rock band Sigur Rós.

“As a ten-day event with nearly half a million visitors each year we have a huge responsibility to deliver for our visitors, the local community and Hyde Park itself”

AEG are offering training and paid employment opportunities will be available to students at schools and universities and raising money for BST’s partner charities, including the Royal Parks charity and My Cause UK.

“We work very closely with AEG Presents to ensure our Sustainability Strategy is embedded into the British Summer Time event planning process and so we welcome the pioneering green practices being introduced this year,” says the Royal Parks head of events, Alun Mainwaring.

“As a ten-day event with nearly half a million visitors each year we have a huge responsibility to deliver for our visitors, the local community and Hyde Park itself,” comments AEG Presents senior events manager Jenny Hamada.

“We take this responsibility extremely seriously and work with our partner the Royal Parks year-round to build and implement positive initiatives.”

Another focus for the BST Hyde Park team is accessibility. AEG Presents celebrated a double win at the Outstanding Attitude Awards in March and recently receiving a gold status from Attitude is Everything for BST, the inclusivity-based music charity’s highest accolade.

Tickets for BST 2019 and more information about the festival can be found here.

 


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NOS Alive introduces area for pregnant festivalgoers

NOS Alive will introduce the world’s first ‘safe space’ for pregnant women at an major festival at next week’s event.

Expecting music fans can book their free place on a viewing platform facing the festival’s main stage, providing them with a perfect view and comfortable space in the middle of the 55,000-strong crowd.

Mums-to-be also get comfortable seats with cushions and blankets, and dedicated healthcare from a team of nurses, while they watch acts including the Cure, Bon Iver, Mogwai, the Chemical Brothers and the Gossip at the Portuguese festival, which takes place near Lisbon from 11 to 13 July.

“At NOS Alive we are proud to introduce the world’s first viewing platform for pregnant women at an international festival,” says the festival senior booker and CEO, Álvaro Covões. “It’s a unique opportunity for new mothers who love music to help make their festival experience the best one.

“Why should you compromise your lifestyle in any way when you’re pregnant?”

“Having children and becoming a mum is a magical thing on one level, and on another it’s part of every day life. In this day and age, why should you compromise your lifestyle in any way when you’re pregnant? If you’d like go to see your favourite bands this summer when expecting, you can do so with total ease and comfort at our event in Lisbon.”

Pregnant fans can book for themselves, plus a companion, on a per-set basis. Limited places are available to book here now.

The safe space for pregnant women joins another new initiative this year, which will bring the festival in line with the 2030 UN treaty it signed last year to enhance environmental sustainability and visibility.

Other artists playing NOS Alive 2019 include Thom Yorke, Grace Jones, Idles, Sharon Van Etten, Marina, Hot Chip, Vampire Weekend, Jorja Smith, Cut Copy, Weezer and Smashing Pumpkins.

 


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