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?
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.
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.”
Outstanding Attitude Award nominees announced
Music accessibility charity Attitude is Everything has announced the shortlist for its upcoming Outstanding Attitude Awards, recognising live music venues, festivals and businesses that have improved accessibility for disabled and deaf fans.
Winners will be announced in an all-access awards ceremony at Islington Assembly Hall (890-cap.) on Tuesday 12 March. Nominees are up for awards across ten categories including tech innovation, customer service, accessible infrastructure and accessible ticketing.
This year, a DIY Access Award has been named in honour of the late Nigel McCune, one of Attitude is Everything’s first trustees and board officers.
Awards nominees include large outdoor events, arenas and brands such as ticketing giant Ticketmaster, British Summer Time Hyde Park, Motorpoint Arena Cardiff (5,000-cap.) and Download Festival (111,000-cap.), which received Attitude is Everything’s gold standard for best practice last year.
Independent festivals and venues are also among those nominated, including Deer Shed Festival (10,000-cap.), London’s Roundhouse (1,700-cap.), Manchester’s Band on the Wall (450-cap.) and Leeds-based Brudenell Social Club (400-cap.)
“The Outstanding Attitude Awards highlight how everyone has the capacity to tear down barriers and make music more inclusive”
Business and events specialists Vehicles for Change, GigLoo and The Ticket Factory are also up for awards.
“There can’t be many award shows that cover nominations from live music’s biggest and most-recognised global brands, alongside outdoor toilet specialists and tiny local venues,” says Attitude is Everything chief executive Suzanne Bull MBE, the UK government sector champion for the music industry.
“That’s what makes the Outstanding Attitude Awards so special. It highlights how everyone has the capacity to tear down barriers and make music more inclusive. The only limit is our imagination, and that’s what we’ll be celebrating,” adds Bull.
The Outstanding Attitude Awards are an important component of Attitude is Everything’s Breaking the Sound Barriers programme, which provides opportunities for disabled people in live music and improves access to grassroots venues.
The programme receives funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s Arts Access and Participation fund. The awards ceremony is also supported by Arts Council England.
The full shortlist for the Outstanding Attitude Awards can be found below:
Access Starts Online Award – Outdoor event
British Summer Time Hyde Park
Deer Shed Festival
Festival Republic festivals
Access Starts Online Award – Venue over 500 capacity
Motorpoint Arena Cardiff
The SSE Arena Belfast
Access Starts Online Award – Venue under 500 capacity
Band on the Wall
Brudenell Social Club
West End Centre Aldershot
Accessible Infrastructure Award
Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society – Virgin Money Street Events
Vehicles for Change
Big Ambition Award
British Summer Time Hyde Park
Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society
The Nigel McCune DIY Access Award
Made with Music Mini-Gigs
Nozstock: The Hidden Valley Festival
The Rock House
The Customer Service Award
Band on the Wall
British Summer Time Hyde Park
The SSE Arena, Belfast
The Tech Innovation Award
The Ticket Factory and Nimbus
Ticketing Without Barriers Award – Ticketing / Tech Company
Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society
Ticketing Without Barriers Award – Venue / Event
British Summer Time Hyde Park
Festival Republic festivals
Accessibility goes global as AiE inspires Nordics
The government of Norway has granted 1.1 million kr (US$127,500) to the Norwegian Live Music Association (NKA) to boost accessibility to cultural events for disabled people, modelled on the work of Attitude is Everything in the UK.
The funding, delivered via Budfir to NKA’s Accessibility of Culture Norway (Tilgjengelighet Kultur-Norge) project, aims to raise awareness of the needs of disabled people at live events, make venues more accessible and improve disabled participation and experience. It will be put towards recruiting new members for the project, training and mentoring venue staff and supporting promoters in their efforts to offer better accessibility for events.
“Since the start of the project, in 2015, we have learned that many Norwegian promoters are good on accessibility – but the potential for improvement in this area is also huge,” comments NKA managing director Torbjørn Heitmann Valum. “Much can be done with small means, but the necessary expertise is essential, [and] we have experienced that even minor improvements often come at the expense of other things in the fast-paced, pressured everyday life of concert promoters.
“Therefore, it is very gratifying that we can now continue the project and help our members financially in addition to our educational and professional development. I hope many of our members sign up in 2017. This is a great opportunity.”
While TKA says Tilgjengelighet Kultur-Norge was “established after Attitude is Everything in the UK”, the charity’s CEO, Suzanne Bull MBE, is equally full of praise for her Nordic counterparts, saying the project wouldn’t have been possible if the Norwegians weren’t willing to listen to what she had to say.
“We want to say to venues and festivals, ‘This is what you can do, this is how you do it and these are the advantages…'”
IQ visited Attitude is Everything’s King’s Cross office late last month, shortly after Bull had been announced as Britain’s first ‘sector champion’ for the music industry, in which she will advise the government on how to make the music more friendly to the disabled, alongside ten other champions from the worlds of leisure, tourism, advertising, retail and more.
Both her new position, which she will undertake on a voluntary basis as part of her role at Attitude is Everything, and the licensing of the charity’s Charter of Best Practice to Norway and further afield – talks are also underway with Denmark’s Dansk Live – come amid a growing “international movement towards accessibility”, she told IQ, wherein live music stakeholders are increasingly “expecting disabled people to be in the audience”.
“Disabled people expect to have their access requirements met, they expect to be there [at a show] with friends,” she explains. “There’s a sense of, ‘What’s wrong with my money? How is it any different to other people’s?'”.
According to Attitude is Everything’s s latest figures, the number of deaf and disabled fans attending concerts and festivals increased 26% year on year in 2015, and the so-called ‘purple pound’ – or disabled people’s collective spending power – is now worth an estimated £250 billion to the UK economy, meaning the moral case for providing for disabled concertgoers is fast becoming a financial one, too. (Music-industry folk are “absolutely astonished when you present the figures!” Bull says.)
The economic argument for accessibility is further amplified by the fact that, explains Bull, word travels fast in the disabled community, with deaf and disabled concertgoers not afraid to be vocal about venues or festivals that fail to meet their basic requirements.
“I like the fact that we’ve created a little bit of competition between promoters. Some of them even boast about how much better they are at access than their peers!”
“It’s a consumers’ market,” she says, “and word of mouth is very important. If a disabled friend says to me, ‘This festival has everything you need access-wise’, my feeling is that I’ll choose that festival.”
Bull emphasises that Attitude is Everything is built upon disabled people and the music business working together in partnership to improve access to gigs. “Our ethos is to be supportive and encouraging to the music industry – to support them to make changes,” she explains. “The industry has really embraced our charter, and there is a growing number of disabled concertgoers, which proves that the music industry really does want to get it right. We want to say to venues and festivals, ‘This is what you can do, this is how you do it and these are the advantages…'”
“I don’t see the point of naming and shaming venues and festivals who don’t get access right, because how does that help disabled people to feel motivated or excited about going to gigs, or managers or promoters being motivated to do anything at all?” concludes Bull. “I like the fact that we’ve created a little bit of competition between different promoters – some of them even boast about how much better they are at access than their peers!
“I don’t think anyone sets out to make things difficult for disabled people on purpose… It’s all about changing perceptions.”
Suzanne Bull named UK govt ‘champion’ for music
Suzanne Bull MBE, CEO of attitude is everything, has been appointed one of 11 ‘sector champions’ by the British government to help make the UK music industry more inclusive to the disabled.
Bull (pictured) was today named sector champion for music by Penny Mordaunt, the minister of state for disabled people, health and work. Other industries with ‘champions’ include leisure, tourism, advertising, aviation and retail.
Last February, disability charity Attitude is Everything released its third State of Access report, which revealed that fourth-fifths of UK festivals and venues were missing out on the ‘purple pound’ – or spending by the UK’s 11 million deaf and disabled people – by failing to provide sufficient information on accessibility.
“I’ll be making a solid business case for accessibility, and sharing best practice and innovative ideas”
“I’m delighted to be the disability champion for the music industry because I believe that everyone should have the right to enjoy the arts,” says Bull. “Only 3.6m of the UK’s 11m disabled adults attended a live music event last year. Fear of discrimination can deter deaf and disabled people from attending music events, but without their participation change won’t occur.
“I’ll be making a solid business case for accessibility and will be sharing best practice and innovative ideas, many of which don’t only just focus on physical access, and demonstrate that ways of working can be adopted by other industries with a high degree of success.”
In December attitude is everything crowned the winners of its inaugural Outstanding Attitude Awards, which recognise the venues and festivals that have created the most innovative solutions to improve accessibility for disabled and deaf music fans.