Entertainment & Culture

Podcast series: music without barriers

As part of a new series, Disability Horizons Co-founder Martyn Sibley will be interviewing famous and influential disabled people from the top 100 Power list to bring you a collection of entertaining and informative podcasts. This week, he talks to Suzanne Bull from Attitude is Everything, which promotes access to music for musicians and audiences.

I’ve always loved music. I can remember sitting in the car with my mum and little sister during the school holidays driving around visiting friends. We’d always have cassettes playing loudly, us all singing along.

I also remember my dad taking me to a concert to see the Lighthouse Family when I was around 10 years old. It was amazing being in a room with hundreds of people all enjoying someone else’s creativity.

But, sadly, going to music events is rarely straightforward if you have a disability. As a child my family arranged everything; I simply got to enjoy each experience. In adulthood, when at university in Coventry, I wanted to be more independent (and adventurous). That meant I had to dream experiences up, research them, plan and execute the music adventures myself.

My first big trip was to T in the Park in Scotland! I went with my girlfriend at the time, my step-brother, and his girlfriend at the time. We got our tickets online, as everyone did. We decided to drive in my adapted car and take my hoist. I decided camping was not an option, so I opted for a nearby hotel.

Unfortunately, the person on the T in the Park helpline said Glasgow was our best bet. Having booked a hotel there, it was only on arrival that we found out it was 90 minutes to the festival! Meaning I’d not only driven to Scotland but would need to shuttle back and forth each day for an hour and a half.

You live and you learn.

Once inside the festival, I had one other barrier to contend with. Despite the raised viewing platforms for disabled people, the rain had soaked the ground. So in order to go between stages and get refreshments, we had to navigate our way over it. I was wheel spinning and kicking up mud everywhere 🙂

Nonetheless, it was an amazing experience. As well as seeing all our favourite bands on stage, we got to see Brandon Flowers from the Killers backstage. There was an electricity in the air. A real compassion and joy between people. It’s something I’ll never forget.

I’d got the gig bug!

After that festival, I never went quite as far away from home, or booked a hotel so far from the venue. However, I’ve been to multiple festivals, loads of gigs, and even met Pete Doherty from the Libertines at the Cambridge Junction backstage.

So I’ve experienced a real mix of barriers, mishaps, and awesome experiences. As you can imagine, it wasn’t all so accessible decades ago. There were no raised platforms or accessible toilets. Even today there are still difficulties and challenges to overcome.

When Suzanne Bull from Attitude is Everything agreed to be on the podcast, I was so excited. I really wanted to know how progress had been made, what had been difficult and successful in getting access to music events, and what else lay ahead in its plans.

It was fascinating to hear how most large venues are so much better now, and how it’s the smaller venues that need advice and guidance on accessibility. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

I hope you enjoy listening to this episode. I came away feeling very uplifted. Music really gives a natural high. Something all people should experience, both alone and in a big community. If you haven’t been to a gig or festival, please make it happen.

If you’d like to read more about Attitude is Everything. Particularly if you’d like to support them with mystery shopping (including free tickets to events) then visit its website.

Until next time. Take care…

By Martyn Sibley

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