How Accessible Are Concerts?

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Lewis Capaldi has recently introduced safe spaces at his concerts to offer support for fans that have anxiety. His organisation Liveline provides fans with safe quiet spaces to go if they need them, people can email the helpline before the show to find out what facilities are available. It also includes a buddy system where fans (particularly those who are attending the show alone) can meet other concert goers before doors open to connect with other fans and so they can safely enjoy the show. There will also be a trained medical and mental health professional on-site to ensure all fans are safe and have somewhere to go if they start to feel anxious. Capaldi introduced this to ensure no fans are unable to see him perform due to their mental health. This is a step towards more accessibility, especially to those who may suffer from anxiety. All tickets for Capaldi’s March 2020 UK Arena Tour included a 60p charge which funds the team to help with mental health support, it has already been a successful scheme and is one many hope other musicians will take up.

Though, the safe space scheme is a huge step towards accessibility, there are other major issues currently with concerts that consistently seem to be ignored and that is the accessibility of both physically disabled concert goers and performers. This is more prevalent across smaller venues and has a major impact on disabled musicians and fans, venues like The Joiners and Heartbreakers in Southampton are completely inaccessible, there is no area for disabled fans and instead they have to be part of the crowd – which for wheelchair users can become incredibly disheartening as they are regularly in the midst of mosh pits, especially at The Joiners. Another issue is the stage itself is inaccessible this means that musicians who are wheelchair users find it virtually impossible to get onstage without some assistance. For example, Ruth Patterson from Holy Moly & The Crackers, who is a wheelchair user, must have her bandmates lift her onto the stage as she is unable to get her wheelchair onto the stage. Though she makes jokes about this, she shouldn’t have to be lifted for her to be able to perform. Ruth has discussed this issue immensely and has raised the issue towards the lack of accessibility in the music industry in terms of both attitude and access. Most of the venues Holy Moly & The Crackers play are inaccessible or are only accessible for the audience – as they are a smaller band they do not have the luxury of choosing the venues and instead would rather have to cancel a show due to the lack of support from music venues.

There are many ways in which venues could improve accessibility, this is not just for wheelchair users, but those who are visually impaired or are hearing-impaired they are also neglected when it comes to accessibility. Venues need to begin to provide easy access on their website especially on how to get to the venue and if the venue itself has disabled meeting points. They could also train their staff to make the venue more accessible – this could be by helping them with communication strategies and providing them with disabilities and visual awareness training. Many of the greatest musicians are disabled such as Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles and even Ludwig van Beethoven, but with the growing music scene it seems disabled musicians have been left behind due to the lack of support for musicians.

Accessibility is a broad spectrum and can be defined as something different for each person. There is currently little support for disabled musicians and concert goers, and the safe spaces provided at Lewis Capaldi’s concerts is a small step towards increasing accessibility. However, there is currently only a handful of venues that have wheelchair access onto the stage or staff that are trained in disabilities and visual awareness, at the moment many venues ignore the existence of disabled performers and concert goers. Though a lot of venues were built many years ago, and they should follow Lewis Capaldi’s safe space scheme and make their venues more accessible.

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Editor 20/21 and a History student with a Britney Spears addiction.

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