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How live music is improving accessibility for fans

BY Lauren John

1st Sep 2022 Music

How live music is improving accessibility for fans
These are the most disability-friendly festivals and venues making music accessible for all, whether you're Deaf, have mobility issues or struggle with anxiety
Live music is an experience like no other. The feel-good factor of seeing your favourite artists live is hard to beat, but for some, it can also be hard to access.
With one in six people suffering hearing loss in the UK, around one and a half million people with a learning disability, and one in four experiencing mental health problems each year, there are a lot of potential gig goers that could be missing out because their needs are not being met.
Missing out could be down to ticket booking issues, a lack of access info or effective promotion of inclusive events, or anxiety and panic in large crowds.
But where there’s music there’s hope, and there is a lot that’s being done to raise awareness, raise standards, and encourage more artists, events, and venues to be more inclusive. Here’s a round-up of some of our favourites.

LIVELIVE Project

Having a chill-out area or buddy system can help gig goers with a panic disorder
LIVELIVE offers fully qualified mental health support to concertgoers suffering from anxiety and panic attacks. Safe space chill-out zones, a helpline and a buddy system are all hoped to be part of the project. 
Brit Award winner Lewis Capaldi hopes he will be the first of many artists to work with venues on the ground-breaking LIVELIVE project.
"LIVELIVE offers fully qualified mental health support to concertgoers suffering from anxiety and panic attacks"
This bespoke mental health initiative will be available on Lewis’ two dates at the O2 arena this year to support his fans' mental health.
Demand is also coming in from other artists, events and festivals who are interested in running the service during their gigs. 

Show Support

Such has been the interest in LIVELIVE, its founders Jack Williamson and Sam Tewari have taken things to the next level by setting up Show Support, a mental health service provider working in the live events industry.
Initial projects include consulting with Live Nation to provide specialist mental health support across Yungblud’s UK arena tour in February 2023.
Keep your eyes open for other exciting projects they have in the pipeline in 2023 and beyond. 

Stay Up Late—Gig Buddies 

Gig Buddies helps people who ordinarily find gigs overwhelming to participate in live music
Founded by charity Stay Up Late, Gig Buddies is a Sussex-based project offering support to those with learning disabilities and autism who are seeking a full and fun social life.
Once you sign-up, you’re matched with a volunteer “gig buddy” with similar interests to attend events with. Sister projects have been launched in other areas.

Festability

When festivals go all out to be inclusive! Festability is close to a standard music festival as you can get, with added amenities to make it open to all.
Additions include screen reader options on their website, low serving areas at food stalls, accessible bus transfers, BSL signing for some performances, and a chill-out tent.

Attitude Is Everything

Attitude Is Everything works with audiences and the music industry to help improve access to live music for Deaf and disabled people.
"Deaf and disabled music fans report back on the venue or festival's accessibility and their overall experience"
Projects include “mystery shopping”, where Deaf and disabled music fans report back on the venue or festival's accessibility and their overall experience to help drive forward standards. 
  • The O2 Arena London: The first arena to be awarded the Attitude Is Everything Gold Star. A comprehensive access section on their website includes details on booking, BSL services, and how to get hold of their accessibility kit, which contains items like ear defenders and power chair chargers. 
  • Band On The Wall Manchester: The first small venue to achieve gold status for its accessible booking systems, website, and general day-to-day commitment to provide parity of service for all.

Performance Interpreting

An organisation that promotes Deaf awareness, and provides highly skilled performance interpreters to sign at venues, events and festivals across the UK.
Their website has a full events calendar of Deaf-friendly events they will be signing at, and a wealth of planning resources and guidance for event organisers.

The Green Gathering

“The ethos of inclusivity is something that comes naturally to us, but at the same time, we’re still learning and evolving,” says Em Weirdigan, The Green Gathering's festival director. 
"As a relatively small grassroots festival with a small budget, we can’t do everything we’d like to in terms of perfect access, but we keep trying to improve."
"Green Gathering includes an assisted access camping area and campfire social space"
Green Gathering includes an assisted access camping area and campfire social space, accessible toilets and showers, solar-powered mobility scooter and electric wheelchair charging, a large print programme in the welcome area, and hearing loops in the festival box offices and some venues.
With BSL communications support and an autism-friendly area, they have covered many more bases than you might expect for a grassroots festival. 

Youth Music & Give A Gig Campaign

A national charity providing music-making opportunities for young people, breaking down barriers for those who may otherwise miss out.
Their flagship Give A Gig campaign promotes equality and diversity and encourages Give A Gig supporters who are running events to be inclusive.
Give A Gig week, previously backed by music stars including Jake Bugg, ran in May this year. Stay tuned for 2023 news.

Shambala Festival

© 2017 George Harrison. All rights reserved. On top of promoting viewing platforms, accessible venue entrances and BSL interpreters, Shambala also ensures that its staff are briefed on invisible disabilities
A family-friendly festival held over the August bank holiday in the Northamptonshire countryside, Shambala came under our radar for its work consulting with disabled and neurodiverse people.
Find out more about their community research, and how they have and will use this to improve the festival experience.
Action points include filming an accessibility video for future attendees, briefing the crew on invisible disabilities, and providing a calm, safe space for those feeling overwhelmed.
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