Festivals and Disability – the leeds festival experience


General / Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

First Act

Leeds Festival is a place where various artists and groups share their music in front of vast audiences. Thousands of people attend Leeds Festival every year to enjoy these acts, including many with disabilities/ accessible needs. In this post I will be discussing my experience and thoughts on my experience at this years festival.

Accessibility

Getting Into Leeds Festival

Getting to Leeds was not an issue when travelling there by car with detailed signs throughout. Just make sure you print that pass out before arriving, as this can be a problem when going through the checkpoints. Although the parking was on grass, there was always a spot that was suitable for ramp access and drive from wheelchair vehicles. 

The queues to get into the festival site were short so getting straight in was not an issue. In terms of bag checking, they will have a look inside your bags to see if there’s any banned items in there. Honestly the security was good at the entrance and I had no issues with them throughout the weekend.

Camping

Unfortunately, we didn’t go for the camping option to avoid the risks of being cold or affected by the mud. However, this was a good option as the accessible campsite was on a hill, making it impractical for those with powerchairs. 

Platforms

The accessible platforms were great at allowing people to view the show. There were various stages indoors and outdoors with most stages being indoors, except the main stage. Each stage had various people there to manage the stage and answer any questions, which was quite helpful.

Outdoor Platforms

The outdoor platforms were high enough to view the main stage but many were at the back. At one point, we decided to just get closer to the stage due to feeling left out when one of our favourite bands were playing. Due to the weather on the Sunday I was unable to stay out for long because I got absolutely drenched and the fact I used a powerchair was a risk. If a see through cover was placed over the outdoor platform that was, it would make things a lot easier by stopping legs getting wet or cold from the rain.

Picture of Leeds Festival outdoor stage.

Indoor Platforms

Fortunately, the indoor platform in the pit stage was the perfect height which made you feel involved with the crowd. When I watched bands like Beartooth, Papa Roach and Hollywood Undead at the pit stage I could feel the atmosphere. Some of the indoor platforms, including the radio 1 stage, DJ stage etc were right at the back which made you feel out-of-the-way of the act when the stage wasn’t so popular. 

Another thing about the indoor platforms we’re the plug outlets available at certain parts on the stage. The plugs we’re also great for charging phones, etc and allowed me to have a piece of mind that I could charge my powerchair in emergencies.

Accessible Toilets

One downside to the festival was the lack of decent accessible toilets. The toilets are just too small and give no turning space for an average sized powerchairs. The accessible toilets should be twice the size to make them easier to get in and out of.

Signing Stage

As one of my favourite bands, Don Broco was there I decided to visit them at the signing booth. The access was amazing with a less crowded queue which made meeting the band a lot easier.

Stalls

Luckily, all the main bars at Leeds Festival all had disabled access making it easier to get served. In terms of other stalls they didn’t have a designated disabled queues but they weren’t troublesome if you went at the right time.

Muddy/Wet Festival

In terms of weather, it was pretty pleasant, except the last day where it threw it down. The rain didn’t pose too much of a threat to my powerchair but my chair did get absolutely caked in clay-like mud from the rains aftermath. For getting around in the mud, I would recommend avoiding the main paths where everyone has walked on if possible. I managed to find that the grass where not many had walked on to be easier to move across on.

However, don’t let this put your off – you just need to get a few ponchos to cover you and your chair up for when of rain and take a brush/ toothbrush too as this can help get the mud off. Before going to festivals such as Leeds, it is important to check the weather to see if it would be suitable to go. Obviously if you chose to go in the rain it is at your own risk if you get stuck in mud (people will probably help you) and you should be mindful of any mess you bring back home or to the hotel. 

Leeds Festival Performances

Let’s talk about the acts! From experience of going to previous gigs and festivals, there was always a band to see.

Friday was really a day to see some of our favourite bands, seeing the likes of Don Broco and Hollywood Undead who didn’t fail to exceed my expectations with their performances.

Saturday on the other hand, was the best day of the three with the main act Fall Out Boy being my overall favourite act of the weekend. The dance tent also had a great vibe with a lot of people raving to the music. It wasn’t so easy to get around in my powerchair but I still enjoyed joining in at the edge of the crowd.

However on the Sunday, we went to the Pit Stage to check out 2 new bands, one in particular called Man With A Mission a ‘half-human, half-wolf’ band. It was something out of the ordinary for us and a very enjoyable experience. Finally, Panic! at the Disco, Beartooth and Papa Roach finished the weekend for me in style, with some new and nostalgic tracks being played by all of them.

Leeds Festival Improvements for Disability

Improvement wise there could have be the following improvements:

  1. A rain cover on the outside stage platforms to reduce risks of legs getting cold.
  2. Put platforms closer to the stage in the larger tents.
  3. Bigger accessible toilet cabins.
  4. Flatter campsite for accessible guests.

Final Act

Leeds Festival was an overall fantastic event that provided so many new experiences for me in terms of music festivals. The access was particularly good in terms of parking and hassle free (when it isn’t muddy of course). Platforms were practical on stages like the pit and outdoor stage with a good view and plug outlets (indoor stages). While it did end with my powerchair covered in clay-like mud I was still able to enjoy the Festival to the fullest.

Keep checking back on Dynamic Double for future reviews, experiences and more in the future!