Live music has always played a massive part in my life. Even though I have no musical talents myself - apart from being able to play the Eastenders theme tune on my keyboard - I still very much enjoy going to live events.
As someone who has always been passionate about improving accessibility for wheelchair users, I was recently interviewed by the team at 'Access For Us'.
'Access For Us' are a non-profit blog, who aim to raise awareness of different issues faced by disabled music fans.
I'm always happy to share my experiences, and I am honoured to be their first featured creator.
In today's post, I will be sharing a selection of questions that I was asked. To read my full interview, you can check out their website by clicking here.
We want to get to know you, as well as your disability. Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself, and shedding some light on your disability for those that may not know you?
Hey guys! My name is Ross, Im 25 years old and I am a lifestyle and disability blogger from Cornwall. Never too far from a pasty or a sea view - I’m pretty much living the dream!
I started my blog “A Life on Wheels” back in 2017 as a way of documenting my journey through adulthood, as a young man with a physical disability.
I have a condition called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA Type 2) which causes muscle weakness and requires me to use an electric wheelchair 24/7. My condition also causes handsome good looks and terrible humour - but we’ll get onto that later.
Out of all the gigs you have been to in the past, which was your favourite?
My all-time favourite gig was probably when I saw Adele live for the first time in London a few years ago. It was something that my best friend and I talked about doing for years, and was certainly at the top of my bucket list.
Not only were her vocals incredible, she was genuinely funny and the whole atmosphere was just amazing. It’s one of those nights that can never be replaced and still brings me joy when thinking about it now.
Do you have a least favourite gig? If so, can you tell us which?
My least favourite experience has definitely got to be when I went to The Little Orchard Cider & Music Festival.
It was a complete mud bath which is every wheelchair users nightmare. I didn’t get to see half of the venue, as I was basically stuck in one position for the entire day. At one point I had about 6 guys trying to lift my chair just so I could get back to my car - it was horrendous.
I didn’t even have access to a toilet due to the conditions - so I definitely won’t be going back there!
You’ve also mentioned that you have attended some festivals. Which of these was your favourite? And is there any difference between a Gig and a Festival regarding accessibility?
Back when V Festival was a ‘thing’ - I attended two years in a row. I absolutely loved this event because they had great access and always a brilliant lineup of bands / artists.
I liked how you could move around on a large platform, or go from stage to stage depending on which act you’d like to see next.
I don’t tend to go to many festivals anymore, purely because there is so much uncertainty in terms of wheelchair access due to weather conditions. I much prefer an indoor gig where you’re nice and warm!
Am I an old man? Yes.
Do you have a favourite artist to see live? If so, tell us who and why?
Bastille are hands down one of my favourite bands to see live. I have probably seen them 4 or 5 times now, and every time they just keep on getting better. A few years ago I was even lucky enough to go backstage and meet them in person.
They were so friendly and down to earth. Woody the drummer also comes from Cornwall which made the evening extra special. We even got a selfie together where lead singer Dan stood on the back of my wheelchair.
From your experience as a wheelchair user, what’s disabled access like at concerts for you?
Disabled access can be very ‘hit or miss’. I know everyone has different needs, but there are some really simple things that can make concert experiences so much better.
As a wheelchair user, the raised platform is key. At times you can feel like a caged animal, shoved to the side which is never nice. 9 times out of 10, wheelchair platforms are too small and the safety railings etc are always too high, restricting your eye view.
It’s nice to have freedom and choice as well. At festivals in particular, I sometimes like to change positions or get down in the crowds for better atmosphere and inclusion.
The shot pictured below is one of the better platforms I have been on - which was at the Ocean City Sounds event in Plymouth last year. It was lovely and spacious, however still too far from the stage.
One band or artist you’d like to see live?
I really enjoy small and intimate gigs. I love a good acoustic performer or someone like that. I recently saw Tom Walker and he was fantastic.
Callum Scott is definitely someone else who I would love to see live this year. His lyrics are always so emotional and his album last year was one of my favourites.
What’s one change you would like to see in terms of disabled people accessing live music?
I would love to see better online booking systems, allowing easy access for multiple tickets and complimentary carer options. I don’t want to have wait in a phone queue for hours, stressing over whether I can get tickets or not.
It seems unfair that everyone else can just log online and get theirs straight away.
The complimentary ‘carer’ ticket is so important, and it’s a shame that not all venues implement this, especially online.
Have you ever missed out on attending a concert because you were unable to purchase disabled access tickets, or due to the venues lack of disabled access?
Yes! I once missed out on seeing George Ezra perform live in my local town because the venue only had capacity for two wheelchair spaces. TWO!!!
This is a venue that can hold HUNDREDS of people, yet only two spaces were allocated for wheelchair users - I still can't quite get my head around it.
I was absolutely gutted over this situation. I even said I would be happy to sit in the main crowds, however due to “health and safety” reasons I was not allowed.
This venue is currently undergoing a big refurbishment, so I'm hoping that it is better equipped for wheelchair users when it re-opens.
I've been missing the 'festival vibe' recently, so it's definitely time for me to start planning my next adventure!