Music festivals are great. They are basically non-stop parties that last all weekend. But they can be a bit challenging for disabled people. I go to about 2 or 3 music festivals a year so I thought I could give some advice for other wheelchair users who are thinking of going to a music festival.
I’m writing this post with regards to wheelchair users because I’m a wheelchair user myself and that’s what I’m familiar with.
Make Sure the Festival Has Good Disabled Facilities
Some festivals have great wheelchair access, like Blue Dot or British Summer Time, whereas some are not so good. The best ones tend to have accessibility information listed on their website so that should be the first place you look. If there is no accessibility information on the website then email the organisers and ask them about it.
Will there be disabled viewing platforms? What is the terrain like? Will there be a disabled campsite? Will there be a changing places toilet? These are the types of questions you need to ask.
The charity Attitude Is Everything gives awards to festivals that have good accessibility ranging from bronze to gold. I usually go to festivals that have a silver or gold award for accessibility like Blue Dot or Latitude. It gives me reassurance that the accessibility will be decent and I’m not going to have any horrible surprises. Click here for a list of venues and festivals that have won awards from Attitude Is Everything.
Think carefully about where you are going to stay
Most people who attend festivals camp in tents or motorhomes, however, this may not be possible for some disabled people. Tents may be too small for wheelchairs or the ground may be uneven. If you can use a tent, that is great. But what if, like me, using a tent is problematic? Well, there are a few options.
The first one is staying in accessible accommodation nearby. These could be hotels or B&Bs, or anywhere else you can find. But the problem is most hotels near to music festivals tend to raise their prices during festival time. So you may have to end up having to pay a lot for somewhere nearby. However, it is possible to find reasonably priced accessible accommodation nearby if you look around.
When I went to the Isle of Wight Festival recently I stayed in an accessible static caravan for £400. This was at a holiday park a 10-minute drive from the festival.
In contrast, the Travelodge nearest to the festival was charging up to £2000 for 5 days stay! So be prepared to look around for accessible accommodation at a reasonable price.
The 2nd option is staying in a motorhome. This provides a few more home comforts then staying in a tent does, such as a solid roof over your head. I have stayed in an accessible motorhome on 2 occasions at festivals and it was cramped but can it did the job.
Finally, you could go glamping. Many festivals offer luxury bell tents or teepees which come with a proper bed and a decent amount of space inside. I’m not sure how accessible these would be as I’ve not tried it myself yet. But I think it’s worth investigating. Of course, these cost a bit more but it’s about the same as the cost of hiring a motorhome.
Take 2 Carers If You Can
Obviously, not all disabled people will need to take a carer with them to festivals. But if you do need a carer I recommend taking 2 if you can. I always take 2 carers to festivals for a few reasons.
Firstly, festivals tend to be muddy and if my Powerchair gets stuck in the mud then it could take a bit of pushing and shoving to get me free and 2 people provide more manpower. Although even if you only have one carer there are usually lots of people nearby who are happy to help out if you get in trouble.
Secondly, festivals can get tiring so having 2 carers means that they can take it in turns to be with me while the other one rests or does their own thing.
Festivals usually only offer one free carer’s ticket as standard. But in my experience they are willing to provide another one if you give them a doctors letter explaining why you need 2 carers. This is what I do and it has never been a problem for me.
Prepare Yourself for Mud and Rain, mentally and physically
Music festivals are notorious for being muddy, which is generally not good news for wheelchair users. Sometimes you get lucky and the weather is glorious, but you can never rely on the weather, especially in the UK. It’s best to prepare for the possibility of mud and rain as much as you can.
Some festivals like British Summer Time In Hyde Park have temporary pathways laid down throughout the site, which makes it easier to drive if the ground is muddy. Unfortunately not all festivals have these.
There is a device called a Free wheel which attaches to the front of wheelchairs and lifts the front casters off the ground. This allows you to roll over rough ground and mud easier. Unfortunately it only works with certain types of manual chairs but if you have the right type of chair I would urge you to use one.
I’ve seen some people in off-road manual chairs at festivals with big chunky tyres which are great for going over the mud.
If you do find yourself having to drive over mud, and you can’t avoid it, then just try to power through it as fast as you can. Don’t stop until you’ve cleared it or you will sink in it.
Read reviews of festivals
A great way to get an idea of how accessible festivals are is to read access reviews written by other wheelchair users who have actually been there. I know this is a bit of a shameless plug, but I have written a number of access reviews for music festivals (Listed below) which you may find useful. If other wheelchair users have been there before, and survived, then the chances are you will too.
Here are some links to the festival access reviews that I have written: