Accessible music festivals and our top tips

We’ve just got back from our practice camping trip for this year’s Glastonbury Festival. Of course it’s hard to replicate what the festival is like by going to a quiet campsite in the Sussex countryside. There was no banging drum n bass, thousands of people, or mud, but it did give us a night under canvas to get to know each other as we chatted round the camp fire. We also had a lovely, and fairly long, walk to the pub.

It was a lovely way to spend the weekend and we thought we’d share with you some of our experiences of supporting people with learning disabilities at Glastonbury and other festivals.

Making festivals accessible

Going to a festival might be a daunting thing to think about but we supported people with learning disabilities to attend many festivals over the years as artists, stewards, traders and regular customers and with some planning it can be a fantastic experience and many festivals do a huge amount to make them as accessible as possible for disabled customers.

Glastonbury Festival is on a huge site, set in farmland in a valley. It’s the size of about 900m football pitches, nearly 1 ½ miles end to end and around 200,000 people go there. It’s massive!

Don’t let this put you off though because the festival does all it can to ensure disabled festival goers have a great time. Although they can’t control the weather they’ve thought of just about everything else. So much so that Attitude is Everything made them the first camping festival to be awarded their Gold Access Award.

You can read more about the festival’s accessibility information here but this post is a little round up of some of the things they provide and some of the things to think about when planning your trip.

Disabled camping

The disabled campsite at Glastonbury is not far from the Pyramid stage but the general public aren’t allowed in without a special wristband. This means it has a community feel of its own.

In the campsite there is:

  • Mobility scooter hire
    • You can pre-book these and charge them up for free each night. They also service them just in case there’s problems.
  • Massages – There’s a programme of various complimentary therapies on offer throughout the festival just for people in disabled camping
  • Hot showers
  • Accessible toilets (lots of them) and they get cleaned daily
  • Free mobile phone charging
  • A hot water urn for late night cups of tea and a chat
  • Refrigeration for medicines where needed
  • A camp fire – there’s a big fire every night, the perfect place to sit and chat before turning in for bed

Around the festival

Viewing platforms

The larger stages all have accessible viewing platforms for disabled customers and many of these have an accessible toilet

Accessible toilets

Accessible toilets are dotted all over the festival with a passcode so the general public don’t use them

Welfare stations

If you’re feeling unwell you can ask for help at the many welfare stations dotted around

Buggy bus stops

They run a shuttle service all around the festival with set pick up points to take people back to the disabled campsite, or on to the next stage.

Medical centre

For more serious problems there is a huge medical centre which is like a field hospital, it even has a maternity department.

Metal roads

It’s not possible to make the whole festival accessible, a lot of the tracks are mud and if it rains these become very difficult to walk on. However, there are some metal tracks and firmer roads which are usually ok, unless it’s a really wet year.

Loads of people having a great time

Glastonbury, like many festivals, is full of people who are there just to have a great time, see some great music and live differently for a few days. It’s a wonderful atmosphere to be part of and to soak up.

And our tips for having a great time

We put a lot of thought in to planning for the festival and these are some of our top tips:

  1. Practice walking. You might be walking 10 miles a day, and dancing a lot too. Get in to practice and start walking a lot.
  2. Take plenty of money. Festival food and drink is pricey and there’s lots of shops to look at too.
  3. Take enough clothes to keep warm and to change if they get wet.
  4. Have a practice camping trip.
  5. Take your own beer (to save some money)
  6. Have a back-up plan. We write a plan with everyone to make sure we’ve thought about any support issues they may have.

If someone really needs to leave the festival we have our safety plan which we call ‘The Handover in Andover’.

Andover happens to be about half way between Brighton and Glastonbury and so the idea is that if someone really needs to leave we will drive them to Andover to meet their support workers who will drive there to meet us. We’ve never needed to use this plan but it’s always there as a safety net.

We also take plenty of supplies such as snacks, water bottles, toilet paper, sun cream and wet wipes.

Thinking of planning your own trip?

If you would like to support the people you work with to go to a festival we would be happy to discuss doing some training with you to give you a lot more information and advice about how to make this a wonderful experience for everyone.

We’d have to charge for our time but would be happy to chat with you about this and design a session that meets what you’re looking for.

And of course if you’re at Glastonbury yourself this year do come and say hello to us. We’ll be in the Green Futures area in our crafts and activism stall.

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