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Steve Woodward on going to gigs

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"Do your research, ask questions and don’t be afraid”

Steve Woodward on going to gigsThere really isn’t anything better than live performance. Many of us are in our 20s-30s when we get our diagnosis, and, speaking personally, I was right in the sweet spot of my musical fanaticism.

I’m 40 now and I was diagnosed with MS around 10 years ago. I’ve continued to attend gigs, and occasionally play in them too. Like many things which people with any form of disability do, they invariably require a certain level of planning. I’m also more selective about the gigs I go to, but I think that’s mostly to do with having a three-yearold daughter rather than a decrease in mobility.

Full disclosure: my level of disability is still fairly minimal, although I use a stick as a walking aid, and I haven’t – so far – had any issues with venues being impossible to access. Also the sorts of venues I tend to visit are fairly small (and not a little scuzzy). I’ve only ever gone down the front at a couple of select gigs where I knew there was minimal opportunity for a mosh pit.

The only BIG venue I ever went to – the O2 – had a terrible sound, so I’m in no hurry to repeat a stadium gig in the future. It also involved a lot of walking (although there was a guaranteed sit-down at the end).

Plan ahead

Boringly, I’ve been lucky and haven’t got any horror stories about gigs. But that’s not to say I don’t do an inordinate amount of pre-event planning.

First up I make sure I know exactly where I’m going, especially if it’s a new venue. If I’ve never been there before, I’ll get in touch to find about parking, access and to spell out my requirements.

Sometimes (The Rainbow in Birmingham – a tiny place I visited last year) I’ll get a really helpful response which makes finding a parking space easy and makes me feel really comfortable.

Sometimes(Rescue Rooms in Nottingham a couple of weeks ago), I’ll get NOTHING at all, even when I get in touch (email, Facebook, Twitter, website) months in advance. To be fair, I’ve been there many times before, so I know it’s always over-capacity and insanely hot. Also, I knew all about parking and toilets (and the need to keep my fluids up) and such like. But still – what if I hadn’t known about it? Not very impressive.

If you do your planning, and communicate with the venue about your requirements, there’s really no excuse to stop going to gigs. I use my Disabled Parking badge when required, and try to avoid driving myself. I have a friend who is the same age and has two kids who is always up for a musical experience (cheers, Mike!). On this point, I try not to drink too much. Not only will it wind up the kind soul who has driven me, but alcohol is an irritant, bladder-wise – so the frequent trips to the loos will ruin my enjoyment.

I works in an arts venue which also coordinates festivals and outdoor performances, so I’m in a unique position in that I can look at an event and think about how it will affect me, and then implement ways which could minimise problems. However, with modern technology, people with MS really have no excuses – do your research in advance, ask questions and don’t be afraid. And wear earplugs.

Attitude is Everything is an organisation dedicated to improving deaf and disabled people’s access to live music. In return for free tickets and travel, their team of ‘mystery shoppers’ report back on the accessibility and overall experience at UK music venues, clubs and festivals, and identify strengths and areas for improvement. To find out more and get involved visit attitudeiseverything.org.uk

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