A photo of people at a festival theres a stage in the distance and some different coloured flags.
Cerebral Palsy

 My Tramlines 2022 Experience

I’ve never been a festival goer, I enjoy concerts but the idea of a festival as an ambulatory wheelchair user terrifies me. Yet, every year Tramlines tickets go on sale and I’m so tempted but always back out due to my disability related anxiety. Until last summer when I went for it!

Tramlines is a festival held in Hillsborough Park in Sheffield and is pretty local to me which is why I decided to take the plunge a for it. When I looked into it for previous years I couldn’t find any access information on the website or social media hence why I was so hesitant. But like I say, its local so if I didn’t like it I am a short drive away and I knew that surely they’d be some access facilities.

A picture from the crowd looking onto the stage at Tramlines Festival.

All year when it came up in conversation I mentioned how nervous I was but I was still excited! As a disabled person my life is pretty much planned to the maximum but I am becoming less of a worrier as unfortunately you get pretty used to it.

The week before the festival I got my ticket and started to again search for access information. In which I found an access form that had to be filled out a month prior. Okay, so where was the information last year when I was booking tickets? Hands up if I missed it but once you’ve got your tickets why is there not a generic email that says when you can apply to be on the access list or click here for more access information? I looked on social media for any advertising of the access facilities and I couldn’t see anything!

I was already panicking about the weekend so I emailed them as soon as I could to try and get on the access list and told them I was coming in my electric wheelchair. The kindest people got straight back to me with everything I needed and more. I was impressed even the wording of the email was brilliant which read ‘we don’t want to assume what you may need but … may be helpful’ just yes. I then got a booklet with everything I needed including things such as what food stalls were gluten free and how far in walking (or rolling) distance the disabled toilets and changing places were from each stage. The Gold Status Tramlines have by Attitude is Everything most certainly came to show here!

But it made me so sad that I was excited by this as this shouldn’t be the ‘gold status’ it should just be the standard. Why as a person who is disabled by society should I feel the need to praise access that should just be a given to enable me to enjoy the weekend like anyone else?

I arrived and picked up my access bands, well I didn’t at first and had to ask but in fairness that was in the booklet – it was a bit of an overwhelming experience to begin with, rolling into 110,000 people (not literally though)! We then headed to the platform for the main Sarah Nulty stage to get an early seat for James and Sam Fender! On the Friday we went as a three and the fourth member of our party was meeting us later on and thankfully did ready for Sam Fender – who was incredible! 

A photo of Sam Fender playing the Sarah Nulty stage at Tramlines. You can see peoples heads and the red lighting as he plays.

Yet, getting onto the access platform as a 3 was tricky…

I get if you’re in a big group that you can’t all go on the platform, obviously its a shame that you can’t all enjoy the events together but I get it. But as 3 young girls of course we’re not going to leave a member behind to stand alone in a crowd of 110,000 people? Unfortunately the crowd management and security team did not get this which wasn’t a brilliant start. Luckily to access team came to the rescue yet again and gave both my sister and friend access passes, I really cannot fault the access team themselves every need we had they were there! But the security team and that particular person we encountered really need to think about how they approach these situations!

In a blue tent theres a photo of me a white women with brunette hair, pointing and dancing on the viewing platform.
I’m dancing with my friend behind me!

We went on to see some great acts on the Sarah Nulty stage, T’other stage, and The Library stage – we had the most fabulous weekend! I’m sitting here a few days after expecting my energy levels to dip and to be fair I’m still running off adrenaline. I can feel it coming though, my chronic body won’t let me off the hook that easy!

Sam Ryder was the one I HAD to see. My poor friend, I wouldn’t shut up about him all weekend but boy he did not disappoint! My other favourites was Kelis, Scouting for Girls, Sam Fender, and it goes without saying that Madness brought the bustling atmosphere with them!! I also really enjoyed the comedians I watched, Russell Kane and Jason Manford. The atmosphere for Jason Manford was incredible, unfortunately we couldn’t get on the viewing platform, which I think we could have with a bit of shuffling yet being in the middle of the crowd singing hymns was brilliant. Yes, we sang hymns with Jason Manford, it was iconic! 

Yet the accessible viewing platforms themselves were rather inaccessible hence why I didn’t get on at Jason Manford although, I’d been on busier platforms throughout the weekend. But the platforms did need to be bigger or more platforms needed to be provided. News flash, disabled people like having a fun time at festivals too! This is where I want to say if you know how many people that need the viewing platforms are coming, you’d have thought that they would have accommodated everyone. But I guess if their access form wasn’t well advertised many people could have been in the same situation as me or missed it all together.

However, the platforms accommodated both disabled access and VIPs. Why was this the same platform? Surely it would be easier to keep them separate so you could have a bigger access platform where you can actually safely turn your wheelchair? 

This situation certainly needs an occupational therapist on the scene, in fact the whole festival needed a crew of occupational therapists to put their spin on things. I know it’s already been said in response to my tweets so I don’t want to steal anyones idea but what a brilliant role-emerging placement this would make! Occupational therapists planning Tramlines, it would be super! Tramlines, if you need some help planning for next year, there is plenty of universities that would LOVE to send some occupational therapy students your way!

So how was my first festival? It was incredible, yes, we had a few bumps in the road, and yes maybe a few things could have been better. But I’ll admit I’m new to the festival scene and I’m still figuring it out myself. Hopefully I’ll have more experience soon as I have my tickets ready for Tramlines 2023!!

Thank you for reading, 

Georgia x

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