Media personalities Ade Adepitan, Alex Brooker and Sophie Morgan, and musicians including Tine Tempah and James Blake are among those pledging support to BBC Radio One DJ Jameela Jamil’s new initiative, Why Not People? The new company will allow people living with a disability the full gig experience via a season of gigs, by artists including Ed Sheeran, Coldplay and Mark Ronson, specifically tailored to their needs. These exciting events will launch a new campaigning and educational organisation and a private members club for gig-goers with disabilities.
It was Jameela’s own experiences as a young music fan that inspired her: “There was nowhere for me to go where I could just go out and party; nowhere that I felt equal; nowhere that was made for people who needed just an extra helping hand without being treated like an alien or a burden. I am horrified to say 10 years later there still really is not a place in the entertainment world for the disabled.”
While most large venues now offer reasonable access, fans with disabilities find it often fails to provide a genuinely inclusive, dignified experience. You’d hope large venues would be better placed to respond to demand for a more equal gig experience for people with disabilities, yet across the UK’s biggest concert venues, fewer than 1% of seats (and often 0% of standing areas) are accessible to wheelchair users.
At too many venues, wheelchair users are strictly restricted to a designated viewing platform, isolated from the rest of the audience, sometimes including the friends they came in with. A reviewer for hipster website Blue Badge Style was threatened with ejection from the Brixton O2 Academy for leaving the platform (at the side) to move closer to the stage. Another, at KOKO in Camden, reported wheelchair users restricted to the balconies, well away from the dance floor, and commented, “Watching other people have a good time is not my idea of fun”.
While these rules are clearly motivated by more general safety concerns, one London venue has proved there is another way. Visitors to the thoughtfully restored Roundhouse in Camden are free to roam throughout the hall, craning their necks for a view along with their mates.
Why Not People? plans to educate the world about disability, promoting inclusion, demonstrate the huge demand from people with disabilities to venues, promoters and artist’s managers and highlight new technologies and creative solutions to enhance every gig-goer’s experience. It will also curate areas catering for gig-goers with physical, sensory or learning impairments at other promoter’s events.
The club will be a social community with an exclusive online portal where members can blog, share access info and tips, catch up with mates, discuss fashion and personal styling and arrange to travel to gigs together. Members will receive a regular newsletter and have exclusive access to tickets (for themselves plus up to 3 mates) and other special offers.
Membership costs £15 annually. All applications will be reviewed by the Why Not People? Chief Medical Officer.