Why should you always go to gigs with a disabled friend? I am clearly biased, having a disability myself, and I think I am great company. Even I sometimes feel like going to see a band when I have a disability can add a layer of difficulty to the arrangements. I have to think about things like access and phoning ahead to find out how crowded/flashing-light-filled the gig will be, and where (if any) the accessible toilets are.
The following is based on my personal experiences, and is not intended to cause offence. I am certainly not speaking for everyone. It is simply meant as a light-hearted look at how my disability has influenced, in a positive way, the experiences I have had with my friends when we’ve been out to enjoy music.
So, again I say, why should you go to gigs with a disabled friend? Well, for starters, the view will probably be better. Sometimes this will mean you can blag being shown onto a ‘special viewing platform’, and sometimes you will automatically be shown to the front, even if there are loads of other people up at the front who were there before you. All of a sudden, they will happily make way for me, and by extension you too, in my wake. I have been amazed that this has worked even in more crowded festival gigs full of eager rockers. Oddly, I can even get myself and those with me shown to the front when I’m not entirely sure I want to be right at the front, it just happens! Sometimes, it’s safer to be near the back, but I suppose it’s more fun living on the edge. Being shown to the front holds good for other kinds of events too. I have had a very close up view of Queen Elizabeth, without needing to ask. I used to think it was a height thing, as I am rather short, but the general unspoken rule seems to be that if you have a disability, even if at the time you are sitting in a massive powerchair that makes you quite tall anyway, then, my friend, you belong at the front!
It is also possible, in certain festival settings at least, to get personally escorted through the crowds to wherever you want to be – no more being shoved around or accidently elbowed by your fellow festival-goers. It has been suggested that having spikes fitted to the outside of my wheelchair wheels would be an additional aid to clearing the way before us at busy festival gigs, but I have never found this necessary. I find politeness and a smile far more effective than spiky wheels! People usually get out of my way very quickly, so just make sure you follow close behind and keep up.
For me, my disability seems to come with some of the benefits of moderate fame. I had a bright blue walking frame for a while, which seemed to enhance this effect. I stand out, people watch me, talk to me, remember me. I have an automatic talking point. This means I get remembered by other fans as well, which is great. If you are standing next to me, I can introduce you too. This also means they are more likely to remember you and be nice to you if you see them again.
Depending on what equipment I bring with me, you will have somewhere to put your extra layers (if you ask me first). Just be aware that you may forget I have them and so you might not get them back straight away. It will not be my fault if you have hung them on the back of my walker/wheelchair where I can’t see them and can easily wander off with them. Sorry in advance, but at least you will not have had to worry about where to put your coat and been able to dance like crazy without overheating.
Going with a disabled friend might mean that you get a cheaper ticket, or even get in free. Not true everywhere, but there are often discounts for at least one of you, so remember to ask! Never be shy about asking for free stuff, as it might just come your way.
Most importantly, we are more fun! This goes without saying, but I thought I would say, just to underline the point again.
So, who’s coming with me?
WORDS: PIPPA MARSHALL