Let me introduce myself, my name is Adrian and I don’t look like I have a disability.
I used to go to a lot of gigs with my friends when I was younger, then around 2005 my life changed overnight. What appeared to be a “bad tummy” lasted for weeks and then months and eventually reached the point at which I couldn’t deny that something was terribly wrong and that I needed to go to hospital.
I was initially diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis a condition that affects the lower part of the bowel (since then my diagnosis has changed several times between that and crohns) and that put a stop to gigs. Aside from the obvious toilet and pain issues the most common issue that I suffer from and that I know other people with IBD suffer with is fatigue.
On a good day I look fine, I go about my business just like everybody else. On a bad day, I don’t get out of bed, I want to curl up, I want to sleep, I want it to be tomorrow; a better day. Even on a good day I have to contend with the dreaded wall, there’s a point at which I go from wandering around happily to every step becoming agony, instantly.
I also have a condition called Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, this is a liver disease that has been caused by the IBD, again this causes me a great deal of pain and on top of it all, Mr. Fatigue rears his head again!
My last condition (I promise!) is Marfans Syndrome. I’m a tall guy (6’6”) courtesy of the Marfans and when I used to go to gigs when I was younger, people would moan about me blocking their view or suggesting I should stand right at the back as if they had more right to be there. Among the less serious complications of the disease are joint pain and my number one killer at a gig, back pain. I am unable to stand in the same place for any amount of time without lower excruciating pain in the lower back which then radiates up my spine into my shoulders and then down my arms. When you’re standing at a gig and you have this I assure you that the only thing you look forward to is the gig ending so that you can sit down.
In 2013 myself and my wife took the brave step of thinking “lets go to Download”, obviously having not been to a single gig for 7 or 8 years, this was a major step. I had the concerns of toilets, standing, etc. I used the download forum, asked a few questions in the disabled group, contacted the access team who knew exactly about my conditions and told me what evidence to supply and that we’d have disabled access, brilliant and what turned out to be the best decision we ever made.
Fast forward to this year, I discovered and got my access card, the fact that I could supply my evidence once and use it at a number of high profile venues and ticket agencies made it a revolution, in particular the O2 venues are really switched on and you can just supply your access card number for a PA ticket and they sort out access, the Academy in Oxford went out of their way to make sure we were comfortable and could enjoy the gig we went to there.
What I’ve also found is that even places that haven’t heard of it are willing to accept it as evidence and are more than happy to provide whatever you need. Recently we travelled to Edinburgh for a gig and the venue (Edinburgh Corn Exchange) fast tracked us through security and onto the platform without actually formally recognising the card, no questions asked and no “you don’t look disabled” from their staff. So it’s useful in many more situations than you might think.
Even our beloved local record store (Banquet Records) were more than happy to take it as proof and allowed us early entry to the venue to allow me to sit and avoid the queue outside. Queuing just isn’t an option for me, we have a long standing running joke that we’re the only people on earth who get early entry to sit at the back!
Reading Festival was another that at the time didn’t formally recognise it (but I believe they were working on it) and they were quite happy to accept it as proof.
The symbols have been carefully chosen so that they cover the majority of issues that gig goers face, while I might walk into the arena quite happily in the morning it’s a completely different matter at night. This year at download, my wife had a terrible time getting me back because my body just gives up – she had such a bad time that she refused to go to Reading unless we took the wheelchair with us, because she couldn’t face trying to get me back to the tent at night!
So while I look well the access card tells a hidden and whole story, the one that can’t be seen and the one that determines whether I have a good gig/festival or a bad one. It makes my life easier because I don’t have to explain over and over again what the issues are and I don’t have to keep getting up to date information from my doctors as evidence, which is often easier said than done!
So from not doing gigs for 7-8 years, this year we’ve seen BMTH 7 times, 2 festivals, Frank Carter, Cancer Bats, While She Sleeps, Korn, System Of A Down and probably a few others and most of these gigs the access card has been used so that I can enjoy the gig pain free!
Martin and the team are such a great bunch of people and this might be the best £15 you ever spend.
To top it all, we bumped into BMTH on the way from the access campsite to the arena at reading! 2015 has been a great year for gigs for us.