I've got a bad leg!!!
So what were the facilities like this year at Reading? After the feedback that festival goers gave Attitude Is Everything last year, that we dutifully passed on to the organisers, was there any improvement?
Well the main stage disabled viewing platform was increased by some 30 % and was much better. Last year, although I didn't personally go on it, it wasn't nearly big enough and quite a few times disabled people couldn't get on it for lack of space. The viewing platform at the Lock Up stage was also bigger than last year. It had been tiny, with only enough space for maybe three wheelchair users and their pa's, but this year we were able to accommodate everyone who wanted to use it. The NME/Radio 1 stage actually looked smaller this year, which is odd because it is one of the most popular stages at the festival. There was the added problem of the sound crew storing equipment on there too. It isn't for you guys, sorry, go put your big fuck off crates somewhere else!!! The Carling stage has never been an issue really. It is adequet for needs and was as big as last year. Strangely the viewing platform at the Comedy tent was got rid of completely. Maybe us crips never laugh and don't need it because we wouldn't want to go there!!! One very positive note though. Last year the ramps at the stages were very steep and almost impossoble to navigate for some people. It was much better this year and our feedback was taken note of. Cheers.
Each viewing platform has its own disabled loo, which is a good thing. This year the main stage had two, which went down well with the punters, and the one at the NME stage was actually situated within the curtilige of the platform which made it far easier to police. We had the usual problem of having to explain to non-disabled people that they couldn't use it. I had two 'discussions' with punters, one who called me stupid because I wouldn't let him use it. I did explain to him that in the 10 minutes he stood arguing with me about using it he could have walked over to the non-disabled loos and used them. On another occassion a group of lads thought that my guardianship of the loo would be swayed if they put on limps and went about screaming that they had bad legs. Unfortunately if you take the piss you get fuck all but a flea in your ear. Mark and I did have reports that when we were not on duty other people stewarding the stage were letting everyone use the loos. This will be addressed for next year as it will be reported to Oxfam and hopefully their will be some 'education' in place for 2007.
We had the usual comments from festival goers that the access around the site was poor. I must say that if you tried to get to the main stage or the NME stage at busy times it was very difficult. On two occcassions I happened to be walking past the NME stage and had to don my steward's tabbard in order to get wheelchair users through as people were just lying in the way not taking any notice that someone was trying to get through. I can understand though that this is a difficult problem to solve.
All in all I think this year the access was better than last year. There will always be room for improvement of course and there are things we need to report to The Mean Fiddler. Things are getting better for disabled people attending festivals and although we aren't quite being treated equally yet things are on the up. Lets hope this continues.