Reading Festival receives highest accolade for accessibility
October 6, 2017 8:16 AM
Event organiser Festival Republic has received Gold Standard for its Reading Festival. The accolade is the highest honour given by the Charter of Best Practice of Attitude is Everything (AiE), the organisation that promotes improvements for deaf and disabled people's access to live music.
The award recognises Reading as one of the UK's most inclusive live music events as it features viewing platforms at every major stage, a dedicated check-in service, fully stewarded accessible campsite and British Sign Language (BSL) interpretation of performances.
In an industry as diverse as music and festivals, we should be doing everything in our power to make our events as accessible as possible for everyone, Melvin Benn, MD of Festival Republic, commented. As we continue to develop our BSL interpretation service and progress all disabled access avenues across our events, it's rewarding to see our disabled customer numbers continuing to grow.
Festival Republic has been working with Attitude is Everything since 2005, consistently improving facilities for disabled audiences. It reached Silver status on the charter in 2014, and picked up an Outstanding Attitude Award in 2016 award for their innovative BSL interpretation service developed in collaboration with deaf customers.
Benn continued :”Having worked with Attitude Is Everything since 2005 we look forward to continuing this relationship, and are delighted that Reading Festival has been awarded Gold Status on their Charter of Best Practice.
In addition to BSL interpretation, Reading's access-based facilities include:
- A dedicated check-in for disabled customers enabling them to collect access-related accreditation such as personal assistant passes, viewing platform wristbands, and accessible campsite passes
- A fully stewarded accessible campsite complete with access lanes to ensure customers have easy access to tents, accessible water points, accessible medical storage, an information tent staffed by Attitude is Everything volunteers, power charging points for power wheelchairs and medical equipment, accessible toilets and showers, and a cabin unit that houses an adult hoist and toilet for people who require this facility
- Viewing platforms at each major stage with two at the Main Stage and NME / BBC Radio 1 Stage
- An accessible backstage bar and press area, including its own accessible toilet
- Detailed online access information
- A dedicated access officer overseeing customer access bookings as well as all access issues on site
- A dedicated accessible parking field with its access gate situated conveniently by the side of the main stage
- Interchangeable personal assistant lanyards enabling disabled customers to enjoy the company of different friends during the weekend
As a result of these facilities, and with other provisions such as free personal assistant/companion tickets offered as standard, Reading has seen 91% increase in disabled customers attending the festival between 2014 and 2017. This year a record 567 day and weekend ticket buyers enjoyed the event.
I attended my first Reading Festival in 1987 for a day, when the headliners were The Mission, Status Quo and Alice Cooper, commented Suzanne Bull MBE, Attitude is Everything CEO. The highlight of my day was seeing John Peel's delight at tucking in to a very lush jacket potato and baked beans, as well as seeing all the bands, of course! Back then, hardly any disabled fans attended music festivals and facilities were practically non-existent – which makes today's award of great personal satisfaction.
Bull said the festival today could not be more welcoming or inclusive. Working in partnership with Attitude is Everything, Melvin Benn and the Festival Republic team have consistently developed the festival to become more accessible and inclusive as the years have gone by. As a result, attendances from deaf and disabled customers, along with their friends and families, have never been higher. The impact is far-reaching, and a perfect embodiment of how live music can change lives when barriers to access are removed.