There were a few articles just before the gig as well as just after about the mostly appalling access situation at Manchester Castlefield Bowl. The day before the gig, I was reading the BBC article and also having the most absurd series of conversations with Manchester International Festival’s ‘Access Team’ on the phone. Despite my best efforts on Twitter (I am so shit at Twitter) no-one with any accountability responded to my complaints and gripes about what I was experiencing.
Virginie Assal was featured in a BBC article where she stated that she was told by MIF that the accessible seats were now ‘First come first served’. You can only be a disabled gig-goer if you get there earlier than everyone else. I don’t need to expand on what is wrong with this (everything). However, in the BBC article, which has been repeat reported elsewhere, they stated that ‘Only provisions for wheelchair users were guaranteed’.
I can actually tell you, factually, that this is wrong: the day before the gig, I was told multiple times by three separate staff on the phone the day before the concert that ‘The wheelchair platform is full up’. I repeatedly said, ‘What does that mean?’ and they repeatedly said ‘There’s no room left on the wheelchair platform. I can check to see if any wheelchair users have cancelled, but there’s no space left at the moment. So the only other route either has about ten stairs up or more. Is that okay?’
‘No not really, I booked this ticket six months ago, but I guess either I find my way up ten steps or I don’t attend the concert. Am I right in understanding that?’
*Silence* ‘There’s not much I can do, the wheelchair platform is full up’.
Below is a photograph of the supposedly ‘totally full’ wheelchair viewing platform after the gig.
Yes you are viewing that image correctly, it is an area that is enclosed by a moveable barrier. A MOVEABLE barrier, with an awful lot of space behind it, to the side of it, pretty much any direction, it could have been extended to accommodate me in a chair. In other words, an adaptable size of reserved space for many wheelchair users. But on the phone, I was told there was absolutely no leeway, no room for any more wheelchairs. ‘So if I can’t get out of my wheelchair tomorrow, I can’t come to the gig?’
This ‘first come, first served’ sentiment from MIF in their response regarding the ‘accessible seating are’ might at the very least have implied that there was a very clear, well signposted, safe and spacious route to the seating area for gig-goers who had requested ‘Access’ tickets; there wasn’t. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I got to an entrance and was told ‘oh no, you need to go to the other entrance, on Duke Street’ by a security guard. He followed this up with: ‘If you just go up this road, the right, then right again and go under the bridge’. I asked if I could not just come through this main entrance, as I was mobilising with two crutches, clearly in pain and there was a direct route behind him through to the area. He said no, I would have to walk all the way around. WTF.