Attitude is Everything's chairman Del Garland talks about festivals and the disabled

independent charity wants festivals and venues to sign up to charter

published: Mon 4th Aug 2008

around the festival site

Friday 22nd to Sunday 24th August 2008
Little Johns Farm, Richfield Avenue, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 8EQ, England MAP
daily capacity: 55000
last updated: Wed 13th Aug 2008

Attitude is Everything is a charity organisation that was set up in 2000 in response to the young disabled people's complaints of unfair treatment at live music venues, clubs, and festivals throughout the UK. The Artsline Charity which was the charity's original umbrella organisation realised that the industry was not aware of it's obligations under the Disabilities Discrimination Act and so this project was set up to look at it, and highlight the problems.

Since it's beginnings the organisation has over the years made significant steps within the music industry, they've worked in partnership with Mean Fiddler group, which is now Festival Republic, Clear Channel, Fly, and AMG, and they are looking to make more improvements across the country.

The organisation, funded by the Arts Council has now broken free from Artsline and gone independent, and has a big challenge ahead of them says Del Garland the chairman of the board of trustees for Atttitude is Everything.

"Our plan for the future is that we have a charter of best practise which is basically for venues, clubs, and festivals to sign up to. We basically have a list of requirements for disabled access and how to deal with disabled patrons. We do mystery shopping, we run a club for deaf and disabled artists, as well as able bodied to have a mixture and make sure there's no exclusion. We do representation of disability issues, training in disability equality. We also get involved in disability issues such as the Cultural Oympiad in 2012. So it's quite a wide mix but basically music is the background." said Del.

The organisation, are in close liaison with several festivals, and have gone into festivals like Glastonbury as stewarding projects in partnership with Oxfam offering specialist stewarding on the disabled viewing platforms, and a presence in the disabled campsites, to give people advice and generally help them out. And also liaise with the festival organisers on the problems disabled people might have.

Glastonbury is particularly well organised for disabled people with tent pitching having space for wheelchair access, number coded disabled toilets, and things like that, and these things have come into being through the involvement of Attitude Is Everything. Del explained, "We've had a very close relationship with Mean Fiddler, and Festival Republic, that's been built up over the years. We have quite a good understanding and partnership and what would normally happen is we would have a meeting after the festival to review how things have gone and take on board any possible improvements for next year. This year has been a great success from the feedback I've been getting. It might be the better weather for a change but it's made a big difference."

Attitude is Everything has been concentrating on the London area until now, but it's now rolling out across the country and is looking for disabled people, or their friends to get involved. Del explains, "I would recommend any disabled music lover, or if you have a friend who is disabled that finds it difficult to go to venues to visit the website. There's more information on what we do, we have information on venues and what the facilities are there. Also, there's opportunities to help us and by all means get involved, one of the things we do do is mystery shopping. We need volunteers all around the country, to go to venues and get them to sign up to the charter. What we basically want to do is bring the whole level up across the country."

With anyone with a field attempting to put on festivals, it seems the organisers of some events do not have to seek out Attitude is Everything's advice. Del clarified, "There's no hard or fast rules. We have a relationship with most of the major festivals, but in recent year's there's been an explosion in smaller festivals, unfortunately some of them, have this attitude of lets just get a field and put a stage in it. We need to get in touch with those organisers. I know there's certain little groups of organisers getting together now, that's an independent festival organisation."

It seems that although festivals often contact Attitude is Everything before their event, often if they don't the festival goers will instead. Del explains, "Where people go onto our website, or they hear of us, they always give us feedback even if we haven't been involved (in the event) previously. Because what will do is contact those organisers either before or afterwards and to either give them some feedback, offer them some training if they need it, or if it's a big enough festival maybe set up some form of partnership to go forward and be of help."

Attitude is Everything have a lot of experience at festivals now, with providing advice and infrastructure, For instance at Reading festival they have been involved since 2001 and have been in an ongoing working partnership in an advisory capacity ensuring their disabled stewards and training is of a high standard. However Del feels that festivals as whole still have a long way to go, and many could do with contacting Attitude is Everything to improve their facilities and festival for disabled people.

"There's still plenty of room for manoeuvre some have made more steps than others. But, it's always going to be difficult, take Glastonbury for an example the weather can make all the difference. It's a massive site so the logistics of any disabled person, whether in a wheel chair, mobility, deaf, or blind it's going to be a problem if the weather is bad.

"But working with these people, we're looking to get the layout right, get the access right, is the parking near enough, can we get easy access to the venue, the platforms etc. And it's not even the access on the day, we talk to people about how the tickets are sold, the disabled information packs with tickets for larger festivals, rules and regulations for using the platforms, and the logistics of it all. It's not just us, we need to work with whatever security has been employed. We don't have a heavy approach, we are just to complement what's already there."

Attitude is Everything is not only about the venues and the ticket holders, but also artists as well. Del says, "We're not just championing the gig goer, but we also look at access for artists and DJs who are disabled. We've run club nights and we've been really pleased to help people like the Mystery Jets along. It's all about not being excluded. The idea of Club Attitude is to hold a great club night at the venue, which has good access, and is pro-actively programming deaf and disabled artists alongside regular bills. We look for more off the wall, inventive, ground breaking type of music. It's a nice mixture and a nice chance to get together."

It is good to see that festivals and venues are becoming more interested in providing more facilities, and infrastructure for the disabled, and they have come a lot further than they were a few decades ago, where disabled people were treated like cattle. However Del said there were some individuals running events that don't seem to care about their disabled customers. Del was unprepared to publicly name them.

He did feel that overall people are starting to wake up to their requirements, sometimes by law. "It's like a movement, people are becoming more aware, and from a disabled point of view we are offering them better expectations. Okay there are some things we are going to find impossible, or highly unlikely, but it's all about finding the right balance, I suppose."

Attitude is Everything has received funding from the Arts Council to grow and develop the organisation over the next 3 years as an independent registered charity people can donate money through 'matched giving' at their workplace or through links on the website.

to find out more about Attitude Is Everything, click here.

For eFestivals guide for disabled festival goers, click here.
interview by: Scott Williams

Friday 22nd to Sunday 24th August 2008
Little Johns Farm, Richfield Avenue, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 8EQ, England MAP
daily capacity: 55000
last updated: Wed 13th Aug 2008

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