Warning: this post may contain rants. In fact it is probably one big long rant!
So Muse are on tour again, my single favourite band in the world. I loved them as a teen and then saw them at V Festival 2004. Why does 2004 not sound that long ago when it’s actually almost 15 years? Oh my youth! I totally fell for those riffs and have been a fan since. I actually can’t think of how many times I’ve seen Muse live, but I think that’s age creeping up on me. I reckon I’ve seen them 7-8 times. I need double figures.
I planned, as is mostly the case when you haven wheels. Where was the gig being held? What was access like? Driving? parking? What process did I need to use to book tickets? Do they offer a complimentary companion? Where are the best seats? That type of thing. Everything. Because things aren’t plain wheeling when you have wheels.
There were only two gigs being played in the UK as part of the Muse Simulation Theory World Tour. One in Manchester (too far for a day trip), one in London (doable). The London one was at Queen Elizabeth Stadium, where the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics were held, a new stadium, should have excellent wheelchair access.
I hadn’t been to the venue before, or booked with them, so I did a little more research and discovered that Ticketmaster were taking charge of all disabled ticket bookings for this particular show. I had a read of the Ticketmaster website to find the on sale times and booking process. It informed me that tickets were on sale at 9am Friday and wheelchair access tickets were available to book either online or by phone.
I was pretty impressed, not many venues or sellers offer online booking for wheelchair users. I don’t know why, it seems pretty simple to me.
Anyway I was happy and all geared up, I’d had a brew, loaded and logged in to Ticketmaster ready for the nightmare I heard about of refreshing and queuing in the cloud.
I got on at 9am, followed the instructions I’d read the day before about scrolling to the wheelchair space option and adding a complimentary companion, All was going well. Until rage hit. The maximum ticketless tickets I could put in my basket-in-the-clouds was one wheelchair user and one companion. I wanted two wheelchair users and two companions, because believe it or not I do have friends, and some of those friends even use a wheelchair! Shocking, right?
I tried multiple times thinking surely I was doing something wrong, they wouldn’t have this magnificent new idea only to render it practically discriminatory. Do you know what… I thought let’s play ‘normal’ person for a minute and see how their ticket booking experience works. I could very easily buy eight ‘normal person’ tickets. 8. EIGHT. You normal people are allowed to enjoy the Muse experience with seven of your loving friends and family. I’m allowed to share it with my one carer. Lucky ol’ me.
Ok, calm down, try the trusted phone booking system I used back in the day when all wheelchair access bookings were taken via telephone. It was 9.04am by this point, I hadn’t wasted much time.
After queuing by phone for 30 minutes with the same three songs on repeat, a lady answered to kindly tell me that all wheelchair tickets have sold out. All of them.
I looked again online, wheelchair tickets were unavailable.
There was rage but I tried to stay positive. Muse are Super Massive stars (in joke there), they only have two gigs planned so far in the UK, chances are they will sell out and add extra dates. My life isn’t over yet.
Sporadically throughout the morning I kept checking the Ticketmaster website on my phone to see if new dates were added. These aren’t always mentioned, so you do have to be on the ball. On one of my checks I clicked on the original date (no others had been added) to find that there were wheelchair tickets available again. More rage hit, with a sprinkle of frustration. Had they really ever sold out?!
Still I could only buy one online, I was determined to buy more. Not only because I didn’t want to be a loner, but you can’t invite a friend and then say ‘oh sorry I just got my ticket’.
Myself and my PA both logged into Ticketmaster on our separate devices, we also dialled Ticketmaster and left their repetitive music playing in the background while we focused. They may answer eventually, but in the meantime we were on a mission! Simultaneously we both selected a wheelchair ticket and then added the complimentary companion ticket.
There were options of where to sit, these were shown in blocks. We both chose the same block. In our basket-in-the-clouds the tickets appeared but we were seated miles from each other still. A block is apparently big. I don’t know the venue, haven’t been before, so I don’t know how the seating arrangement works. We refresh, have seats 223-224 and 267-268. Refresh to seats 256-257 and 203-204. Etc etc. Finally it happens. We have seats that follow on from each other! Two separate pairs of tickets on separate devices that happen to be sitting together. We did it. We beat the discriminatory system!
We pick up the phone to find the repetitive music still playing to itself, and hang up.
Where there’s a gig there’s a way.
It shouldn’t be like that though, luck may not have been on my side to choose adjacent seats. What if I had wanted to go with three able bodied friends? The ‘normal’ people out there can go in groups of eight. Why can’t I?!
It just makes me rage that in 2018 things as simple as booking a ticket to see a band you love are not equal. Isn’t music supposed to be accessible to all? I understand there are ‘normal’ people that struggle to get tickets to events. There are never enough seats for all the fans wanting to go, especially when the dreaded ticket touts hit. But I just want equality. An equal struggle with the rest of society. Not added barriers.
We can send people to space, walk on the moon, yet we still can’t come up with a fair ticketing system for all. There are still extremely low numbers of accessible tickets, limited places of where to buy them, we still can’t book like everyone else, and we still can’t sit with a group of friends.
Surely it doesn’t have to be?