Accessible Toilets, Festivals and Gigs, Suffolk

Shooting Stars And A Black Carpet – Ed Sheeran Chantry Park Ipswich

Ed Sheeran tickets were on sale.

You may remember the last time this happened and my rant that preceded. This time I’m happy to report things went much smoother. Equally smooth anyway.

There would be only two venues left for Ed Sheeran’s record breaking two and a half year long Divide World Tour. One of them just down the road from me, at Chantry Park Ipswich, Ed Sheeran’s hometown. Sort of.

It did my research as usual and found that Alt Tickets were dealing with access sales for the upcoming homecoming gigs. I hadn’t heard of them before so was a little apprehensive, but accessible ticket sales can’t get much worse for me than they have been lately, so I went in with positive thoughts.

Shocker. Accessible tickets were available to book online, with everyone else, at the same time as everyone else, and the same purchasable allowance as everyone else. I wasn’t used to this equal opportunities lark, something had to go wrong.

I did, but that wasn’t accessibly related at all. I was just too slow, as was the case with many gig goers, and didn’t secure tickets before they sold out. I was gutted, but gutted equally.

Time passes, I get over it.

An extra date is added. I have a second chance.

On sale date arrives, I get the webpage ready for multiple refreshes.

I click on the link for wheelchair accessible tickets, with access to the platform, and the complimentary companion. That’s how easy it was, all there for me to tap away on my iPhone, simple as. All I had to do now was email Alt Tickets proof of disability. I’ll be purchasing with them again.

I had tickets. Well invisible tickets, because there weren’t tickets. The days of pinning my gig tickets on my wall are over. Yes I still do that, I have hundreds and I am not ashamed. It’s what we all started in our teens?! Well I never grew out of it. Till now.

It’s a good thing though really, the invisible ticket. It means people can’t sell them on, because there’s nothing to sell. It’s all on your payment card you see, debit card and ID is all you need. Fear not though, if you genuinely can’t make the gig there are ways of return and resale, it’s just not as easy as buying ten tickets and selling each on for ten times the amount. Because fools do that, and other fools pay the price.

I’d never been to Chantry Park, Ipswich. If gigs have been held there before, I hadn’t heard about them. The unknown has an element of excitement, going somewhere new, a fresh experience. It can also have the element of surprise, which isn’t always great when you have wheels.

A couple of weeks before the event I was sent an information pack, this included wristbands for the accessible platform, a little map of the arena site, along with distance measurements from the gates to the platform, food stalls and the like.

A few days later I also received an email containing the gigs dos and don’ts. What you can take in, what you can’t, how to get there, where to park. Being a Blue Badge holder I could pre book parking on site for no charge. So that’s what I did.

We set off early not quite knowing what the traffic or venue would be like. Plus I’m an early bird, I hate the stresses that come with being late. I like to take my time, dawdle a bit and get my bearings when I arrive. Rather than rush in minutes before the show is due to start.

The back of my wheelchair accessible van with the ramp up and the back door open. It is parked on grass.

Driving and parking was a breeze. Due to the only event parking available being for those with a Blue Badge, there was no traffic and no queues into the carpark. We drove straight in and parked easily. This was perfectly organised for guests with disabilities, I’m not sure how all those queuing for Park and Ride felt though!

We chilled out and sun-creamed up with those super-fans waiting at the gates ready for the mad dash to get to the front, knowing I would need no mad dash to get to our reserved seats.

A large field with trees. It’s a very sunny days, people are sitting on the grass waiting.

It was weird arriving without a ticket. I don’t trust technology at the best of times, what if something went wrong with my debit card.

Queues were colour coded depending on where you purchased your invisible tickets from. This allowed everyone to know what they were doing and get through the checks quickly. I handed over my payment card for swiping, went through the usual searches and entered the arena.

A thick black surface was covering the ground as we entered (a bit like what you’d put under shingle in the garden), and I noticed this then continued as a type of pathway leading around the site. I decided to follow this accessible path and see where it took me. It went past the toilets and water point, skimmed the merchandise and food stalls, leading all the way to the accessible platform. How genius.

The view from my wheelchair following the black pathway across the grasses arena.

A photo of the grassed arena with a black pathway leading from left to right across the whole image.

I’ve been to many outdoor gigs and festivals but never come across anything like it. Access at its best. Creative and considerate. Not only did this layer make the ground smooth and limit the mud churn up, it led the way to necessary site facilities. It can be hard to get your bearing and see where you’re going when you’re lower than everyone else. It also created a kind of no go zone for picnickers sitting down before and during the gig.

I’m not generally one to pose for photos, but I was so impressed here I am!

Me wheeling on the black pathway

Accessible black carpets are the new red.

We headed straight for the disabled platform as needed the toilet and the map I’d been sent informed me accessible loos were situated by the platform. They were. Your typical oversized ‘accessible’ porta-loos stood behind this amazingly accessible toilet cabin equipped with hoist, bed, normal sized sinks and enough room to swing a cat. As a proud cat lady I am not a fan of that saying, who even came up with that anyway?! Someone in 1772 apparently.

I’m fortunate enough (SPC give that a Google) to be able to just about manage to use a large porta-loo. It’s a struggle though with limited space, plus I wanted to check this thing out!

We all like a toilet selfie don’t we?

A ramp leading up in to the large accessible toilet cabin.

A close up inside the porta cabin, there is a ceiling tracked hoist in the top left corner, a toilet at the centre back, and a red emergency cord hanging.

Me in the right hand corner of the spacious accessible toilet. There is also a height adjustable bed, and a sink

Such an easy addition, that doesn’t take up too much extra space, accessible toilet cabins like this would make such a difference to gig goers. Do you know there are people that limit their fluid intake because the facilities at events like this are inadequate. There were 10 hours between me leaving my house that afternoon to returning that night. Could you not use the loo for that long?

Rant over. I made my way up the ramp on to the accessible viewing platform.

A black textured ramp leads up on to a metal raised viewing platform.

It wasn’t a bad view. Sometimes being on the accessible platform you can feel like a bit of an afterthought, sticking out somewhere in the distance. I get that the platform can’t be too close due to the crowd building up around it making it hard to wheel/push through. But there’s a reasonable distance, then there’s stuck on at the end.

Today’s view wasn’t bad.

My view from the platform. There are chairs in front of me for others requiring access. The stage it to the far right at an angle.

Looking closer at the stage by zooming in on my camera. The stage is blue with the Divide Tour logo

Its still segregation and bit like being in a cage. But I can see, and people aren’t shoving me. Plus I can’t currently think of an appropriate alternative.

A lovely chap Euan introduced himself as we got seated (well I’m permanently seated, but you know). He and Georgia would be our drink fetchers would we need anything. Tablet in hand, he would place our order, we’d swipe a debit card to pay, and a few minutes later Euan would return with refreshments. Service! It saved being abandoned while PA’s or friends darted across the field to get drinks, or me taking an age to trek back and fourth. This is what I call added access.

We were treated to four gigs in one, it felt like a mini festival really.

This is the first year in quite some time that I’ve not been to a festival. I’ve been to a few outdoor gigs, Muse being one at London Stadium, and Stereophonics at Thetford Forest (which I haven’t told you about, but you can read about that time I got Elbowed In The Forest).

Opening the show was recent Battle Of The Bands winners Caswell. What a great experience for them, and I love discovering new music.

Caswell are on stage. On the screen to the right of the stage is the female lead singer. The backdrop to the stage is red with Caswell written on.

Next up was Scotsman Lewis Capaldi. Who knew he was such a funny guy. Great vocals too, and tunes to get the audience going.

Lewis Capaldi is on stage with his band all wearing red. Lewis is in a bright multicoloured tracksuit

I took a little break from my platform view to have a wander and grab some easy to eat chicken bites and chips, before rushing back to the platform as the final support act made their entrance.

The Darkness (yes you remember them too, ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’!) took me back to my youth, rocking it out and joking about their upcoming sell out world wide tour.

The Darkness on stage, a large screen appears as the backdrop showing close ups of the band playing.

Their Suffolk stardom slightly outshone by who we were all here for.

Ed was his usual musical genius, I’ve proclaimed my love of this one man band before. I swear to you there was even a shooting star as Ed sang Photograph. There was.

The sun is setting, the sky turns pink and the stage is lit up blue, as we wait for Ed Sheeran

A beautiful pink and orange sunset can be seen between the trees.

Ed Sheeran is on stage. It’s blue, with the Divide logo as the backdrop, and he can be seen on the large screens.

The stage is flashing and brightly coloured.

Photographs and clips of Ed Sheeran are the backdrop of the stage as he sings.

I had a brilliant evening. The attention to detail with access, the extra steps to make our experience run smoothly without any stress made what was a fantastic gig even better. It’s this thoughtfulness and the consideration of guests that can make or break a night, (as you’ll know from my experience at Latitude Festival last year), and tip that decision on whether or not a person returns. I couldn’t speak more highly of this gig’s organisers and hope that many more events are held at Chantry Park, with this event setting the bar for accessibility.

Event organisers out there, you’ve got to do some to beat this. I dare you.

An image to pin. Colourful sunset through the trees. Title text is placed over reading Shooting Stars And A Black Carpet - Ed Sheeran Chantry Park IpswichPin this
An image to pin. The photo at the top is of the stage as Ed performs. Title text is placed over a cream section at the bottom reading Shooting Stars And A Black Carpet - Ed Sheeran Chantry Park IpswichPin this

19 thoughts on “Shooting Stars And A Black Carpet – Ed Sheeran Chantry Park Ipswich”

  1. Yaaaaaay, so glad you got to go! I think I’ve heard of Alt Tickets before but never used them so I’m glad all went well there, but like you I don’t like everything on my phone and in the ‘cloud’, I want it in my hand (that I can store in my memories box, my version of you pinning it to your wall). I love tech, but I wish they’d give those of us hanging on to the ‘good old days’ the chance to be retro! 😉 Love the photos, and glad you made it into the porta loo. They definitely, definitely need more disabled toilets at gigs and other outdoor events.
    Caz xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, tech can be amazing. Especially enabling those with disabilities to do things easier or that they may not have been able to do. Speech control for example. But I’m a bit stuck in the good old days too! It’s the memories and mementos I hope we don’t loose. Such as photographs, letters and printed tickets like this.
      Cheers to accessible loos!


  2. Jealous! That looked like a great night. And I’m glad you took the bathroom pic! Also love the server idea. You’re right–those fairly simple fixes make such a big difference. Now that you’re spreading the word, hopefully other venues will do what they need to, to keep up!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.