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