Jessie J: First Night of Tour – Birmingham, 8th October 2017

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re all well.

I love sharing my experiences with you all, and that’s exactly what today’s post is. Just a warning: it’s a long one!

If you’ve read my blog for a while or if you follow me on Twitter then you’ll know that I absolutely love Jessie J, she is by far my favourite singer and I have a lot to thank her for. I’ve previously wrote a post on why she means so much to me which you can read here. She’s also the reason for how I know one of my closest friends, Jess, so I’m extremely grateful.

Jessie has been out of the limelight for a couple of years due to various reasons but she’s back now, stronger than ever!

She released two songs over the last few weeks which are amazing,, they’re more of an RnB vibe which I love. She also announced a tour at the last minute. When me and Jess found out about the tour, we both obviously wanted to go! We discussed it and decided that we would go to the one at the O2 Institute in Birmingham on 8th October as we could both get to Birmingham easily. As I haven’t had much luck with passenger assistance on trains, it also meant that Jess could get on the same train as me during the journey so that made things a lot easier. I did book passenger assistance though just in case.

We decided that I would get disabled access tickets for the concert as I could get a free personal assistant ticket for Jess, and as the venue had unreserved standing/seating, it meant that we wouldn’t have to scramble to get a good spot.

I checked online before the tickets went on sale to see how to purchase disabled access tickets, but the information on the O2 Institute Birmingham website was very unclear and didn’t really answer any questions that I had. I sent them an email and received a quick response which I was really pleased with. They had allocated me tickets, all I needed to do was send proof of disability, fill in the form for the free personal assistant ticket and say whether we wanted stalls or balcony tickets. I emailed the required information and got a response asking whether I wanted to pay for the tickets over the phone, online via Ticketmaster or in person at the box office when they went on sale. I went for the callback option, when they went on sale the following Wednesday I received a call from someone from the venue and I paid for the tickets. They sent me a confirmation which I had to print out and take with me to the concert. This meant that we didn’t have actual tickets, which did worry me a bit but I was reassured that there would be no issues. The process was relatively easy and it also meant that we missed out on the stress of buying tickets online as they sold out in minutes! It was also a lot cheaper as we only had to pay for one disabled access ticket as we got the personal assistant ticket for free. Being blind does have its perks!

We also booked our hotel and sorted out our train tickets, we knew that it would come around quickly so wanted to be organised.

We thought we were all set, then something else was thrown into the mix…

A few days before tour, Jessie announced VIP packages were on sale where you had the chance to meet her, attend part of her soundcheck and some other cool stuff. For this, you needed to have a general admission ticket to have the VIP upgrade. We didn’t know if my disabled access ticket and free personal assistant ticket counted as general admission or not. We didn’t want to pay around £200 each if we were going to be faced with problems.

I contacted the venue who said that they weren’t selling the VIP packages so told me to contact Absolute Merch who were responsible for them to see what they could do.

I emailed Absolute Merch three times and messaged them on social media various times as well but had no response from them. The fact that I hadn’t gotten a response left me feeling like I was being ignored because of my disability, this may have not been the case but as a disabled person, we face so many barriers that it often becomes second nature to think like that. They finally responded two days later, after I had sent three emails. They informed me that my email had been shoved to the bottom of the inbox, they said that they would contact Jessie’s management to see if they could accommodate me, and said that they would let me know as soon as they had received a response from management. By this time, all the VIP packages had sold out, and we had missed the opportunity to meet Jessie. This left me feeling very upset, disappointed, and extremely frustrated. I’ve been a fan of Jessie from the beginning that I just wanted to meet her and thank her for everything that she’s done for me. I felt like my disability had got in the way of me being able to access something so simple as a VIP upgrade, I felt unequal to everyone else because I have a visual impairment and felt like it was a barrier. Absolute Merch were very apologetic and said that they wished that they could help me further.

I tried to use the power of social media to try and get the message out there and see if I could get some sort of response from management or even Jessie herself which I knew would be difficult. I would just like to thank everyone that shared my Facebook post, retweeted my tweets on Twitter or tweeted me messages of support and encouragement, it really meant the world to me. My good friend Sassy created a hashtag on twitter, #HelpHolly and posted in various visual impairment and disability groups on Facebook to try and help in any way that she could. The tweet had a huge number of retweets which was amazing! I can’t thank Sassy enough for all of her help, I am so so grateful.

By the time Sunday came, I had had no further response so me and Jess didn’t meet Jessie. I was obviously extremely excited to see her in concert after not seeing her for two years and to be reunited with my friend who I hadn’t seen in a long time but I couldn’t stop thinking about how disabled people do not have the same access as non-disabled people at concerts and we are constantly facing battles. Is the entertainment industry really geared up for disabled people? I don’t think it is, and disabled people don’t have equal access as those without a disability. If she does meet and greets again, I fear that I’ll be faced with the same barriers and may miss out. I’m trying to get in touch with management or any relevant parties to try and resolve this issue, not only for myself, but for other disabled fans as well.

Sunday came and I woke up feeling very very excited! I got ready, packed my bag and got dropped off at the train station by my Mum and Dad. I got passenger assistance at the station, the lady assisted me on the train and guided me to my seat. The journey went well and all ran smoothly. My friend got on around a couple of hours later which was good. We arrived in Birmingham and as I previously said, I had booked passenger assistance but there was no one to meet me at Birmingham and assist me off the train. If you’ve read my previous posts or follow me on social media then you’ll know that I have never actually had any luck with passenger assistance, I am taking this up with a couple of train companies to try and resolve this issue, not only for myself, but for others as well. If Jess hadn’t have been with me, things could have been a complete disaster.

We made our way to the hotel which was only a short walk from the station, checked in and sorted our stuff out. We then went to get some food before getting ready to go to the concert.

On arrival at the venue, we went to the front of the queue as instructed as we had disabled access tickets, we chatted to a couple of other fans and just waited around until we could go in.

As we had disabled access tickets it meant that we could go in 10 minutes before everyone else which was really helpful as we could go and buy merchandise and go and get seated before everyone else entered the venue, this meant that we avoided all the large crowds. I think being able to enter the venue 10 minutes early is great for disabled fans as it makes things so much easier. I’ve never been able to do this before, I wish more venues had procedures like that in place. As we could enter early, we had a choice of where we wanted to sit so decided to sit right at the front of the balcony, this meant that Jess had a good view of the stage. Once we were seated, the excitement hit us even more that we were attending the first show of tour, Jessie’s first show in two years and we had no idea what was on the setlist. I’d never been to an opening show of a tour before so that was really special for me.

Jessie had two support acts, I have to admit, I liked the second one a lot more but that’s just my personal taste in music. They both were really good though!

Jessie came on stage at around 9pm and opened the set with Who You Are, which is my all-time favourite song, I can’t describe how much that song means to me. It was an amazing rendition of the song, it was really emotional. You can watch it here:

 

She performed a mixture of old and new songs, including  her latest two singles ‘Think About That’ and ‘Not My Ex’ which are from her upcoming album R.O.S.E. She changed up some of her old songs including Domino which was really good.

Part way through the set, she performed a cover of Michael Jackson’s Earth Song as a reflection of what’s happening in the world. That cover was beautiful and was filled with so much emotion. She did a little speech in the middle of the song which made me rather emotional. You can check out her cover of Earth Song here:

 

She was so genuine and honest, and the fact that she was being herself on stage really shone through.

Jessie J on stagePhoto credit: Jess. The concert was filled with her telling little anecdotes, interacting with fans, singing with fans, she even brought out Benjamin Madden from the band Good Charlotte who is also her music manager, and did some lovely speeches. She even admitted that she was nervous as this was her first proper show in two years. You could tell that she was so happy to be back on stage.

Towards the end of the show she asked us if we had any requests of songs we’d like her to sing, she sung an a cappella version of ‘Big White Room’ and let me tell you, it gave me Goosebumps. She also performed Mamma Knows Best which is off her first album, I’ve always wanted to hear that song live so that was such a brilliant moment. After singing Price Tag and Do It Like a Dude, she ended the show with part of Who You Are which was the song she opened with, it made it feel like you’d been on a journey with her.

Overall, I truly had the best night, I left the show feeling inspired and genuinely happy. I don’t think I’ve been to a gig where I’ve laughed and got emotional so much! Her vocals had definitely improved since I last saw her back in 2015, her vocal ability amazes me every single time! The show was all about the music, no visuals or anything which for me as a blind person, meant a lot. I feel extremely grateful that I went to the concert and was able to see her live again.

After the show, me and Jess made our way out of the venue and decided to go to the side of the venue to see if we could meet Jessie. We waited quite a while but she had already gone so we didn’t get to meet her unfortunately. It was a great experience though, something that I had never done before. Although we didn’t get to meet jessie, I still really enjoyed it. We decided to head back to our hotel and chilled out for a while before eventually going to bed a few hours later as we were still on such a high from the concert!

The next day, we got ready, checked out of the hotel and had a wander around Birmingham before we had to head to the station to get our train. When we arrived at the station, we went to the information desk to say that I had booked passenger assistance like I had the day before. We waited a little while before an assistant came and assisted me on the platform and to the seat. Jess got off the train a short while later so I spent the rest of the journey watching my videos from the night before and reading.

On arrival at my destination, I packed my things and waited for the assistant to come and assist me off the train. Usually I’d have to rely on help from someone else as they don’t turn up but for the first time ever…the assistant actually turned up, helped me off the train and guided me to where I was meeting my Mum. That was the first time ever that passenger assistance had actually worked for me at both my departure and arrival stations! It’s good to know that the system does actually work, I wish it was more often than not.

I really had the best time at the concert so wanted to share my experience with you all. I hope my experience highlights the barriers that disabled people face, but that we can also live our lives just like everyone else.

Shoutout to Jess for the videos (I’ve had them on repeat), and for being such a fabulous friend!

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s post. Did you attend Jessie’s R.O.S.E tour? If so, let me know what you thought. Have you had similar issues as me when attending concerts? Let me know in the comments.

Holly x

 

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10 Tips on Making Concert Venues Accessible for Blind and Visually Impaired People

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re all well.

I’m rather excited about today’s post, it is a collaboration with RightHear. RightHear is an accessibility solution for blind and visually impaired people, enabling them to be as independent as possible.

 

I am a huge concert lover (and a bit of a fangirl) so when Right Hear asked me to collaborate with them on a post on ways that concert venues can be made accessible for blind and visually impaired people I wanted to get involved straight away! Concert venues can often present accessibility issues and barriers for disabled people and I thought that listing some of the tips of how they can be made accessible may raise awareness of this.

So, without further ado, here are 10 tips on making concert venues accessible for blind and visually impaired people or those with other disabilities.

  1. Provide access information

Information on accessibility of the venue should be on your website, making it easy for disabled people to access should they wish. This should also be easy to navigate to and not buried somewhere deep within your website. Disabled people often have to plan their visit in advance, so this is vital. This information may include: how to book accessible tickets, where disabled seating is located in the venue, contact details for the designated disabled access officer (if appropriate), location of disabled parking and how to book this, location of disabled toilets, details of assistance for people with guide dogs, wheelchairs, or other mobility aids and any other necessary information.

One other idea is to have a specific contact number for disabled customers, making it easier for them to call should they need to. This is also extremely handy when booking accessible tickets.

As I am blind myself, accessibility information is something that I will always look for on the website, even before booking tickets. I will often contact the venue beforehand to check the best way to book accessible tickets if it is not stated on the website, and see if they are willing to accommodate..

2. Have various ways of booking accessible tickets

Often, the only way of booking accessible tickets is over the phone. This may not be possible for some people, so have other ways of them being able to book them such as online or in person. Make sure that these ways are accessible, for example, having the booking office in an accessible place.

3. Train your staff

One of the most important aspects of making concert venues accessible is to train your staff; this may be in sighted guiding, communication strategies, disability, or visual awareness training, but it is important for them to have adequate training. It is very noticeable and easy, for disabled people to tell which staff have, and which staff have not had visual awareness training. Friendly, patient, understanding and helpful staff make the experience much more positive. It’s also important to allocate staff on events to assist disabled people to their seats, answer any questions and provide support if needed.

4. Ensure that staff are knowledgeable about the venue and the local area

Staff should be able to help disabled people with any queries that they may have about the venue, and also being able to answer any questions that they may have on the local area, such as getting to places, finding the train station, or ordering a taxi.

5. Consider orientation and mobility needs

Navigating an unknown venue can be extremely difficult for blind and visually impaired people. Offering assistance for visitors with a visual impairment is invaluable.

Also have braille and large print signs or maps, making it accessible for blind and visually impaired people to read and access. It is also important that this is in plain text (with no arrows or graphics), as it is easier for blind and visually impaired people to read. They should also be in the same places on doors, then they are easy to find, especially for people relying on braille. After all, independence is key.

6. Have space for disabled seating

This may seem obvious, but many venues do not cater for disabled people and do not have enough seating or wheelchair space. It’s important to have as less of obstruction as possible in venues, making it easier for disabled people to navigate, especially those in a wheelchair or blind and visually impaired people using a cane or guide dog. It is also important to have specific seating reserved for disabled people and their companion in a good viewing location. If it is an outdoor venue, then a viewing platform may be a good idea.

7. Have adequate lighting

This might not be possible during the concert, where flashing lights and contrast are more up to the artist than the venue, it certainly can be considered outside of where the actual music or performance is taking place. When planning lighting in your hallways or in the actual auditorium, consider keeping things on the brighter side so that visitors can navigate around the venue when they’re not at their seats. In addition to accessible lighting, it is also important to have coloured contrast railings, tactile markings on floors leading to stairs and also easy lift access for those with less vision or other mobility needs.

8. Provide large print, high-contrast, braille, electronic or audio formats of materials when possible

This includes menus, event programs, or any other literature you may have. Although putting literature into such formats may seem expensive, it doesn’t have to be. Even if it is, providing these materials is a long-term investment that will not only support customers who are blind or visually impaired, but may also be useful for customers with other disabilities or those that are elderly. Accessibility means equal opportunities for all, and almost always has benefits to your business.

9. Have specific, accessible features such as audio description or touch tours

Audio description is a narration/description of exactly what is going on. Audio description allows blind and visually impaired people to listen to a description through a set of headphones while still being engaged in the show or performance. This promotes accessibility, equality and independence as blind and visually impaired people know what is happening themselves, rather than relying on their companion to tell them. This may not be possible for all shows such as concerts, but it can be implemented for events such as theatre shows/performances or sporting events.

Touch tours are when a blind or visually impaired person gets to go onto the stage before a performance to get a feel for the environment and touch the props, costumes, set, and more. This really sets the scene for blind or visually impaired people and can give them a better understanding of the show. Like audio description, this may not be possible for all events, but where possible, this is a worthwhile consideration that also promotes equality and accessibility.

10. Speak to disabled visitors about their experience

Liaising with disabled people about their experience gives you detailed information on what you need to improve on, what works well and what doesn’t and gives you an insight into their experience. You can use this feedback for future improvements or developments. By gathering feedback from disabled visitors shows that you have a keen interest in making your venue accessible and it also shows you are willing to support disabled visitors to the best of your ability. You could do this by having a review section on your website, using social media or even a short, simple questionnaire.

 

Useful links

There are some very useful links that may be of interest: Attitude is Everything – improves Deaf and disabled people’s access to live music by working in partnership with audiences, artists, and the music industry. Festival Spirit – a charity which provides a safe and fun way of disabled people being able to access festivals. They provide “buddies” who are non-disabled volunteers who accompany disabled people at festivals. They also provide accessible accommodation. Euan’s Guide – disabled access reviews, by disabled people, for disabled people.

 

That concludes today’s post, those are just some of the tips that can be used in order to make concert venues accessible for blind and visually impaired people, or those with other disabilities.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and that it is of use to some of you! Feel free to share it with people that you think it may be of use to.

As always, thank you for reading.

Holly x

 

Disclaimer: although this post is a collaboration, all views are my own. I only work with brands and organisations that support my message and the aims of my blog.