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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Shawn Mendes Concert Experience

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re all well.

Today’s post is a bit of a relaxed, chilled out one…I think I need that at the moment with all the work I have. I wanted to write it a lot sooner than this, but there’s not enough hours in the day for me to do everything, I seem to be saying that a lot recently. I was super excited about writing this post as I think it’ll be really nice to look back on in the future and it’s something that I’ve never wrote about on my blog before. This post is part of mine and Elin’s #SeeingThroughSightLoss series where we discuss all things visual impairment, disability and our meet ups. So this post is all about the Shawn Mendes concert we went to together back in April.

Before we get into this post, I spoke about the passenger assistance problems that I had whilst travelling to and from Manchester for this concert in my previous post so make sure you check that out.

On Friday  28 April 2017, me and my best friend Elin went to see Shawn Mendes in concert as part of his Illuminate world tour at Manchester Arena. We booked the tickets as soon as they came out back in September so it had been a long time coming for us.
(Photo of my concert ticket)

Me and Elin are huge fans of Shawn so we knew that this would be an unforgettable experience!

This was Elin’s first concert so I felt really lucky to experience this with her. I feel very lucky as I’ve been to a lot of concerts, I am so grateful that I’ve had such wonderful experiences and opportunities.

Shawn was a bit of a new experience for me too though as me and Elin were attending the gig on our own, so we needed assistance to get to and from our seats. As I previously said, we booked our tickets in September and enquired about assistance whilst doing so. We booked our tickets through the accessible booking line for disabled access tickets, meaning that we didn’t have the hassle of the normal ticket rush. The disabled access line is for people that require disabled tickets, for example, if you need a companion with you or have specific requirements because of an impairment or disability. When trying to get tickets, we were both calling throughout the day and neither of us could get through, so Elin emailed to let them know and they called her back and booked our tickets that way which we both thought was really nice. The staff were extremely happy to accommodate and told us to arrange assistance 4 weeks prior to the concert which we did.

We also booked our train tickets and hotel back in February, before they were all fully booked.

 

The day finally arrived and let’s just say, excited was an understatement!

After the travel disaster, we went to the hotel, quickly unpacked, re-did our make-up, and headed down to the bar/restaurant area to grab something quick to eat.

Once we had finished, we headed across the road to the arena! Our hotel was only a short walk from the arena so it was very handy and a lovely hotel too.

When we got to the arena, there were queues everywhere but luckily, we had been given instructions to go to city rooms as we had disabled access tickets and required assistance from a member of staff so luckily, we missed out on these. There was a bit of a mix up at the start as the steward didn’t fully understand why we wanted assistance and didn’t quite get that our Mums weren’t going to the concert with us, as they were with us at the time, but once that was sorted two stewards took me and Elin to our seats and told us what to do if we needed anything. We were both really impressed so far. As we entered the arena the support act, James TW, had just come on stage so we were there in time to see his set which was so so good! I’m definitely a huge fan of James now. Like I said, I’ve been to a lot of concerts with some good, and not so good support acts, but James was by far one of the better ones that I have seen. We had really good seats as well which was a bonus.

After James had been on, me and Elin were even more excited for Shawn if that was even possible! Around 15 minutes or so later, Shawn Mendes finally came on stage. The introduction started off with some highlights from his career which was really sweet then he started with his latest single, ‘There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back’.

The crowd went absolutely crazy! Shawn performed songs from both his albums which was a really nice mixture. You could hear the crowd singing throughout every song, it was such a good feeling. Shawn noticed this too and at one point he said “I can hear the British accent”.

One of the things that I liked the most was that he did little speeches before some of the songs, explaining what they were about, thanked us fans and also gave some words of wisdom and inspiration, they were really motivational and quite emotional too! I’ll most definitely have them on repeat for a while.

About half way through the concert, people started to stand up on chairs and me and Elin wondered what was going on. A lovely girl in front of us told us that Shawn had moved to the middle of the arena behind us but as we couldn’t see we didn’t know! We think he was in the crowd somewhere because of their reaction but like I said, as we couldn’t see we didn’t know exactly what he was doing! #BlindGirlProblems

He did an incredible acoustic set and I think at that point you could really hear how powerful the crowd were. Once he had done that acoustic set, he moved back to the main stage and carried on with his live band. His vocals blew you away, they were incredible!

We wanted you to have a bit of the concert experience so we put together some clips of the audio that we recorded. Make sure you check it out below​

I could go into detail about the concert but I’d probably bore you all. So I’ll sum it up!

His vocals were phenomenal, his stage presence was extremely good too, basically he’s such a talented guy. He seems like such a genuine, down to earth person and is so appreciative of his fans and the fact that he’s living his dream – he’s proof that if you really want to achieve something then strive for it and hard work really does pay off! If you get chance to go and see him live then I would highly recommend going!

Once the concert had finished, a steward came to assist me and Elin back to city rooms to meet our Mums. We were extremely impressed at how quickly he arrived despite how busy it was, as it was a sold out concert so we expected to be waiting a while for someone but we were wrong. He waited with us until we had met our Mums so he knew that we were ok. Overall, the assistance from the stewards was excellent. I’d definitely attend a concert and book this assistance again. After the disasters of the passenger assistance on trains, it did restore some of my faith in such systems put in place for disabled people.

 

I honestly had the most amazing night singing my heart out to every single song with my best friend! It’s such a good feeling, and as you can gather, concerts make me extremely happy. I’d had a rather stressful few months leading up to the gig with uni work, but it was such a great way of getting rid of stress and celebrating handing in my dissertation! I’m not going to lie, I came away feeling even more motivated to finish my last two assignments.

After the concert, we went back to the hotel and had a drink in the bar, me and Elin listened to some of the recordings that we did during the concert and had one of our usual girly chats.

The next day, we had breakfast and mainly discussed how much we wanted to go back to the gig and how much we needed another Shawn concert in our lives and  packed our stuff ready to head home. We spent the rest of the day going back to the arena to take some photos and then had a wander into Manchester.


(photo of me and Elin)

Me and Elin wanted to make the most of the time that we had as we’d be leaving in a few hours. It was very hard to say goodbye!

Seeing Shawn on his Illuminate World Tour has given us some amazing memories which we’ll cherish for a long time, it is most definitely a night that I know we’ll never forget. Going to a concert without a sighted person was a first for me and I’m so pleased to say that it was a success and a brilliant experience!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post! Make sure you check out Elin’s post to see what she thought of the concert.

If you have any questions about the assistance, the concert in general or anything else then please do leave them in the comments.

I’ll hopefully be back soon with another post.

Holly x