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“Barriers are being dismantled”: Attitude is Everything CEO on improving access for disabled concert-goers

CEO Suzanne Bull MBE, Attitude is Everything, elaborates on the brilliant work being done to improve access for disabled audiences at live events

Every year since 2000, Attitude is Everything has been making astonishing progress in helping transform the live music experience for disabled audiences. We’re still some way from ‘mission accomplished’ – in truth, I suspect we’ll always be some way from mission accomplished, as there’s always more to do – but we’re now at a stage where over 160 UK venues and festivals have signed up to our Charter of Best Practice, committing themselves to a consistent improvement of their access provision, and the pursuit of stepping up from Bronze to Silver to Gold status.

It’s been incredible to witness these advances. Between 2017 and 2018, over 170,000 deaf and disabled people attended Charter venues and festivals around the UK. We have trained almost 7,000 music industry professionals and provided hundreds of volunteering opportunities for disabled fans. From the largest outdoor events to the smallest grassroots pubs and clubs, live music is gradually being opened up to all. Barriers are being dismantled. Promoters are engaging with a whole new wave of disabled audiences. Believe me, it was not always like this!

Drawing on Government data, Attitude is Everything estimates that deaf and disabled people, along with people with chronic health conditions and impairments who might not personally identify as such, account for one in 10 of live music attendees in the UK. It’s a very significant proportion of the gig-going public, and certainly one that cannot be ignored.

Meanwhile, there is growing recognition that “access” and “disability” must be inherent to the music industry’s ongoing and much-needed dialogue about inclusion and diversity, and part of similar conversations about race, gender and social mobility. Such conversations are hugely important if the music business is to reflect the diversity of our audience and our artists, and it has been hugely gratifying for our charity to have enjoyed such strong support from the likes of UK Music as well as all the various partners we work with.

In 2018, we continue to make significant strides with a renewed focus on small venues, launching and marketing a DIY Access guide for grassroots promoters, and employing our first ever artist development manager in order to better support deaf and disabled musicians. Coinciding with publication of our latest State of Access Report in April, Attitude is Everything also launched the Ticketing Without Barriers Coalition – a coming together of more than 40 ticket agents, promoters, venues and trade bodies, all with the aim of improving the ticket-buying process for disabled fans. In short, there is a lot to shout about.

Rather than stand outside the tent, the Attitude is Everything’s approach has always been to encourage change from within; to identify the cultural and economic benefits of improved access, and to show how even small-scale changes can make a transformative impact to the lives and experiences of millions of fans. In our experience, highlighting best practice is the best way to bring about meaningful change.

The manifestation of this approach is our first ever event to celebrate the best and most innovative access provision – the Outstanding Attitude Awards, which will be held on March 12 2019 at the Islington Assembly Hall. After trialling the concept back in 2016, when the winners encompassed everything from the videobased travel information provided at The Albany in Deptford to the adoption of user-led British Sign Language interpretation services at Reading Festival, the 2019 Awards will be expanded to cover 10 categories, including ‘DIY access’, ticketing technology, infrastructural improvements, online innovation, and customer service.

We have deliberately set the criteria to suit venues, festivals, businesses and artists of all sizes. Basically, if someone is doing something progressive and beneficial for disabled audiences, then we want them to hear from them and receive their nomination.

All details are listed on the Attitude is Everything website To be considered for the awards, nominees have until December. After that date, submissions will be shortlisted and judged by a panel of industry experts, artists and fans.

So here’s my message to PSNEurope readers: if you’re involved in live music in any way shape or form, if you’ve benefited personally from access provision, if you visit a venue or festival or see an artist that you think is doing a good job for disabled audiences, then I urge you to tell that company or individual to nominate themselves. This is really important! We want the Outstanding Attitude Awards to be a beacon for all that’s good about this industry, and to showcase the benefits of access to those who could improve how they serve their deaf and disabled customers. I’m enormously proud of what Attitude is Everything has achieved over the past 18 years – but such is the progress we’re making, that we can’t stop now.