How to make live music more accessible with Attitude is Everything

The leading music charity gives us their essential advice on making gigs more accessible for all...
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Music charity Attitude is Everything's raison d'etre is to improve deaf and disabled people's access to live music.

The organisation does this by working in partnership with audiences, artists and the music industry on various projects and initiatives. It's enjoyed great success so far, with more than 160 venues and festivals across the UK signing up to its Venue and Festival Charter of Best Practice to make gigs as accessible as possible. 

Recently, the charity launched its Next Stage: a new artist development project aiming to change the conversation about ambitious artists with disabilities, impairments and health conditions. 

We caught up with Rich Legate, Attitude is Everything's Artist Development Manager, to learn more about the project and what promoters can do to make their events more accessible... 

What are the main challenges around increasing access for deaf and disabled music fans?

There are several steps in the process to accessing live music from buying tickets to finding out information about the venue, then actually getting into the gig. All these areas can disable people, but none are more important than others.

The main challenge is the attitude and willingness of those involved in putting on an event. Do they value having a diverse audience? Will they do what they can to make their show as accessible as possible?”

Could you talk a little about the Next Stage project? What are you aiming to do?

Firstly, we want to be able to raise the profile of talented artists. Just like with the positive steps taken for women in music, we’ve got to discover musicians and showcase them, so the music industry becomes excited by working with all artists and shakes off any negative stigma and assumptions around artists who are disabled.

We’re aiming to not only showcase artists but work with promoters and music organisations to develop a resource that can guide people on how to make rehearsal, recording, networking and performance spaces as accessible as possible.

The voices of artists and the experiences they’ve had will be incredibly valuable to help us move things forward. This is a hugely positive, progressive and necessary project which will make a real difference.

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(Blaine Harrison, Mystery Jets and Attitude is Everything patron) 

What venues/promoters would you point to as examples who have developed best practice when it comes to widening accessibility?

Take a look at Attitude is Everything’s Charter of Best Practice.

These venues and festivals have worked with us to open up their shows to as many music fans as possible. Venues like Band On The Wall in Manchester and the Roundhouse in London have developed brilliant ways to make their spaces accessible and have removed barriers that prevent people from attending their gigs.

For fledgling promoters, what can they do with their events to make them more accessible?

Download our DIY Access Guide and take a look through it (it’s short and to the point).

It’s not about having lots of money or funding behind you, many things can be changed at no cost and will make someone’s experience so much better."

Can any space be made more accessible?

Yes - accessibility isn’t just about physical barriers, so while some spaces may present significant structural challenges, there are always ways they can be presented or laid out that will enable more people to access them comfortably. For example, some small venues aren’t able to put in an accessible toilet but they could set up an arrangement with a neighbouring business to allow customers to use theirs. 

What new initiatives are you working on to improve accessibility?

The Next Stage project is our latest initiative that is going to hopefully make a big difference for music makers with impairments or long-term health conditions in the UK and beyond. We’ll be at The Great Escape festival in May launching the results of our research and sharing our plans for the future of the project. 

What needs to be in place for the industry as a whole to overhaul its approaches around venue accessibility? 

It comes down to assumptions and attitudes. Do you really see all people as equal? Are you willing to demonstrate that through your actions? We are fortunately (on the whole) far better about providing a level playing field across genders, race and sexuality - why is disability still not properly considered in the same conversations? Do we still see disability as someone else’s problem? Even if the environments we create and facilitate are the cause of it. 

Visit attitudeiseverything.org.uk for more information. 

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by Jim Ottewill
February 6, 2019
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