Download Festival AccessibilityBy Janet Bloor -
Janet Bloor is Chair of the Board of Trustees at Action Duchenne. Janet's son has Duchenne and so knows first-hand what it is like living with the condition. She is passionate about the work that Action Duchenne does and strives to help Action Duchenne to meet their goal: to be a leader in supporting innovative research to cure and treat Duchenne. Action Duchenne focus on fundraising, researching, campaigning, and educating around Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Think festivals aren't for you? Where do you charge the chair? Then there's the toilets...
All these things we considered when starting at a local music festival, GuilFest. Camping in a manual chair was doable!
We then went a bit further afield to Weyfest in Farnham. Two boys in manual chairs and me in a three-man tent and all went to plan once again.
Plenty of concerts later, we revisited the camping festival, this time with my son age 21 and in a big powered chair. He has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. We had our eyes on Download festival, a feast of heavy metal and rock. With Linkin Park and Aerosmith headlining, what was not to like?!
The first positive is that as a carer you can attend the festival for free after the usual DLA check. Secondly, there is a camping area set aside especially for people with disabilities: there's a very helpful team on call 24/7 as well as a tent dedicated to charging wheelchairs and other equipment. Finally, there's a proper trailer with disabled loo hoist and bed.
Download festival is held at Donnington Park, the home of motor cycle racing - it's a big site! However, a free shuttle bus from the disabled camping takes you to the village and the bus includes a lift for wheelchairs.
Access to the viewing platform of course is a key element for an enjoyable festival. Access to the viewing platform is allowed for the carer and the disabled festival-goer. There are viewing platforms on all three main stages which is ideal. Plus, disabled toilets are available close to the viewing platforms.
My son drives a VW Caravelle, so the first time we went to Download we just took the van and kitted it out with blow-up beds and an awning which the camp site stewards helped me to put up. I had bought it in haste only to find no instructions! We also brought along a mobile hoist to sling him on to beds.
The next year, Kiss and Muse were headlining at Download. We hired a Panorama from GM Coachwork - it's the only wheelchair camper van on the market and comes with a little cooker and fridge and chemical loo. Technically you can sleep 4 people but it would've been a squash...
This year we wimped out and went for comfort. We booked into a hotel next to East Midlands Airport and travelled a few miles each day to the free disabled parking at the festival.
As it rained solidly for three days, we were glad to sleep in clean beds and shower every night. Also, it was worth braving the rain even if just to see Black Sabbath on their final tour.
We will definitely be going again next year. You see all sorts of people enjoying the festival from tattooed Harley riders to young babies! Nothing is too much trouble if you need a push out of the mud or an extra hand to carry your beers. Plus, this year they introduced charity waiter service from the viewing platforms which certainly saved hassle and for a small donation local charities benefited.
NXT wrestling was a big hit with my son this year - we had front row seats!
If you like live rock music, Download is the festival for you. Take advantage of the free PA tickets and try camping, it's a lot of fun!