For inclusive nights out which party gets our vote?

In this article we’re looking at inclusive nights out and how we’re supporting people with learning disabilities to go to music festivals and party.

Since we started our Gig Buddies project, we’ve been supporting people with learning disabilities to work and party at Glastonbury Festival and we always have a wild time. Being in a place without routines, curfews, only happiness, wonderful people, fantastic music, and a huge variety of food is a transformative journey for those who come with us. It’s like nowhere else. It’s a magical place.

But this year we’re shaking things up and we’re voting for some different parties! We’re going to multiple day festivals (such as Victorious and Love Supreme), so we can open up more experiences for more people.

Gig Buddies at a festival stage all dressed up having a party.

Why we’re passionate about festivals and inclusive clubbing

As we’ve already said, they’re a place where the ‘normal rules’ don’t apply. We can stay up as late as we want. We can even watch the sun come up again if we want. All are united by a strong sense of equality. It’s a place to chat with total strangers and sometimes make festival friends. 

It makes our charity’s belief in everyone’s right to live their desired life and be themselves a reality. These places allow you to live in the moment and experience extraordinary things.

Thinking about access

Zi is posing outside Stay Up Late's festival tent with a big anarchy sign.

Many festivals these days make brilliant efforts to ensure that they are as accessible as possible for disabled festival-goers. Glastonbury impressively handles the difficult task of transforming a massive farmland valley into an accessible place, especially when the weather cannot be controlled or predicted. They provide changing places, accessible showers, shuttles, massages, viewing platforms, on-site wheelchair mechanics, as well as electric scooter hire.

The charity Attitude is Everything does loads of great work in making festivals, and live venues, accessible and have been responsible for leading on a lot of the changes now seen at festivals which improve the experience for disabled people.

Inclusive nights out and festival going is beyond physical access

Festivals are intense places. There’s 200,000 people at Glastonbury and if it rains, things get quite complicated. It can be hardcore.

So our festival trips always start with a lot of planning, finding out people’s support needs and previous experiences and working out how we can make their time as fun as possible.

There is, of course, a risk assessment so we can work through what we need to have in place, but experience tells us that the risk assessment won’t mention all the challenges that a massive and chaotic like Glastonbury can throw at you; twisted ankles, torrential rain, illness, feeling overwhelmed and/or exhausted, collapsing tents, flash floods in the campsite. The list is endless. So whilst we try to be prepared, the most important thing we do is have an approach as a staff team. We have set roles, but they’re all happy to adapt and react as needed.

Ultimately, we also have a back-up plan if someone needs to leave and go home.

The team knows they are there to support someone to have a good time. They will have a good time themselves, but it’s never about them, it’s always about the person being supported.

Practice camping

It’s not to be underestimated too that a festival may also be someone’s first experience of camping. So this year we’re also running a camping trip in partnership with the National Trust. We’ll be spending a couple of days on a beautiful farm tucked in the South Downs. No banging drum ‘n bass or Elton John, just good company, a campfire, and perhaps a few skylarks. The perfect place to get comfy with camping (and we’re squeezing in a silent disco to keep the party going).

We enjoy meeting people being supported by different organisations to attend festivals. We’ll share more stories from our summer festival and would love to hear about others’ experiences.

Jason lying on a blow up bed at Glastonbury whilst campaigning for his rights to a full social life.

“we wanna be free, we wanna be free to do what we wanna do.”

Inclusive nights out are so much more than music

For us, supporting people to go to music festivals is not about the music at all, although it’s always a good part, it’s about enabling people to live differently for a week in a place where it doesn’t matter who you are, all are welcome.

So it doesn’t need to be the biggest party with the brightest lights, as long as people get to be freely themselves, that’s where we want to be. 

For more of our top tips on supporting people to go to festivals read this article:

Accessible music festivals and our top tips

Please follow and like us: