Disabled fans left frustrated at basement venue for Rosie Jones Leicester comedy festival gig

ITV Central Reporter Lucy Kapasi went to meet Alice Evans and Lucy Wood

Two women with disabilities are voicing their frustrations after they found out a Leicester Comedy Festival venue was inaccessible to them.

Alice Evans, from Loughborough, and Lucy Wood, from Rugeley in Staffordshire, had been looking forward to seeing their favourite comedian Rosie Jones at the Big Difference venue since they booked it in November.

Alice, who had been had been to the venue before, assumed the event would be on the ground floor.

However, both she and Lucy soon realised that the performance would be in the basement - with the only way in being down a flight of stairs.

Lucy said: "It doesn't matter how big the staircase is. Whether it is three steps, or 33 steps.

"My legs don't work so I can't get down there.

"So, I think it was that heart sinking feeling of 'I just want to have fun."

Jones, a familiar face on the comedy circuit and on TV - jokes about her cerebral palsy in her act and is also a tireless campaigner for better access in spaces for people with disabilities.

The two ladies expressed that this is what has made them most confused about the situation.

Credit: Comedy Central

Alice said: "Knowing that it is a performer with a disability - that is performing in an inaccessible space - is a bit like salt in the wound."

Lucy added: "In our heads, it didn't really make much sense. We know she's disabled, Rosie herself might have difficulties getting down the stair case, we don't know.

"But also in our heads it just makes sense if she's disabled you would just expect a higher than normal volume of disabled people.

"You would expect to just have it in an accessible venue."

The two women met through social media during the pandemic and together started presenting a podcast interview show raising awareness for disability and difference.

Their trip to Big Difference to see Rosie was to celebrate a year of their show being on air.

The women have already voiced their frustration to the organiser of the Comedy Festival over social media and yesterday he agreed to meet them in person.

In the meeting with the ladies, organiser Geoff Rowe said: "If you are working with us to make things better thats fantastic."

He continued by explaining the Leicester Comedy Festival aims to be as accessible as possible.

Mr Rowe said: "So we've been running Leicester Comedy Festival for nearly 30 years, and I've tried over those years to make the festival as accessible as possible.

"I think overwhelmingly I'm really pleased that they have been in touch, because their feedback should hopefully mean that we can make things better in the future and continue to improve what we do and make the festival more inclusive for as many people as possible."

Meanwhile, Lucy and Alice have invited Mr Rowe onto their podcast in 12 months' time when they hope he'll be able to talk through access improvements made for next year's festival.

Lucy has also invited him to work with the organisation she works for AccessAble which has helped thousands of venues be more inclusive and aims to 'take the chance out of going out' for disabled people.

Lucy said: "I think it was positive what he was saying, I think that the important thing for us is that we see.

"It's all right promising but we need to see some sort of changes and promises being acted on. Deeds not words, isn't it?"

Alice added:"I think we've potentially opened a very positive relationship. He seems keen to make some changes. I think one of the things we wanted to make very clear to him was the very human impact these kind of decisions have."

ITV Central contacted Rosie Jones via her agent but they didn't respond.  

What makes a venue accessible?

According to Euan's Guide, a charity focusing on disability and inclusivity at venues, there are different things that venues can do to ensure their spaces are accessible to all. These are just some of their top tips:

  • Having an access guide: if somebody with a disability wants to come to your venue they will want to read an access guide to understand what the venue will be like for them.

  • Training staff: Making sure all staff are fully trained on how to be as friendly and helpful as possible.

  • Having an accessible toilet: Making sure there is a toilet that is accessible to all is really important in ensuring the venue in itself is accessible.

  • The space being used well: so that everybody can move around freely without worry.

For more click here