Disabled festivalgoers criticise ‘abysmal’ Wireless festival experience in Crystal Palace

disabled viewing platform at the Wireless festival at Crystal Palace
Disabled viewing platform at the Wireless festival at Crystal Palace Credit: Twitter/Katouche Goll/@itsKatouche/PA

Music fans have described disabled access at Wireless festival in south London as an “absolute disaster” after being forced to cross “dangerous” terrain and watch performers from a distant platform next to the exit. Wireless’ three-day event at Crystal Palace featured headliners such as ASAP Rocky, J. Cole and Tyler the Creator. Wheelchair users at the festival, who were ushered to a viewing platform far from the stage and had to make their way across gravel, have told of an “abysmal” experience, with organisers accused of not putting “two thoughts into disabled people”.

'An absolute disaster'

“From the onset, it was an absolute disaster,” said Katouche Goll, a 25-year-old PR representative and disability content creator.

“Nothing could have prepared us for what we were to encounter during that day. “(After the entrance), there was no way any disabled person could take that hill on without any assistance. One of your wheels would definitely get stuck in a pothole and send you flying. It was very dangerous.”

Katouche Goll, 25, at the Wireless festival at Crystal Palace Credit: Katouche Goll/PA

Ms Goll, from Canada Water, London, has cerebral palsy and is an ambulatory wheelchair user, meaning she often uses a scooter for events like festivals. She said the terrain at Wireless meant she had to use a wheelchair on day two. “I wouldn’t typically go with a wheelchair but because of how physically exhausted (and) in pain I was after the first day, I had to take a wheelchair the next day,” she explained. “No tracking pads were provided for us… and then because I couldn’t get my scooter or my wheelchair over the gravel, I have to walk that length with my crutches, and I have cerebral palsy so that’s a lot of labour.

“And then when I was too tired, my sister had to carry me, only for us to reach the platform (and) be so abysmally far from the stage.” Ms Goll documented the experience on Twitter with the hashtag #DisabilityAccessWireless. A video showed the distance between the platform and the main stage, sparking outrage from fellow social media users.

A friend of Ms Goll’s, Hannah Mambu, quoted the tweet, claiming she wants a refund. Ms Mambu, 24, is a full-time wheelchair user with spina bifida and was “shocked” at the viewing platform’s placement.

“(I was) shocked that they think sitting there is acceptable,” the aftercare consultant from Lewisham said. “All of us were looking at each other like, ‘Is there a point in waving?’ “I am using my phone to zoom in to see the artist perform… we’re basically outside the park, everyone is there and jumping having fun and we are at the back.” The viewing platform for disabled attendees for the second stage was partially blocked by a tree.

Photo courtesy of Lexi Porter of the view from a disabled viewing platform at the Wireless festival Credit: Lexi Porter/PA

Ms Mambu and Ms Goll paid more than £200 for their tickets.

'Absolutely horrendous'

“We paid the same amount of money that everyone else paid,” Ms Mambu said. “They didn’t put two thoughts into disabled people… they didn’t get people with mobility issues to advise them on what’s the best solution to give disabled people a good view. “Where they put us was so exclusive, (it was) like they don’t want us to be involved in the festival, they don’t want us to have fun. It’s terrible.” Ms Goll also spoke of “hostile” and “incompetent” workers as she described a staff member pushing her sister before “insisting” she was not disabled. “(It was) absolutely horrendous,” Ms Goll said. “We had a member of staff push my sister while she was carrying me on my back and and insisted that we weren’t disabled when we tried to get access to the other viewing platform.” She said she will complain to Wireless and hopes to get her money back. “Being excluded from and segregated from everybody else is such a frustratingly characteristic aspect of being disabled,” Ms Goll added. “Not because of anything to do with your actual condition, but simply because of the barriers that people put in place to stop you from being able to have an equitable experience of public life.” Wireless organisers Festival Republic have been contacted for comment, but had not responded at the time of publication.

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