Kelly, her husband Jarath (far left) and their friend in a wheelchair, smile at the camera at a festival

There was no disabled loo so I had to use a disposable barbecue! #EndTheAwkward #ThrowbackThursday

Personal questions, portaloos, and the dreaded ‘platform’: Kelly, 26, and her husband Jarath discuss the trials and tribulations of music festivals when one of you is disabled.

This week Kelly showed us how awkward it is getting high five’s from drunk people as part of Scope’s End the Awkward campaign, so we’re doing a #ThrowbackThursday to her awkward festival moments!

Kelly: I’ve got spinal muscular atrophy type 3. It’s a muscle wastage disorder. I always get ‘why are you in a wheelchair?’ from strangers. It’s annoying because it’s the most basic question you can ask. A lot of people assume I’ve had an accident. Because I’m confident and outgoing, they can’t believe that this is a natural thing – that I’ve always used a wheelchair.

Jarath and Kelly drinking tea at a music festivalJarath: At festivals, people have had a drink so they think it’s OK to ask personal questions – and we get a lot of personal questions. I tend to get creative: I told one bloke that Kelly fell out of a plane and someone else that she was run over by a combine harvester!

Kelly: One of the most annoying things is when people come over and tell me how much respect they have for me… simply because I’m at a festival. It’s not like I’m doing a parachute jump. I’m just having a life!

Dancing

Jarath: At Global, we were backstage dancing and more people were watching us dance than were watching the actual gig. They kept tapping Kelly and giving her high fives.

Kelly: People often try to dance with me and push Jarath out of the way, pretty much hitting him in the face with fags and beer bottles, to try and get to me. I just think ‘what are you doing? Have you got no respect?’

A selfie of Jarath and Kelly at a music festival

Jarath: People gravitate towards Kelly and don’t realise I’m with her. They think I’m her mate or carer – never her fiancé. At one festival, I’d helped Kelly up and we were having a dance. People kept telling me to put her down. I was like ‘look this is my missus, leave us alone!’

Kelly: It’s not all bad though. At Reading, we had this big pink duffle bag on the back of my chair and filled it with beer, gin, crisps and sweets. Contraband basically! We sailed past the security guards while other people were getting their bags checked.

The disabled viewing platform

Kelly: The platform is a stage at the back of a gig for disabled people. The idea is that you can see over the crowd. It’s really far back from all the action and there’s never any atmosphere. It’s rubbish.

Jarath: It’s also heavily policed by security guards – you feel like you’re being constantly watched. One time, we got caught with a beer on the platform and got kicked off. Seriously, how many people are having a cheeky beer at a festival but because we’re the ones on the platform, we got spotted.

Kelly: We moan about disabled facilities but at least most festivals try. There was nothing at Global when we went – no charging points, no platform, nothing. I complained to the organisers and ended up blagging us a place in the VIP section.
We asked if we could put our tent next to the guy doing airbrush tattoos because we knew he would have power. I ended up charging my electric wheelchair there every day. When you’re disabled, you have to be creative and find ways to make festivals work for you.

Toilets – or lack of them

Jarath: Once, Kelly got banned from using the disabled toilets at a festival because she couldn’t ‘prove’ she was disabled – apparently she didn’t have the right wristband!

Kelly: I couldn’t use the normal portaloos because of the steps up to them. I ended up having to use a disposable barbecue! We joke about it now – we joke a lot – but it ruined the festival for me.

Jarath: At another festival, we paid to use the VIP area but there were no disabled toilets. They obviously thought you don’t get disabled VIPs! Kelly kicked up a fuss and the best they could offer us was one free drink for the inconvenience. So she told the bar staff we were entitled to free drinks all day. Result!

Kelly: I kicked up such a fuss they ended up using a crane to lift a disabled portaloo into the VIP area. Suddenly we heard the beep beep beep of the crane reversing and looked up to see a disabled portaloo dangling above us. I don’t think the festival organisers will make that mistake again!

Read more awkward stories. If you’ve had a similar experience we would love to know about it! Submit your awkward stories, and we’ll publish our favourites on our blog and social media

3 thoughts on “There was no disabled loo so I had to use a disposable barbecue! #EndTheAwkward #ThrowbackThursday”

  1. There’s a charity called Attitude Is Everything whose mission is to challenge and change the experiences that people with disabilities have at gigs and festivals – I’ve been volunteering for them for a few years now and have seen first hand the impact their amazing work has – Kelly & Jarath should check them out and see the difference.

  2. Contact Attitude Is Everything [via website or facebook] for details of festivals they have checked out using mystery shoppers and those where they run the accessible facilities.

  3. I have right-sided hemiplegia and in August 2012 I went to see McFly play at BT London Live. At one point before the gig St.John Ambulance volunteers put me on the viewing platform. My favourite member of McFly / McBusted is their drummer Harry Judd, and I was dismayed to find that from the platform NOBODY would be able to see Harry. I explained this to the volunteers and they had clearly never heard of Harry Judd – they thought I was expecting Harry Styles to appear behind Tom, Danny & Dougie to bash out a beat. So I fought my way to the front of the crowd and got goodish view of Judders, who I’ve since met (he’s lovely).

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