A few weeks previous to this, I wrote a feature explaining the Gig Buddies project. You can find that article here: thestinger.org.uk/article/
Gig Buddies is a project that matches adults with learning disabilities to a volunteer based on mutual music interests.
The project was set up in recognition to the fact that many adults with learning disabilities are denied the same social opportunities that their non-disabled counterparts aren’t.
What wasn’t mentioned in the article was that amongst many of the social barriers and prejudices that disabled people come up against there are also physical barriers that often inhibit opportunities to see live music.
For example, not having quiet spaces for those with sensory needs, easy-read signs and having to queue in busy or chaotic spaces. These barriers can, all too often, ruin a night for people with learning disabilities.
The Stinger, kindly, gave me the opportunity to go to the De La Warr Pavilion, in Bexhill, and test out how accessible the venue is, while also enjoying the hypnotising music of Nick Mulvey.
Dan, who accompanied me, is a participant of the Gig Buddies project and has both learning and physical disabilities. This made him a great person to test out the De La Warr!
The venue was great from start to finish and went above and beyond to make Dan and myself feel comfortable.
Nothing was too much trouble. A small example of this was the first aider and sound engineer who jumped up every time Dan or I walked past to lift the barrier that separates the viewing area to the arena. Dan likened it to being a “pop star”.
The staff’s patience and friendliness towards Dan’s many questions about Nick Mulveys new album, 'Wake Up Now', also contributed to creating a relaxed environment for Dan and I.
Despite the venue being Grade 1 listed it is clear they have worked the space to be as accessible as possible to those with physical impairments, including lifts, ramps and accessible toilets.
However, the bar would have been difficult to access had you been in a wheel chair, due to its height.
Surprisingly, there was a big basket of ear defenders available for you to take on your way into the hall.
Although it is common practise for venues to provide ear defenders, this was the first time where Dan or I had seen them clearly on display.
For those that might find loud noises or talking to strangers difficult this small act had the potential to considerably improve their experience of the venue. Dan gave it a big thumbs up!
Nick Mulvey's music felt intellectual and thoughtful.
This was best evidenced by his new song, which is based on the migrant crisis taking place in Calais. The songs lyrics were a collaboration of sentences that had been spoken by refugees.
This mixed with his bands use of world instruments and percussion resulted in a strangely joyful finish to the song where everyone was dancing – including Dan who had his walking stick high in the air!
Perhaps a metaphor could be found somewhere in the fact that during adversity we must remember that our similarities can provide much needed comfort and act as reminder that we have more in common with our neighbours that we do that divides us.
Nick’s music sounded even better live than it does recorded.
Being able to see the band perform and use the variety of instruments to create his unique sound was mesmerising.
Some of the African influences from his earlier work are still clear to see in this album but this time has been interworked with the use of the electric guitar.
So to cement you with a lasting impression of the gig and our evening’s experiences we shall leave you with Dan’s reply to me when I asked him “what was the best bit of tonight ”. Dan “ALL OF IT”.
Things to note for people with accessibility needs.
- The pavilion does provide seating in an accessible viewing space, if requested.
- There are lifts to all floors and a ramp to get into the venue.
- There are accessible toilets.
- Venue staff have been provided with disability awareness training.
- There is an Induction loop provided.
The De La Warr Pavilion has a page dedicated to accessibility on their website and can be contacted by phone on: 01424 229 111.