People who know me know I regularly go to Blackfield Festival in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. It's a fab festival held in Amphitheatre Gelsenkirchen & it's usually a lovely relaxed festival, being able to sit & see the bands from wherever you sit & with just one stage no chance of all your favourite bands clashing. (Also with the added bonus of proper plumbed toilets & being able to stay in a hotel...festival camping ain't for the faint hearted!)
This year was a little different as I've had to admit I can't keep up with my friends doing a 3 day festival without a little help so I had to take my scooter.
Change 1 - flights. We normally fly so that's no different this time in itself, but we did have to book special assistance to save standing around in queues & trying to fit through gaps my scooter wouldn't wind through. I have to say on this score Luton airport were flawless. Reporting in to special assistance the 4 of us whizzed through security without a hitch & in record time then got picked up from the bar where we went for food. Being bundled into the back of a van was a little disconcerting at the time, mostly due to the prison van/kidnappy feel but they drove us all to the plane in that, took my scooter & loaded it onto the plane then lifted us up to the door for us to walk on board (in theory we were supposed to go on first but food took longer to arrive than we were told it'd be so we were a little late.)
Germany was quite surprising in that I found myself thinking England do it better - I can't recall saying that before! Apparently in Germany there's no kidnappy van, there's just a couple of weedy chaps with a wheelchair to lift you up & down the plane stairs! I'm sure they must be stronger than they look but there was no chance I was gonna let them give themselves hernias & risk dropping my heftier than ever butt down those metal steps!
Change 2 - hotel. Having asked for a disabled room upon booking we were told there were none available. Thankfully when we arrived one of the 2 rooms we were given was directly above the disabled rooms & so the same layout, if this hadn't been the case I suspect I'd have really struggled getting in & out with my scooter.
Change 3 - the festival! Firstly I have to point out that free disabled parking was granted (although the confirmation didn't arrive until I was already in Germany so I wasn't aware I'd had it.) Secondly a free carer ticket was offered, though slightly trickier to have confirmed if you're not from Germany so don't have a handicapped ID card. Thanks to a very helpful friend with contacts that got resolved (name dropping ftw!)
Now, the organisers of Blackfield in their defence did attempt to make disabled provisions. A separate disabled toilet was available & attendants locked & unlocked it as required, making sure not just anyone could use it (luckily for you that means I won't have to start on my rant about able bodied people who're perfectly capable of queuing & using the normal toilets stopping me getting into the one disabled cubicle...aargh!)
The actual amphitheatre obviously causes issues of it's own, with huge stone steps no scooter would ever manage. The top row was indeed coned off for disabled attendees, but with that row being the width of your average wheelchair once you're on you're stuck there, blocked on by everyone else in chairs, or more often, dancing standing people who've just decided they need that ONE STEP more than any disabled person could. On a scooter it just wasn't really safe to go along that step very far, only able to get off by reversing & with a pretty dangerous drop if ones drunken steering around stubborn awkward & selectively deaf able bodied people was sub par. As a result I parked my scooter behind the end of the row & sat watching ignorant people's backsides for most of the festival. Seriously, who pushes past someone in a mobility scooter shoving them sideways only to stand a foot in front of them knowing they can't just stand up or skip along somewhere else to see? My new most used German phrase is "bewegen sie bitte, mir im weg sind sie."
Apologies if you speak German & the grammar sucks, I've never learned the language other than by being there (I'm great at ordering beer) & that's just what google told me when I was getting angry at watching people's bums! Unfortunately most of the people in wheelchairs suffered the same issues since the rows in front of the disabled row didn't suggest that anyone not stand up there & it would appear consideration & brain cells were seriously lacking. By the last day I was just feeling too rough to deal with it all so stayed around the hotel for a more relaxing day.
In better news I did manage the odd glimpse of bands, my bestie was there making things less stressful where possible & the bunch of friends we were there with helped by being there for the odd chat & beers to wind down at the end of each day.
As much as it sucks to have to do Blackfield the uber-spoonie way it's still an awesome festival & I hope I can continue to go each year.
Next job - feedback email to the organisers!
(The laundry can wait, right?)