We went to a festival on the weekend, as per my last entry. Readers of this diary may recall my second date with Wendy last year and her cycling 30 miles, mostly in the dark and without decent lights, because we had a public transport disaster. Well it would have been a bit presumptuous of me to have booked a hotel room for our second date…

Anyway a year on and a hotel was this time booked, promising an easier day. But wait… nothing/ zilch / zero is ever easy anymore and the festival organisers had very (in ) conveniently altered the wheelchair access set up completely and unrecognisably.

I did write to them today and enclose an extract –

This weekend I made the mistake of going to the Pennfest festival. Last year I had gone and it went smoothly. I am paralysed and in a wheelchair. Last year, from the entrance to the wheelchair platform was probably 100 metres, and obviously the same in reverse to leave. 

This year I was very surprised to find myself directed, in my wheelchair, down a grassy slope, right along a muddy path, up a hill through a forest, over an impassable speed ramp, and then a further 100 metres through a field. This had led me only to the entrance, at which I was vaguely directed to the first aid tent, where I might collect a pass enabling me to access a disabled toilet. The first aid tent was 150 metres up a muddy slope, and not at all easy to find, and the platform then across another field of grass and mud. 

I had my girlfriend with me for the second leg, and she pushed me all the way. Prior to that I begged assistance from passers by.

When we left, I was not surprised to hear I had to do the same trip in reverse to exit the festival. 

Whoever is responsible for your disability awareness and equality policy should be disciplined immediately for his / her complete failure to have given any consideration at all to the difficulties experienced by wheelchair users on anything other than level and smooth surfaces. Crossing a road is daunting, in good conditions ; travelling through a forest in the mud is altogether in a different league. 

I read your blurb about asking staff for help, but words on paper are all that they are. The reality is that your staff didn’t want to know, and actually didn’t know much at all, because your training of them is inadequate/ absent. On the way out I wasn’t allowed to go on the plastic track as this was apparently for lorries. Instead I was told to push along a further 300 metres of muddy path adjacent to the flat plastic track. Needless to say I ignored that last instruction, having had enough maltreatment already. 

Amazingly there was more to come, as waiting for the shuttle bus was next. There was no provision for making it accessible through the zig zag of lanes, so I chose to follow a different route to the front, but only because I am confident enough to contravene discriminatory regulations. 

Your approach to disability is shameful. 

What are you going to do about it?

Russ Dawkins

Having said all that, you take the positives and smile, if you are that sort…. and whilst I wouldn’t go again, I’ll look back at seeing Goldie Lookin Chain, Scouting for Girls, Happy Mondays and Craig David with good memories.

One thought on “Pennfest

  1. Shameful!
    Well done for telling them about it.
    You know, there could be a new career for you in disability consultancy.

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