I’ve told you before, but I really love going to concerts. The Oosterpoort in Groningen, the Goffertpark in Nijmegen, the GelreDome in Arnhem, the Amsterdam ArenA or the Ziggo Dome… I don’t even mind crossing the border to Hamburg, for example.
My favourite concerts
I have been to quite a few concerts. A disadvantage of living in Drenthe is that you often have to travel a lot to visit a concert. Sometimes this means that I have to arrange an overnight stay, because otherwise it is too strenuous for me. But I’m happy to make do with that. My best concerts are Adele in Hamburg, Coldplay in the ArenA, Robbie Williams in the ArenA and Beyoncé in Ahoy. But I have also enjoyed “the oldies” Elton John, Paul McCartney, Phil Collins and Joe Cocker.
Stoned as a skunk
A funny concert story: my sister and I liked Bob Marley’s music. Especially in the summer, when the weather is nice, with a cocktail, Bob Marley’s music playing in the background is very relaxing. So when we heard that his son would be performing in Groningen, we immediately bought tickets. We wanted to be there!
Once we arrived, we looked a bit different than most of the visitors. We: neat and nicely dressed, heels, make-up and handbag. The rest of the audience wore cool clothes, wide shirts, dreadlocks and trainers. During the concert, the first joints were quickly lit and many more followed. There we were, two young ladies among the weed-smoking hippies. We had a lot of fun, seeing ourselves among the rest. Every now and then we had to leave the room, because the smell of weed made us stoned! But we had a great evening with beautiful music!
Going to a concert with a disability
Now you probably think: great! But how does it work if you want to go to a concert with a disability?
It already starts when you order the tickets. Just like it is for everyone else, it is quite a crime. Often, 100,000 people want to get a ticket at the same time and the queue is long. Once logged in, you choose (if there are still tickets available), a wheelchair ticket and an accompanying person ticket. Often, you can only take one companion along. This is quite a pity, because it means that the rest of your friends or family are sitting somewhere else.
Limited space for wheelchairs
It is always quite stressful to get a wheelchair and accompanying person ticket. The Ziggo Dome has room for over 17,000 people. Of those, only 20 people can buy a wheelchair ticket. So you can imagine that these tickets are gone very quickly. That is why we are sitting behind our laptops more than an hour before the sales start, hoping to be on time. All laptops and mobile phones are used and even the care workers bring their laptops!
For some locations you can only call to reserve a wheelchair space. How many wheelchair spaces are available depends on the concert venue. For example, the GelreDome has 34,000 to 41,000 spaces, of which about 75 are wheelchair spaces. I find it sad to see that many concert venues really do not have enough wheelchair spaces. I often hear that all the seats have already been reserved. This should – and must – really improve.
The location of the wheelchair platform
Another thing that could be improved is the location of the wheelchair platform. We often find ourselves at the very back of the auditorium, often behind the sound and light technician. Then you sometimes have to look at a screen to be able to see the band properly. I was able to experience that things can be done better at the Elton John concert at the GelreDome in June. Every wheelchair user had a great spot and there were plenty of places available.
In general, concert venues are well wheelchair accessible. There is often a separate entrance for wheelchair users, so you don’t have to wait in the long queue outside. There are people to guide you to your seat and everything is at floor-level, without thresholds. There are spacious toilets for the disabled and the Ziggo Dome has even reserved a row for wheelchair users at all food and beverage stalls, so that you do not have to wait in between the standing crowds. I am always happy when I see things like that, they think of you!
Parking at a concert is often an issue. Because many people mean many cars. If possible, I always buy a parking ticket in advance. For example, at a concert in the Amsterdam ArenA and the Ziggo Dome, you can park under the ArenA. That is really nice. The parking garage has lots of disabled parking spaces and within a few minutes walking/rolling you are at the entrance of the concert hall. Perfect!
In short: even though going to a concert with a disability can be a bit of a hassle, don’t let it discourage you, just ENJOY it!