Festival 41 is taking a revolutionary approach to accessibility, with everything from sensory zones to a ‘pass out’ system
In 2016, Stevie Wonder used his Grammy appearance to call for greater disabled access. Just days later, an Independent study (featuring 251 venues and 135 festivals) found the majority failed to provide adequate support for people with disabilities.
Experiences included ‘being ordered out of disabled toilets for taking too long, having their vital medical equipment subjected to searches and being doubted by staff over their need for a raised platform because they are not wheelchair users’. Lack of prior information was also a concern, with festivals such as Manchester’s Sounds of the City not even having a website.
Things are progressing: Attitude is Everything’s coalition to improve the booking process for deaf and disabled people includes companies such as Skiddle and Festival Republic, while festivals such as British Summer Time have ramped up their disability offering and many major events now have dedicated accessibility pages. But there’s still a way to go, right down to unannounced strobe lights and poor staff awareness.
Needless to say, many festivals aren’t family-friendly either. That’s why Carla Speight is launching a festival that’s making both accessibility and inclusivity a priority: with a long history working in live entertainment, the Urmston-based mum admits that many festivals are poor on both fronts.
Taking place in Urmston’s Abbotsfield Park (30 June - 1 July), Festival 41 is based on both Speight's own experiences and audience feedback, promising ‘all the extras usually overlooked by bigger festivals’. Accessibility includes wheelchair access throughout the site, BSL interpreters, a sensory zone for autistic people and hoisted changing facilities for those with more complex and additional needs. The event will also be assistant dog-friendly and accessible for visually-impaired people.
Considering festival environments can be overwhelming, Festival 41 has also developed a ‘pass out’ system that’s available to all. If you need a break from the sensory overloads, prefer privacy to take medications or simply need to drop the kids off, you’ll be able re-enter.
As Speight says, “festivals are for the audience to come together and enjoy a weekend of great entertainment”. With that in mind, the team have devised a line-up spanning music to comedy and children’s activities (full line-up at the bottom).
Saturday 30 June will see a full day of comedy stalwarts, launching with Nish Kumar: well-known for his Dave TV show Nish & Joel vs The World, as well as presenting BBC2’s The Mash Report and featuring on the likes of 8 out of 10 Cats. He'll be joined by Lou Conran, Chris Washington and more.
Sunday 1 July is all about the music, headlined by Scouting for Girls (main image) and BBC DJ Trevor Nelson. Local talent includes The Rainband, fresh from supporting the Kaiser Chiefs and Paulo Nuttini, and new band Mercy Mile.
Sunday will also feature a dedicated children’s area, which Festival 41 say ‘is not the usual’, and there’ll be a VIP area available throughout the weekend. This will include an exclusive viewing area, food and drink, ‘special celebrity guests’ and even luxury loos.
Prices, meanwhile, are £35 per day for standard and £60 for VIPs: refreshingly affordable considering the average fest now costs £165 for entry alone according to eFestivals/Progressive Money (who also found that Parklife is 305% more expensive than it was in 2010 - phew).
Speight said: “I am a proud Urmston girl and want to give Urmston the best weekend they’ve ever seen. There are lots of plans to support and promote local businesses to put Urmston on the map. It’s not been easy to set this up but it will definitely be worth the last nine months of hard work”.
“Regardless of who you are, where you’re from or what you can do, Festival 41 includes everyone”.
Festival 41 takes place 30 June-31 July at Abbotsfield Park 32, Chassen Rd, Urmston, M41 5DH - tickets from £35
Festival 41 line-up
SATURDAY 30 JUNE
Allyson June Smith
Nige (Keith Carter)
SUNDAY 1 JULY
Scouting For Girls
The Mercy Mile
Stevie Mandini & Co
Magic shows and workshops for all ages
Comedy Club 4 Kids
Showcase Dance & Stage
Contemporary classical dance performances and workshops
Performances and slime workshop
Plus and music shows and workshops throughout the day.