Wireless: Disabled festivalgoers call out organisers for ‘abysmal’ experience

·4 min read

Disabled attendees at Wireless festival have described access at the London event as an “absolute disaster” after they were forced to cross “dangerous” terrain and watch performers from a distant platform next to the exit.

The three-day event – which took place between Friday (1 July) and Sunday (3 July) at Crystal Palace – featured A$AP Rocky, J Cole and Tyler the Creator as headliners.

Wheelchair users at the festival say they were ushered to a viewing platform far from the stage and had to make their way across gravel, calling the festival an “abysmal” experience. Organisers were accused of not putting “two thoughts into disabled people”.

The Independent has contacted Wireless organisers Festival Republic for comment.

“From the onset, it was an absolute disaster,” Katouche Goll, a 25-year-old PR representative and disability content creator, told the PA news agency.

“Nothing could have prepared us for what we were to encounter during that day.

“[After the entrance], there was no way any disabled person could take that hill on without any assistance. One of your wheels would definitely get stuck in a pothole and send you flying. It was very dangerous.”

ASAP Rocky at Wireless (Isha Shah Photography)
ASAP Rocky at Wireless (Isha Shah Photography)

Goll has cerebral palsy and is an ambulatory wheelchair user, meaning she often uses a scooter for events such as festivals.

She said the terrain at Wireless meant she had to use a wheelchair on day two.

“I wouldn’t typically go with a wheelchair but because of how physically exhausted and in pain I was after the first day, I had to take a wheelchair the next day,” she explained.

“No tracking pads were provided for us... and then because I couldn’t get my scooter or my wheelchair over the gravel, I had to walk that length with my crutches, and I have cerebral palsy so that’s a lot of labour.

“And then when I was too tired, my sister had to carry me, only for us to reach the platform and be so abysmally far from the stage.”

Goll documented her experience on Twitter with the hashtag #DisabilityAccessWireless.

A video showed the distance between the platform and the main stage, sparking outrage from fellow social media users.

Hannah Mambu quoted the tweet, requesting a refund.

Mambu, 24, is a full-time wheelchair user with spina bifida and was “shocked” at the viewing platform’s placement.

“I was shocked that they think sitting there is acceptable,” the aftercare consultant said.

“All of us were looking at each other like, ‘Is there a point in waving?’

“I am using my phone to zoom in to see the artist perform... we’re basically outside the park, everyone is there and jumping, having fun, and we are at the back.”

The viewing platform for disabled attendees for the second stage was said to have been partially blocked by a tree.

Mambu and Goll paid more than £200 for their tickets. “We paid the same amount of money that everyone else paid,” Mambu said.

“They didn’t put two thoughts into disabled people... they didn’t get people with mobility issues to advise them on what’s the best solution to give disabled people a good view.

“Where they put us was so exclusive, it was like they don’t want us to be involved in the festival, they don’t want us to have fun. It’s terrible.”

Goll also spoke of “hostile” and “incompetent” workers as she described a staff member pushing her sister before “insisting” she was not disabled.

“It was absolutely horrendous,” Goll said.

“We had a member of staff push my sister while she was carrying me… and insisting that we weren’t disabled when we tried to get access to the other viewing platform.”

Golld said that she intends to complain to Wireless and that she hopes to get her money back.

“Being excluded from and segregated from everybody else is such a frustratingly characteristic aspect of being disabled,” Goll added.

“Not because of anything to do with your actual condition, but simply because of the barriers that people put in place to stop you from being able to have an equitable experience of public life.”

Additional reporting by Press Association