An image of people standing around in the mud

Wickham Festival 2017 (A Quagmire…)

Another day another festival, this time we stayed local and headed for the day to Wickham Festival in Hampshire. This time it wasn’t raining… but… it had rained the day before which made for a pretty horrendous scene.

Once we reached the road into the festival site we sat in barely-moving traffic for 2 and a half hours. When I took a walk to the front of the queue I found out why… The camper van and caravan field was a complete quagmire and people were being towed on to the site one by one!

An image of the back of a caravan being towed on to the camping field

The website states that “the site is fully accessible for people with disabilities” so we had high hopes that when we finally got to the festival there would be adequate disabled parking. In our group was my step-father whose mobility is very impaired due to bilateral Charcot foot and Leo whose sight impaired and has ataxia. We discovered after asking a number of stewards where to go that the area they had planned for disabled parking was also under severe mud and was completely inaccessible. No-one seemed to know where we were supposed to park until finally someone at one of the campsites took initiative and guided as to a place we could park on what was apparently where the accessible camping area was going to be. We were in!! Or so we thought…

The next stage of our day was to try and get around the edge of the festival fences in order to get to the box-office where we were told we’d get our accessible wristbands. Getting there was a huge challenge, especially for my step-dad. When we finally made it no one knew anything about ‘disabled wristbands’ so we just got general ones. We were in… nope.

An image of smiling leo sitting waiting to get into the festival. He's wearing ear defenders.
The gates opened over 2 hours late due apparently to health and safety issues and the organisers and volunteers were trying to cover the quagmire with straw.

And then the gates opened, we really were in! The ground was pretty horrendous and getting to the main tent was…. interesting. When we finally reached the stage area there was a viewing platform for people with disabilities so we set up camp there and my mum headed off to get the beer!! Hurray!!

The music was great, the food choices was excellent – we had an Indian thali each which was yum and everything looked great… if only we could get around, which without leaving our family members alone, we couldn’t actually explore… So, we watched Andy Fairweather- Low and KT Tunstal, Leo had a good boogie and with conditions getting worse, we left.

An image of Leo clapping on the viewing platform
Once we’d slid and squealched across the main area we made it to the campsite where thank goodness my parents were rescued by a steward in a golf buggy who kindly took them to the car while Leo and I strolled through the pretty and ambient campsite. As hellish as it had been I was gutted not to be camping, we’d spent most of our day just trying to get in! In better weather I’d definitely give this one another go.

A serious note – as much as the British weather can’t be helped the organisers really should have had a plan B, C, D for disability access. There were pleas all over Facebook from people stuck either in a campsite that they couldn’t even cross to get to the toilet or just people unable to get into the site. This needs to be a priority next year if the festival intends to be open to all.

It is clear that volunteers, staff and organisers were working really hard to ensure the show would go on and it appears that in the latter days of the festival disabled parking was sorted and the ground improves with the help of machinery and improved weather.

A final note: Leo was most disappointed that there appeared to be no Playbus as stated that there would be on the be website.

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