Elisabeth McDermott: A deaf experience of being backstage at Glastonbury!

Posted on July 5, 2013

Whooooo! I have just had my first ever experience of Glastonbury!!! I am knackered, pooped, I would like to go to bed, but I thought I would drop Limping Chicken a few lines!

I just wanted to tell you all a funny story …

My friend, Heidi Fitch and I decided that we would go and see Bobby Womack on the West Holts stage on Sunday evening. We knew from DeafZone that Terps (sign language interpreters) had been booked for this performance. We also knew from an experience earlier in the day* that the Terps would be ON THE STAGE (not the “Disabled Viewing Platform” halfway up the field with reduced access to sound for Deaf people).

I pushed for the assistance of a Steward to lead us to the front to see the Terp, but we didn’t get a very good view, so we spoke to the Stage Manager at the barrier who let us over the barrier (this is not normally allowed, they’re very strict these Stage Managers, Health & Safety and all that:) and he instructed his Colleague to lead us around the side of the stage……

“Hello, where are we going?!”, we said to each other, but we stuck with it as we thought, “Hey, they’re taking us right to the Terp!”.

We were led through areas privileged for artists and their tour groups, playing table tennis, with their own bar and lounge and well, you name it, anything they wanted/needed, it was there! We dragged our gaping jaws up the steps, following the Security Guy BACKSTAGE and stopped in amazement!

We were BACKSTAGE, we could see Bobby Womack up close, and Damon Albarn (from Blur) playing keyboard, and woah the crowds, they were massive but WE COULD NOT SEE THE INTERPRETER FROM BEHIND!!!! We were gobsmacked, stumped, laughing in confusion. What to do?

We backtracked to the barrier where we explained to ANOTHER Security Guy that we needed to be IN FRONT of the Interpreter. He was fine with this and we were instructed to sit down in front of the barrier. BOOM. Right in front of Bobby, Damon, and Jacqui (Terp). A-MAZ-ING!

Then the Stage Manager came back. “You’re not supposed to be here!” “Well”, I told him, “we’re Deaf, the Interpreter is at the front of the stage, we cannot see her from behind, we can only see her from here, not on the Disabled Viewing Platform and not off to the side of the barrier and certainly not backstage so we need to stay here”.

He finally obliged and we were able to gawp at the sheer proximity of the amazing Bobby Womack for the next half hour before going to catch The XX at The Other Stage for the finale of the night!

I still laugh at the memory of that backstage moment when we realised our situation!!!

Perhaps you would have run out on that stage and showed the world our story? What better way to raise Deaf Awareness than publicity via the BBC who was filming the performance?! But I am far too sensible (and sober) and publicity-shy to do that! I wished we could have gone and sat in front of the Terp. On. The. Stage. Wouldn’t that have been a point well made!

In reality, this just highlights that, although Glastonbury has done a lot for Deaf and Disabled people in recent years, there is still a lot more to be done. I hope that I am one of a few enthusiastic Deaf Glastonbury (or other festival, or other event) fans that would like to strike the gong and send ripples through the Glastonbury Organising Committee (or whatever they call themselves – I’ll do my research and find out:) about improving accessibility in future years.

Maybe I’ll even write directly to Mr Michael Eavis, the man at the top. Who knows? Watch this space!

*NB. On another notes, terps had been booked for James Blake on the John Peel Stage: we thought that they would be on the Disabled Viewing Platform (DVP) but arrived to find no Terps there. We stayed for a while watching James Blake, wondering what to do. Another Deafie turned up and immediately spotted someone on the stage signing! A Terp! ON THE STAGE! All the way over there! Could we see? We couldn’t see! We decided after ummming and ahhhing that we would go around the crowd to the front barrier, speak to the Security People, get word to the Terps that we were at the DVP and could they come up to the DVP (as Security would not allow us over the barrier, nor could we see the Terps from off to the side, or even get closer to the front behind the barrier to see them!!!). The story goes that the Terps had been told that they could be ON stage, but actually someone else told them they couldn’t, yes they could, no they couldn’t, yes, no, yes, no….confusion reigned. Even more confusing, the Terps weren’t sure if they were booked for the Stage or for the Disabled Viewing Platform? This is something I would like all Stage Managers to be aware of and there is a long way to go to clarifying this for Glastonbury. Some stages allow the Terps ON stage. Others don’t. Watch this (other) space!!!

Euro pass photoElisabeth (Lizzie) is a 34-year old profoundly deaf physiotherapist from Leeds-Glasgow-Guernsey-London with a keen interest in Deaf Sports (physio for GBDWF, European Deaf Championships, Bulgaria, 2011) and Women’s Health (mostly pregnant women:) She is working in London from September 2013 and aims to get involved with Deaf Sports more. Lizzie enjoys travelling, snowboarding and spending quality time with friends and family.

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