Live music accessibility charity Attitude is Everything has partnered with sustainability groups Julie’s Bicycle and A Greener Future on a research programme that examines how access to live music events for disabled people can become environmentally sustainable. Its organisers tell Access why it is necessary and what’s involved.
Attitude is Everything (AIE) founder Suzanne Bull MBE says the idea of engaging disabled people more with environmental solutions came about during lockdown when she feared for the disabled community being “left behind” in sustainability conversations.
“I felt the disabled community was being pitted against people who were really fighting for better climate change solutions. I felt there was a danger of disabled people being left behind, and they already were because the pandemic had a very drastic impact on the disabled community.”
She says solutions that enable accessibility and support environmental sustainability can “often oppose one another”, which the programme in collaboration with Julie’s Bicycle and A Greener Future (AGF) aims to resolve. It follows AIE’s collaboration with Black Lives in Music (BLIM) on the Unseen Unheard report, which found that 91% of Black disabled creators and professionals were unsatisfied with how they are supported by the music industry.
The latest programme will provide the music and live events sectors with a toolkit containing practical solutions and case studies on how to make live music events for disabled people more environmentally sustainable. With funding from Arts Council England, the first edition of the toolkit will be published in early 2024.
“There’s no point keep saying this is the issue if you aren’t going to resolve it. Climate change is happening now, it’s not into the future, it was yesterday. And disabled people can be a key part of that,” says Bull.
She says disabled people’s access can be affected or even degraded by environmental policies, with disabled people often not included in conversations, planning and implementation of environmental policies, despite being one of the communities that are “disproportionately affected by climate change”.
“Disability access must be a key part of how we design climate solutions.”
“At the moment it doesn’t seem as though we’ve got a say in it,” says Bull. “There are little pockets of this work around but nothing joined up, that’s what this project is seeking to do. The two things shouldn’t be mutually exclusive, we can find solutions, but we can’t find them on our own.
“We need to work with Julie’s Bicycle and AGF, because they’re the climate change solutions, and we have the keys to the access solutions.”
Bull says the charity has also gained support from lead singer of indie rock band Mystery Jets, Blaine Harrison, who is disabled: “Blaine also understands the juxtapositions that come with some of this. It can’t all just come down to plastic straws and bottles, there’s got to be more to this. Hopefully his support will mean we reach more people.”
AIE has asked AGF to identify three different scales and types of festival in the UK and include accessibility related questions in their survey. AGF will launch the toolkit with a panel of experts discussing it at its Green Events & Innovations conference (GEI) in February.
AGF director Teresa Moore says, “Accessibility has always been an important part of A Greener Future’s assessments and certification. We’re very happy to be able to dig even deeper with this new project and together with Attitude is Everything and Julie’s Bicycle, develop solutions which meet the challenge of access for all which is also environmentally friendly.”
Julie’s Bicycle, meanwhile, will conduct a survey for artists, audience members, volunteers and event professionals to identify what some of the barriers are around access and sustainability. The charity will also host roundtables in the Autumn to explore the topic in more depth.
Julie’s Bicycle climate justice lead Farah Ahmed says, “We can’t have solutions that are leaving whole communities and swathes of people out of the conversation. For us this is an opportunity to do something that isn’t already out there. Disability access must be a key part of how we design climate solutions and orient our world towards justice. It is the embodiment of care and solidarity in practice.”
Ahmed says the programme has been well received by the industry: “There’s no one who can argue that this is needed. There’s already been questions that have come up that a lot of people don’t consider in their day-to-day work, because the way you normally do things isn’t always the most accessible or the most environmentally friendly. This is a good opportunity for us as a sector to collectively unlearn all of that and think about what it means to do things differently. We’ve reached a point where this work is inevitable and has to be done.”
Bull adds, “Over 23 years, Attitude is Everything has proved that you don’t have to always do things in the same way when there are probably better and more creative solutions out there.
“I think there will be new and creative solutions found that some of us have never even thought about before – no matter how much expertise us three organisations have. That’s why you need to open the conversation out to everyone.
There’s no point pitting communities of people or different sectors of work in creative industries against one another – we all have to come together.
“This is a universal thing that is going to drastically change our lives, no matter who we are.”