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Performer survey highlights access issues in entertainment industry

Performer survey highlights access issues in entertainment industry
20th May 2019 Ian Streets

Disabled artists and musicians are challenging the entertainment industry to act to make their spaces accessible for performers as well as audiences.

A survey by Next Stage has found that artists face obstacles in all areas, from rehearsing, recording and performing, to applying for funding and attending industry events.

Next Stage is funded by Arts Council England to champion disabled talent and make the music industry more accessible for artists with access requirements.

Its survey consulted 96 artists, from songwriters to DJs, from around the UK, and asked them to share details of the barriers they face in developing a career in music.

Half of them have encountered access barriers when seeking to rehearse and, of the 56 artists who have used recording studios, almost half had encountered barriers.

Of the 79 who have performed live, half said they had encountered access barriers at most gigs. Two-thirds said they have had to compromise their health or wellbeing to perform, one in five reported having had to cancel a show due to poor access and 70 per cent said they had withheld details about a condition or impairment because they feared it would damage a professional relationship.

Among the issues highlighted were inadequate signage which created difficulties for people with visual impairments, problems with steps, inaccessible toilet facilities and difficulties moving heavy equipment.

Blaine Harrison, the singer with the Mystery Jets, was born with spina bifida. He said: “Making a living from music is tough enough. But for musicians with access requirements, it can be even tougher. In 2019, it is absolutely heartbreaking that so many artists are still encountering barriers and obstacles between them and their audience.”

Ruth Patterson, co-founder of Holy Moly and the Crackers, has arthritis and Ehlers-Danlos syndromes. She said: “It is normal for venues to expect me, the lead singer of my band, to be heaved around by my band members because of a lack of access. I can’t think of any other another industry where this is commonplace, and the music industry has to step up and make serious changes.”

Next Stage said the results of the survey demonstrate that disability is not binary. Most survey respondents had multiple impairments, and not all identified as a disabled person. More than 15 different impairments were represented, with mental health conditions (43 per cent) and chronic physical health conditions (41 per cent) being most common.

Our, Suzanne Bull MBE, CEO of Next Stage, said: “These findings will make uncomfortable reading for many in the UK music industry, but our respondents clearly raise some fundamental issues that need to be addressed. Disability cannot be treated as a taboo.”

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