A Radio One DJ is seeking crowdfunding for a company that will stage live music events for disabled people and their friends… with gold-standard access.
Why Not People? (WNP) has been launched by Jameela Jamil, and has backing from a number of disabled celebrities, including TV presenters Sophie Morgan, Ade Adepitan and Alex Brooker, and London 2012 Paralympians Hannah Cockroft and Jordanne Whiley.
Jamil has already secured five huge acts – Coldplay, Ed Sheeran, James Blake, Mark Ronson and Tinie Tempah – to perform at Why Not People? events in 2015-16.
The first event will take place at the indigo venue at The O2 in London, probably in late May, and will feature Tinie Tempah, while some of the future performers will host an accessible WNP area within existing events.
WNP will be a members’ club for disabled people, each of whom will be able to buy tickets for themselves and up to three friends. But first Jamil needs to raise £40,000 to get the company off the ground.
Jamil, who until last month presented Radio One’s weekly chart show, has personal experience of disability. After being hit by a car when she was 17, she was not able to walk for more than a year.
She also attended a special school for a short period, while she and WNP’s director, Divya Daryanani, both have long-term health conditions.
The company’s charities consultant, Charlie Howath, is disabled, and a lifelong friend of Jamil’s, having met her at special school when they were six.
Morgan, who is the company’s brands and charities executive, said WNP was not “the solution” to access problems but “a stepping stone, a starting point” towards an inclusive music industry.
But she added: “This is Jameela’s idea to start to tackle the problem, and draw attention to the way we can make change.”
She said she hoped WNP’s events would show the rest of the industry how they could put on accessible events themselves.
And she said she liked the idea that Jamil was setting up a business rather than a charity.
Morgan said: “I like that, because I have for a while been trying to encourage people to see that disabled people have a spending power and have a value.
“It’s worth making the effort to include us, not just because it is the right thing to do, but because it is the financially sensible thing to do. We do have a spending power.”
Daryanani said WNP plans to include signers on stage, provide high-tec hearing aid necklaces that will have a bluetooth connection to the sound desk, and offer Subpac, an audio system that transfers low frequency sounds into a tactile experience for the person using the device.
Jamil says in the WNP crowd-funding pitch video: “I personally cannot live anymore in a world that has so many amazing technological advances, and yet we can’t seem to make the basic, and they really are basic, changes that it takes in order to accommodate such a huge portion, an important portion, of society. It’s infuriating.”
Howath says in the video that WNP will “enable disabled people to go out there and have fun like anyone else” and will change the way disabled people are looked at because it will show they “need to be treated equally to everyone else”.
Attitude is Everything (AiE), the user-led charity that works to persuade the music industry to implement best practice in disabled people’s access to live music, has provided advice to Jamil and WNP on how to make its events accessible and inclusive.
Suzanne Bull, chief executive of AiE, said: “What we do is work towards making everything at music venues inclusive and accessible, but if people choose to take up membership with WNP that would be good as well.
“The idea from our point-of-view is that everybody works towards everything being accessible.”
Bull said the launch of WNP had put the issue of access in the live music industry back on the agenda.
Last year, an AiE report found that nine in 10 disabled people felt discriminated against when they bought tickets to watch live music, because the booking system they had to deal with was so inaccessible.
The report pointed to the “strong business case for improving access”, and the growing customer base of Deaf and disabled people.
AiE’s State of Access Report 2014 also revealed that only two-thirds of venues had a step-free entrance, while less than half were step-free throughout and had an accessible toilet.
5 February 2015