As I write this I’m not sure what is going on with Covid-19 as I am writing in advance trying to keep the flow going in my mind from For the Love of Music P1…..
Being close to London – about 40 minutes on the train – is handy for big concert venues but smaller venues sometimes are more powerful. Reading Rivermead Centre is fairly close but transport links to it are pretty rubbish for me. Not sure if you have experienced this venue but you could say it’s like a town hall. I’ve witnessed Ocean Color Scene play here and of course Weller. The only relation to using wheelchair skills at this hall is confidence, as it’s small there are not really any large corridors to wheel at pace down, it’s just a mass of gig goers, or fans… or Mods depending on who you are seeing.
The furthest I have gone for a gig is Birmingham NEC, this is about 100 miles north on the M40 for me. The O2 in Stratford, or the Millennium Dome, is closer but takes longer to get to, either by car or train. It’s quite an interesting journey for me by public transport to Stratford. A short taxi journey to the local train station, hop on a train to London, if I am lucky enough to get a straight through one it’s 30ish minutes. Off at Marylebone, hopefully the Station Guard who assisted me to access the train has called through to the guard at the trains final destination to help me disembark, without any problems or delays to the trains next journey – quite often this message either does not get through or hasn’t even been communicated to the person intended. So where does that leave me if the message does not get through? I have been to Marylebone enough to know I can just about manage to get off safely on my own. The platforms are just the right height, if I am careful, for me to be able to get off on my own. I practiced a lot with friends to ensure my safety before I was tempted to risk it on my own!
So after leaving Marylebone, I head down a street towards Bakers Street Station. After entering and making my way down the warren of tunnels I know I need the Jubilee Line and I end up on the correct platform totally confused as to which direction the tube train I’m about to get on is going. It pulls in with a screech of brakes, doors slide open and I wait a few moments for the masses of people to get off, I approach and see there is only an inch or so step I need to negotiate, my front casters are up and over and moved forward the necessary distance so they are in the train and then my head is forward and the rear wheels pushed to get my torso up the small step and I am in. The train movies away and I am scanning through the gaps between the travelers to see a map and try to work out how many stops I’ll be on here for. Luckily this particular time I am travelling in the right direction and can count the stops.
The train pulls in, the doors slide open and off we get. I know this destination station is fully accessible because it is a modern station. The lift is the safest option to the surface and then a short push to the venue. The slabs my wheelchair is rolling along now are smooth and it is a comfortable ride… my friend, or wife, whoever is lucky enough to join me at this epic concert venue is having to skip along to keep up…..