Catching up on recent trips out, I had a surprisingly good, very accessible, re-visit to the Royal Albert Hall (RAH) a couple of weeks ago to see Gregory Porter.
Surprising only because I’d been just once in my wheelchair, as a new wheelchair user many years ago, and my memory of that occasion was not a happy one. I remembered it being difficult for access, fraught with angst about how to get where amongst crowds of people and feeling like I was just ‘in the way’ all the time.
I’d not been back since but am now wondering if the difficulty and fraughtness was more down to my personal issues – hating my wheelchair-ness, my changed life as a new wheelchair user and my illness (adjustment issues, much, right?) – than the venue itself or maybe they’ve just upped their disability ‘game’ … as much as I have mine, I guess.
This time, it was all so much easier.
I saw that Gregory Porter was on at the RAH about nine months ago – ludicrous, I know, to have to book so far ahead but that’s just how it is – and, from my first contact with the box office, things began well.
The operator suggested the best roll-in space for me from the car park – she booked me in for the parking – to a ramped entrance which was directly across the corridor from the wheelchair space with D seated just below me.
The tickets duly arrived with the, tortuous but increasingly prevalent, entry instructions (it’s like getting into Fort Knox at some of these places even when you have a valid ticket. I’m dreading the Hamilton process which we’ll be braving soon).
On the night, everything worked really well.
Security on duty outside guided us in, opening barriers, and straight to a reserved spot. Having the parking out front was amazingly convenient. It takes away so much anxiety to know you can park easily and close by – so no need to struggle with London pavements and roads.
Access via the pavement D dropped me off on, up the ramp and rolling round to my space was a breeze. I barely had to get through the crowds at all because the distance was so short. And where it was busy, the stewards were so helpful in creating space for me. What a relief as big crowds, rushing, can be so un-wheelchair friendly.
Inside the Hall, which is a huge space holding over 5,000 people, we were about halfway up in height, at the rear of the stalls, and slightly towards the left in position to look at the stage. So, a decent view and place in this size venue which, let’s face it, is never going to feel intimate.
Sadly, Gregory Porter was not performing all my favourites of his as he’s on a Nat King Cole cover album promotion tour but his voice, as wonderful as always, is not to be missed live.
We exited as easily as we came in and drove home thrilled to have had such a relaxing night out all round.
Happy to recommend the RAH to fellow wheelchair users and to return myself to future events.