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Staying fit with a chronic health condition or disability

NB: This blog is my personal experience with chronic illness, disability and exercise and is not substitute for professional advice. 

Staying fit when you have a chronic illness or disability can be difficult. I know from past experience that maintaining my physical fitness does improve my overall health, both physically and mentally. Especially mentally.

My health took a decline in 2014 and after I came out of a 6-week hospital stay, I signed up to a gym membership at university. I’m not a fan of using the actual gym so I went to classes and loved them. Whilst my fitness levels were good, there was still certain things I couldn’t do because of my condition. I managed to build up quite a bit of stamina and felt good for it. It helped my pain levels and my heart symptoms. I felt less breathless and dizzy, and my joints were more stable.

Throughout that year, my gastro condition continued to worsen despite my increased physical fitness, and I was admitted Salford Royal Intestinal Failure Unit at the end of 2015. After I was discharged, I struggled to find a stable level of health. I struggled to maintain my nutrition, manage my pain and sickness, maintain my blood pressure and couldn’t tolerate being stood for long without getting dizzy, sick and breathless. As a result, I struggled to build up my fitness levels. I was also conscious of the fine line between maintaining a good level of fitness (and getting the benefits of that) and burning off the calories that I was struggling to get into my body.

And that’s how its been. My nutrition levels have been good and very stable for the past year. As I’ve previously mentioned, last year was not a good year physically or mentally. My new years resolution last year was to get fit again but after one session with a personal trainer, he cancelled the next session and then ignored me. This didn’t make me feel incredibly confident.

Early in the year, a friend recommended a personal trainer and I decided to send her a message. I explained my condition and limitations and she invited me to meet with her to talk more. Stella (aka, Neon Warrior Fitness) was fantastic. She did so much research on my conditions that she now knows more about them than I do. Then she put together a plan for me based on my own goals, strengths, weaknesses and limitations. She started me off really slowly so she could understand my body and what I could and couldn’t do and after a few weeks my heart was racing again.

My workout plans take into consideration my limitations so that I still get the same benefit as if they weren’t there. Stella puts together a circuit of different exercises each time. I do intense workouts whilst I’m sat or led down, and short exercises that challenge the issues I have with my blood pressure and heart, by pushing my tolerance for standing. Stella also monitors my heart and SATs when I’m doing more challenging or risky exercises. And I’m getting better at them!

Everyone has different goals but for me, improving my health is the only one. My goal was not weight loss or a six pack – I honestly couldn’t care less. I’ve put 3 stone on in the past 3 years and I couldn’t be happier. I want to feel better. I want to have more energy and have less pain. I want to be more functional. I know that when I’m fit, I bounce back quicker when I’m ill. When I’m fit, I get less unwell in bad periods of health. I also love the sense of achievement I feel after exercise or after I’ve reached a new goal, whether that’s managing a new exercise, more reps or heavier weights. Stella recognises all the achievements that matter to me and makes me feel amazing.

The reason I chose a personal trainer over independent training, classes or a gym membership was because I needed someone who could give me the professional expertise to overcome my barriers to exercise. I know where I want to get to and what my challenges are, and Stella knows how to help me get there. My GP had suggested referring me to physio as my stamina and energy levels were so poor, but I’ve been to physio so many times and feel like I know every trick in the book. So, I decided to try a personal trainer as an alternative to that.

I’m now 6 months into my training and the difference is massive. Before I started my PT I couldn’t even stand in the shower most days and climbing more than one flight of stairs was excruciating. Those days are gone!

I feel more confident managing my limitations. Not being able to stand for as long as other people does not need to be a barrier for me anymore. I can take walks and sit down as much as I want. I’ll still get the same benefits even if it takes me longer. I can workout at home using some of the exercises I’ve learned with Stella. I’ve also been on bike rides – something I’m really good at because it means I can do it all sat down! And recently, with plenty of sit downs, we managed to get to the top of the Oldman of Storr!

Mentally, exercise has really built up my confidence. I feel less anxious and much stronger. Being able to go for a workout or burn off some steam has been a great outlet to clear my head and boost my mood.

Working with a PT has probably been the best money I have ever spent on my health. The benefits have been priceless. I hope that eventually I will be able to get back to some classes and try more and more independent exercise. Having a health condition has often made me feel conscious and negative about my body. But I’m now much more confident and feel proud and in control of my body.

PT is best with dogs!
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A road trip to The Isle of Skye

‘We’re going to Brexit Britain’s very own Iceland.’ One of my Christmas presents from Jonny came in an A4 envelope. It was his handmade infopack for a holiday to the Isle of Skye. He’d booked it over Easter and in the chaos of mortgages and house buying it came at just the right time.

With the total journey being a nine-hour drive (ten from Jonny) we decided to stop off in Glasgow on the way there and Edinburgh on the way back to break the journey up. We didn’t get much time to explore either city as we spent most of the day travelling but we made time for a museum and a pizza in Glasgow, and a stroll around the city (and another pizza) in Edinburgh. I’d been to Edinburgh a few times before, but Glasgow was a first for both of us.

Glasgow

Glasgow was our first stop on Thursday and after unloading our bags and relocating rooms in the hotel, we headed out to the Gallery of Modern Art. We spent around an hour in the museum before closing but it probably needs a little more time to explore in properly. The gallery is on four floors with quite a lot of interesting work to cover. There’s also a café, a shop and a library.

The famous cone-mounted Duke of Wellington

Pizza Punks

From the museum, we headed over to Pizza Punks which had come recommended by my friend Emma. We are both in agreement that it was one of the best parts of the trip and 100% the best pizza we’ve ever had. Pizza Punks has a massive menu, with plenty of allergy friendly, gluten free and vegan options to choose from. And it’s delicious. We both opted for the ‘make your own’ pizza, where you can choose from different bases, sauces, cheeses and toppings. The pizzas are then cooked in an open kitchen within the restaurant. Do you ever get too old to appreciate that?

Jonny went for a sour dough base with meaty toppings and I went for a vegan pizza with all of my favourite things as well as vegan haggis. It was a milestone for me. I’m not supposed to eat dairy (but I do pick at it occasionally) and I have built up an aversion to vegan cheese after some nasty super market experiences, but the vegan cheese at Pizza Punks was to die for. I took most of my pizza away to graze on and it was all I could think about for the rest of the holiday. I would return to Glasgow for the pizza alone. Thanks for the recommendation, Emma!

McLay’s Guest House

We stayed in the McLays Guest House hotel whilst in Glasgow, and we accidentally booked a room with a shared bathroom, which was no good for me. Fortunately, there was an ensuite room available and they were able to move us across. The hotel was cheap and cheerful; the bathroom was falling apart a little bit, but the staff were lovely and helpful and it was absolutely fine for the night we were staying. They offered breakfast the next morning for an additional charge, but we had plenty of pizza left to be getting on with and hit the road to Skye nice and early.

Highland views

Jonny did all of the driving, which made it extremely chill for me. The drive down to Skye was exclusively A-roads and absolutely stunning. We drove through valleys of beautiful clear Scottish lochs overlooked by rocky, snow-topped mountains. The weather wasn’t great whilst we were down in Skye, but it pulled out the stops for both our drive down and back. The roads in the north of Scotland are littered with laybys with accompanying viewpoints. The drive was an attraction in itself and reminded us of a much brighter Icelandic Golden Circle.

 

Flodigarry Pods

Jonny had booked us the cosiest pod to stay in for the next 3 nights. The pod was on a farm. Out the front was an enormous field of sheep – there were baby lambs right on our doorstep! There are a lot of sheep in Skye – in fields, up mountains and wondering around the roadside. There were also chickens, a few cows and some gorgeous sheep dog on the farm. Beyond the field was a beautiful sea view. There were only two glamping pods, situated down the bottom of the farm driveway. The owners were really helpful and personable and pulled out all the stops when our shower broke. The location was absolutely beautiful. Even on a grey day, sitting out having breakfast and a morning tea on the porch looking out to sea was perfect.

The inside of our pod was extremely cosy with heated walls and floors. We had a bed, sofa, dining table, smart TV (with Netflix), hob, microwave, kettle, kitchen sink, fridge and freezer. All in our compact little pod. The beds were extremely comfortable and after long days walking in the fresh air, coming back to our cosy little pod was a dream.

Four days of bliss

So that’s what we did – lots of walks in the fresh air and lots of cosying up in our little pod. We stayed in Flodigarry which was an isolated area on the very north of the island. The nearest almost-amenities were a 15-minute drive away in Staffin which comprised of a community dining hall (recommended – we went for grub on our first night), a small convenience store and a beach. That was it until our nearest town – Portree – which was a 40-minute drive away.

Staffin Beach

There was so much natural beauty between Flodigarry and Portree. It was fresh and quiet with sea smells and polite bird sounds. When we arrived, the weather was turning but I was desperate to get to the beach. Staffin beach was accessed via a narrow slip road, with two car parking points. If you’re a good climber, you might be able to access the main beach (on the other side of a rock wall) but it was a bit too advanced for us. We managed a paddle in the sea, a boulder on some tamer rocks and a climb up one of the cliffs. I was really pleased with myself for getting further than a toddler we met on our way up.

Portree

From then on, I didn’t take my walking boots off. Despite the lack of amenities, we found it quite busy with walkers and tourists all around. I’ve never been somewhere so isolated with so many tourists. We travelled into Portree on our second day – a small harbour town with lots of lovely craft and outdoor shops and plenty of hostels too.

 

Scorrybreac Trail

After grabbing coffee and cake in the town, we walked down to Scorrybreac Trail walk, a short walk (approx. 40minutes – 1 hour) along the coast. The views were spectacular. I was amazed how clear and blue the water was around the rocks. We also spotted some fish farms that looked like space ships from the land. There were points on the walk that made me feel shakey due to the height and we also tackled a considerable hill climb – slowly but surely taking time to sit down and hyperventilate every 60 seconds. Once back on level ground, the walk took us through some moors and back into Portree where we stopped for a well-earned chippy at the very popular Lower Deck Seafood Restaurant. I had the most delicious tomato soup I have ever tasted.

 

Oldman of Storr

The highlight of our trip to Skye was our climb up the Oldman of Storr, later that afternoon. We later found out that Storr is classified as a mountain under UK standards and have been feeling very proud of ourselves ever since. Storr was one of the most challenging walks I have ever attempted. Not long after setting off, Jonny took to reassurance tactics with ‘it levels off just around that corner’. Friends, it did not level off just around that corner. It was incredibly steep, but with baby steps and sit downs we made it to the top! The downside to Storr is the gradient is absolutely relentless all the way up. It’s soul destroying seeing the length and height of the path in front of you and the climbers so far above you. The flipside is there are plenty of opportunities to sit down on the rocks (the ones, that you are climbing). The feeling when you get to the top is incredible. The sense of achievement is immense. The views are awesome. As it was so overcast, we couldn’t see the top from the bottom as it was covered by clouds. Setting off, we had no idea what we were letting ourselves in for. But it was worth it.

 

Dunvegan Castle

We went easy on ourselves the next day and opted for a run out to Dunvegan Castle and gardens (not even vegan!). Dunvegan Castle was an extremely hairy one-hour drive from Flodigarry. When I say hairy, I mean sedate yourself if you don’t like precarious single-track roads up the side of a mountain. I’m not good with heights and it was a white-knuckle experience for me. Thank God I wasn’t driving!

Despite the drizzly day, Dunvegan Castle was another island beauty. The gardens were full of pretty flowers, woodlands and waterfalls. You could also set off from the castle out on a seal trip (if you’re ok with choppy Scottish waters and dinghies). Inside the castle was full of history and you could even experience the dark, cramped dungeon. After we’d been through the castle, we browsed the shop (all of the highland cow merch!) and went to the café for some lunch before heading back to Flodigarry.

Flodigarry Fossil Walk

Our final walk came recommended from the folder in our pod. We decided to try it on our final day as it was very close by to where we were staying. It was called the ‘Flodigarry Fossil Trail’ and was definitely made up. The walk begins by parking down the bottom of someone’s drive, walking round the side of their house, across some quick-mud and out to the beach. Again – gorgeous views heading out to the beach which was the only saving grace of this walk. We then scrambled down some rocks and along said rocks for an unspecified amount of time. I honestly thought we’d get washed out to sea and never found.

At the (eventual) end of these rocks we came to a derelict old house and were instructed to enter the field through the kissing gate. The kissing gate was, at this point in time, guarded by some quite large, territorial looking cows. Jonny tested the waters, but they did not look happy, so I climbed over a fence and had to jump across a stream to join him. I am a vegetarian and did not want to be eaten by cows. The walk concluded by entering through someone’s back garden gate and walking past their kitchen window (where they were stood washing up). I would just like to use my experience to discourage anyone from taking the so called Flodigarry Fossil Trail. It is a lie. There were no fossils.

Ben Nevis

The sun showed up again for our final day in Skye and our drive back to Edinburgh. As Jonny had been doing a lot of driving on our holiday, we made compulsory stops at viewpoints every hour and called in some stunning locations from Lochside to mountainside. My favourite stop off was definitely Fort William where we looked out over the beautiful snow-topped Ben Nevis.

Edinburgh

We stayed at The Haymarket Hotel in Edinburgh, a short walk from the city centre. After a perfect, but exhausting 4 days, we sat in the beautiful park for most of the afternoon before heading to Pizza Express for our last meal in Scotland.

Take me back!

Thanks to my excellent boyfriend for an excellent Christmas present – it was absolutely perfect. I highly recommend Skye (and definitely the Flodigarry pods) for anyone in need of a refreshing and destressing break away. It’s a beautiful Island with beautiful views, towns and walks. I would definitely go back – you don’t have to ask me twice, just take me back!

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One year on – opening up about my mental health

I’ve never spoken about my mental health publicly before and this is possibly the most nervous I’ve ever been about publishing a blog. I’m in awe of all the people who speak about it so openly and honestly (and publicly) when they’re in the midst of feeling terrible.

Last year was a rough one emotionally and I didn’t blog. I blog about disability but at the time, I was really uncomfortable with myself. Carly Findlay’s recent book (Say Hello, which I ordered from Australia and will be reviewing in full at some point) helped me learn something important: I can be a blogger and activist and still not want to talk about my disability all the time. I can disclose some parts of my disability and not all. I can talk about some personal things if I want to and that doesn’t give people the right to know everything. 90% of my blogs are live music related. I often write about how I don’t like talking about my disability when I go to a gig. But won’t people wonder why I talk openly as an activist and yet I don’t leap at the chance to educate venue staff on disability?

The Vaccines performing on ‘that night’

Today, as I write this, is a year on from an incident at a venue where I was forced to talk to multiple venue staff about my disability. Then I spoke to online trolls about the incident. Not for the first time online, I was told it was not essential for me to leave the house and participate in activities that everyone else does (from work to gigs). It’s ‘demanding’ to expect equal access.

At a gig last year, I was told that I didn’t have the right to be there, I was an awkward customer and that whether or not I was disabled was ‘my choice’. At the same event, I had staff members abuse the radar key and enter the accessible toilet while I was unwell, invading my dignity and privacy. I was harassed and repeatedly brought out of the event where I was watching live music with my friends. I was asked questions about my disability and spoken down to by 7-foot security guards who laughed in my face before getting their colleagues to repeat the process.

The way I was treated was because they thought they could. Because they thought it was acceptable.

It made me feel like a second-class human and like I didn’t have any right to be involved in society. I was an embarrassment and burden to my friends, who do so much to ensure that I can do the things I enjoy even if that means it’s a different experience than if they were to do things without me. Whilst I’m no stranger to being asked questions by strangers and told my serious, painful, exhausting, genetic disease isn’t a disability, this was the worst I have ever experienced. I was scared and anxious that it could happen again at any time.

When we arrived at the venue before the music started. I was anxious anyway but little did we know.

I pride myself on being self-motivated, keeping busy with my mind often buzzing with ideas to write down and things to plan or do or see. But last year I went blank – no motivation and no ideas. I spent a lot of evenings coming in from work and sitting in silence. Sometimes I came home, cried for a few hours and then went to bed. I got stressed and worked up at absolutely everything. I didn’t want to write or talk about my disability any more and I certainly didn’t want to go to gigs.

I had a few gigs already in the pipeline and they made me incredibly anxious. I cancelled one.

It didn’t help that by the end of the year, I had 6 months left to find a new job. I’d had two unsuccessful interviews and a house that I would have to soon have to sell in anticipation that I couldn’t pay the mortgage. I felt even more tired all the time and I always had a mouthful of ulcers. I couldn’t be bothered with my health and there were days when I didn’t take my medication.

Feeling anxious, self-conscious and uncomfortable with my disability is not new. Whilst I’ve never spoken about it, I had counselling through my deteriorating health whilst I was at uni. This helped me accept the idea that I was disabled and different. Starting my blog was part of that process of talking about my disability. It helped me feel less anxious about myself because questions inevitably arose.

I had never experienced depression. My health and disability had never made me feel down or sad, but it had made me incredibly anxious. I’d had counselling before from the age of 6-16 years and also tried medication as a young teenager. Whilst I found the counselling I had as a teenager and at uni helpful to an extent, I’ve never been good enough at talking about my problems to make any real headway. That’s why writing helps. I often wrote things down as a child, just for myself. I still do now. Sometimes I get my laptop out if I’m feeling stressed and the words just come to me. Feeling low last year stunted my ability to write things down because I never had the words. I was just blank.

 

Healing

I took time over Christmas just for me. I read ‘Notes on a nervous planet’ by Matt Haig and I started to learn ways to heal. It was good to hear that Matt also didn’t find therapy or medication useful, but that self-care and experimentation can be as powerful for those it works for. Matt found running and exercising helpful for him as well as turning off social media. I also find self-care the best medicine. After finishing Matt’s book, I started to look after myself a little more.

I took a recommendation from a friend and spoke to a personal trainer about getting back into exercise and working around my limitations. I’ve been working with her for 6months and her coaching has boosted my mood and confidence infinitely. It’s made me feel physically and mentally strong.

 

I’ve cut down on gigs. Other than my rescheduled Vaccines gig and volunteering at Download I don’t have any in the pipeline. For a long time, I saw cutting out gigs as defeat. But at the moment it means that I’m not in a permanent anxiety cycle. I know that live music is wonderful. I attended the BBC 6 Music Festival recently. Whilst I inevitably felt stressed and anxious in the lead up, it reminded me that I do have the right to be there and it reminded me that live music is the best thing in the world.

Anna Calvi performing at BBC 6 Music Festival
Anna Calvi performing at BBC 6 Music Festival

I also read a book by Matt Haig called ‘How to Stop Time’ and there’s a line in the book that goes: ‘Everything will be alright and if it isn’t everything will just be, so let’s not worry.’ I’ve tried to apply this as my mantra. I gave myself permission to worry less about jobs and houses and mortgages and accept that I would survive being jobless and mortgage-less. At the beginning of March, I got offered a new job in a new city. A week later, Jonny also got a new job in the same city. I’ve accepted an offer on my house and had an offer accepted on our first home together.

‘…everything will just be.’

I’m not back to where I was before the incident and maybe I never will be, but I feel like I’m doing well and things are looking up.

2019 is going to be better than 2018.

Arni, bassist from the Vaccines, supporting Attitude is Everything’s ‘Music Without Barriers’ campaign in 2017 because he thinks live music is for everyone!

Here are some handy resources surrounding issues I’ve raised in this blog…

Mental health support:

Samaritans – https://www.samaritans.org/

CALM – https://www.thecalmzone.net/

Mind – https://www.mind.org.uk/

Youth Mental Health Matters – https://www.youthmentalhealthmatters.net/

Books:

Carly Findlay – http://carlyfindlay.com.au/

Matt Haig – http://www.matthaig.com/

Access to live music:

Attitude is Everything – http://attitudeiseverything.org.uk/

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Your experience is valid

You may have recently seen a video of a wheelchair user standing up at his wedding with the help of his friends. The video has sparked a range of reactions from sympathy, to inspiration, to solidarity, to anger from the disabled community that the man is somehow being ‘untrue’ to himself.
I work in patient experience and my job is to ensure that lived experiences are central to decisions – from the way patients are treated in hospital, to the opportunities and support that are provided in the community. This isn’t one size fits all. One person will tell you they prefer one thing and another will have a completely different opinion. An example of this is a piece of work I’ve been doing recently with people affected by cancer, looking at the way information is given at diagnosis. Some people will tell you that they felt ‘information overload’ and that receiving booklets of information after receiving a cancer diagnosis felt inappropriate, and some people will tell you they want as much information as possible about their cancer and treatment. Neither of them are wrong. They are both right and we can listen to them both without invalidating the opinions of another.
This isn’t the first time I’ve felt uncomfortable by campaigns by disability activists. It’s great that people can use their voices and social media is a superb platform for offering your experiences to people who may not have the same understanding. But just because someone has a different experience to you, that doesn’t mean your experience is invalid.
An example is of this is the way we use language to talk about disability. It’s true there are terms that may be deemed outdated. I don’t like being referred to as ‘handicapped’ and I know many of my friends feel the same. But I’ve met older disabled people who happily refer to themselves as handicapped. That is not wrong. Everyone is welcome to identify the way they wish. If someone referred to me in that way, I’d correct them and explain why – it makes me feel like Tiny Tim. Many of us proudly use the term ‘disabled’ as an identity. But in 30 years time, when a new generation of disabled people are using their voices, how would we feel if they told us to change because it isn’t their preference?
Contrary to the feelings of quite a large group of disabled people, I don’t mind using the term ‘suffer’ to refer to myself or my condition. As long as it’s used appropriately. The truth is, I do suffer. I’m in pain all the time. I have nausea, vomiting, exhaustion, joint pain, blackouts and I lose sleep because I have organs that don’t work properly. Whilst that is true, I would hate for someone to use my suffering as a way of evoking sympathy. Or to suggest that my disability and the way I am is something to fear and hide from and be ashamed of. Suffering and having a terrible life are not synonymous. Without sounding too dark, suffering is a part of life. If you don’t have a disability or long-term health condition, you’ll probably still experience suffering at some point in your life. We don’t need to feel sorry for people who suffer.
Just because I use that terminology does not make someone else’s experience and identification wrong. Many people with a disability may feel that it does not cause them any suffering. Everyone views themselves differently and nobody knows you better than you.
As a child and teenager I used a wheelchair. For some of that time it was because I didn’t have the energy to move around without one and for some of that time I couldn’t physically stand up due to shortened tendons. I learnt to walk again when I was 17. I used crutches to get about for two years. Sometimes I still need to use them.
I didn’t learn to walk again because I wanted to be normal. I didn’t ‘regain my mobility again’ by learning to walk. I had mobility as a wheelchair user. My wheelchair was my mobility. I learnt to walk again because it was good for my body. This isn’t the case for everyone and I’m not a better or lesser person for the path my life took.
Learning to walk as a 17 year old was the hardest thing I have ever experienced in my life. It was so painful. And it was frustrating and seemed to take forever. But using my wheelchair also caused pain and problems to my body. So I tried really hard to find new ways of working with my body. My quality of life was always the most important part of the process and I still continued to use my chair when using my legs compromised that. I would continue to do so now if it felt necessary. Yes, I struggled with the perceptions of others as a teenage wheelchair user, but that was never my motivation for not using my chair. My motivation was always to make the healthiest decisions and have the best quality of life.
Just because someone wants to stand up out of a wheelchair or undergoes surgery or physiotherapy to change the way they get around does not mean they are in denial. Just because someone continues to use a wheelchair does not mean they are weaker or that they are giving in. Everybody’s lives and experiences are different and they are all valid.
I love the way that people proudly talk about using their chair, walking aids or other adaptations. A younger me would have benefited from that so much – and a 26 year old me still does and continues to learn. Keep telling people that it’s ok to be disabled, and it can bring lots of wonderful things. Nobody is inspiring for being disabled and nobody is inspiring for standing up – from a wheelchair or otherwise. This is a really important message.
I’m definitely an advocate for sharing your experiences because it could help someone find their own identity. But everyone has different choices and preferences and it’s not OK to assume the way someone else feels based on your own experience.
Your experiences are only yours. They are valid and they are right.
Don’t compare yourself to others and just as importantly don’t compare others to you.
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Iceland Airwaves 2018

For better and for worse, Iceland Airwaves is like no other festival you’ll have experienced. Mostly for the better.

We booked our tickets during the early bird period meaning they were cheaper (£100 each) and at this point we didn’t have any line-up or accessibility information. I’ve been eyeing up Airwaves Festival for years and catching up on the highlights from home so I was desperate to go. We decided to take a gamble, and if the line-up wasn’t for us or if it wasn’t accessible we’d just accept the loss and find something else to do – we’d be in Iceland after all!

We did manage the festival though and we saw lots of it.

Wednesday

The first gig we saw, and one of my favourite moments of the entire festival, was Olafur Arnlads recording a live session at Kex Hostel (the living room of your dreams). We arrived early, and despite being a junkyard of long tables, sofas and chairs, there was nowhere available to sit. An audience was forming on the floor, close to the performing corner as if waiting for a story. Jonny and I found a space to sit on a rug behind the sound booth.

Olafur Arnalds

Olafur creates a sea of silence when he plays. His piano was delicate, gentle, soothing, warming – you would have heard a pin drop. Everything was calm, a hundred people were hypnotised and I could have sat on the rug and listened to him play for the remainder of the holiday. I’d like to see sitting rug space become the norm for gigs in 2019.

A standard had been set and the bar was maintained throughout the festival.

Our next stop was Hildur and we discovered Reykjavik Art Museum. Prior to her performance we were able to sit in a massive glass window and look out over Reykjavik Harbour – it was perfect.

Hildur

I’d heard of Hildur the previous year and she pulled a great crowd in the largest venue at the festival. Hildur won an Icelandic Music Award in 2017 and had more fresh material to perform at Airwaves which we were lucky to catch for the first time at the festival. Hildur is dreamy, poppy, hugely likable and basically a heroine through her power and passion which is written all over her stage presence. If you haven’t heard of her, her latest single Picture Perfect is waiting to be your favourite song of 2019.

For the rest of the night we did a bit of wandering, starting in Idno which got too full to stick around, then moved on to the heavy noise and colour of Gaukurinn.

Thursday

Thursday was another corker starting with some exitotic indie beats produced by the five-piece that is Flamingods (Jonny got me a belting EP for Christmas to follow-up from this gig). In 2017 I discovered a new brand of alternative music and found myself drifting towards happy tribal noises. Flamingods is filling this particular spec very nicely. Contrasting with the icey views out of the windows of Kex Hostel, Flamingods teleport you to a space desert. We stood for most of the performance and we were captivated.

Flamingods

Asgier was one of the acts I was looking forward to the most. He was doing a short live radio performance on Thursday afternoon at Skuli Craft Bar before his main performance on Saturday. Despite getting there early, we had to watch from outside due to the venue being full. I managed to peer in through one of the windows for a short while, but we listened to most of his performance from a gazebo next to the bar, under a heat lamp, in a frosty Icelandic town square where his performance was played through speakers.

img_20181108_181816.jpg
Asgier (through a window)

It was incredibly Icelandic, and he sounded as charming and idyllic as I’d hoped. We didn’t make it to his main performance (or out to the festival at all on Saturday), but it was great to hear his live radio set and hear him chat away about his music at Skuli.

We headed back to Kex Hostel for the next performance – a fair walk out from the rest of the venues but such a warm and welcoming treat when you arrive. We were there to see Fontaines D.C and they created some of the loudest punk noise of the festival. Fontaines D.C have a sound that was made to sound fresh, raw and loud live. They filled an already full Kex Hostel with an Irish charm that is pretty and rough and tasty all at once.

Fontaines D.C

Our Thursday finale was Superorganism who may have sound tracked our Iceland holiday (as well as my entire 2018 and probably my 2019). They played the entirety of their debut album making us feel happy and hypnotised and pleasantly disorientated. I was so excited for their performance. Towards the end of their performance they played Everybody Wants to Be Famous which is one of my all-time favourite songs. Owing to technical difficulties they announced they would play it twice and I peaked. I wondered how Superorganism would be topped.

Superorganism – Everybody wants to be extremely grainy

Friday

Friday was the best day for both of us and Mammut was the highlight of our holiday. We hadn’t been to Gamla Bio yet, so we wanted to make sure we arrived early to get a good view. We had to queue for a while but then we got an amazing spot up on the balcony where we stayed for the following 3 acts. Between Mountains were up first and they serenaded us with Icelandic folk music that was beautiful, eerie and soul-soothing. Between Mountains have incredible talent and control over their music. They’re only 16 and 18 years old but have been performing for a couple of years already. I’m really excited to see where they go in future.

Between Mountains

Fufanu were up next. They were lively as hell and so much fun! This was my first experience of Fufanu and I was very much on board. Fufanu are an alternative techno band who use huge beats to create an enormous sound. The drumming was a force of possession (Erling Bang) and their front man (Kaktus Einarsson) had more energy than a child on blue smarties. They were an absolute treat to watch. Jonny has really enjoyed listening to Fufanu since returning so I bought him a pile of goodies for Christmas.

Fufanu

Mammut followed Fufanu and our Iceland experience peaked. I have been a fan of Mammut for at least 2 years now and I was beyond excited to be catching them in their homeland. Gamla Bio was such a wonderful venue to hear them in with its grandeur matching their massive sound. To me, Mammut are the heart and soul of Icelandic music. Simultaneously eerie and highly addictive. Mammut are more of an experience than a band. They have elements that are poetic and heavy and soft and fierce and visual. I heard they’ve been playing together since they were pretty young and whilst they’ve had some changes this year after losing their drummer, they still sound polished to perfection. Mammut are powerful enough to make your skin tingle and your brain vibrate. They were savoured whilst onstage and mourned the minute they left. Not only the most memorable moment in Iceland but one of the most memorable live performances I’ve ever seen. I’m pining to see them again, but I can’t imagine ever seeing them in a venue so well suited as Gamla Bio.

Mammut

We wandered around for the rest of the night, catching Sorry at Gaukurrin and then catching part of The Voidz back at Gamla Bio (sat on the floor by the door this time). Friday was the last day of the festival for us as we (well, I) was too exhausted to go out on Saturday, so I said goodbye to the festival and gave my body a night to recover.

Access stuff

Not long after purchasing our tickets, we decided to upgrade to VIP. The VIP package offered separate viewing areas and queue jumping (capacity permitting) and so we thought this was probably a useful access tool if all else failed. The upgrades were £70 but included a bag full of goodies including an Airwaves tote bag, a t-shirt, a thermal hat, chocolate, moisturiser and a festival programme. The VIP package proved worth every penny both as a disabled person and a gig-goer.

If I hadn’t purchased a VIP upgrade, I’m not sure I would have been able to see much of the festival. One of the VIP areas was one of the only areas in the festival with seating and whilst we still took part in an awful lot of queuing it was considerably less than it would have been otherwise. The seating area at Reykjavik Art Museum was our go to venue when we needed a rest. A venue like this is a godsend at a multi-venue festival and allowed me to stay out for longer and enjoy the festival.

Being in the VIP queue at Gamla Bio meant that we were first in the venue and got the only seat in the house. If I went back to Airwaves again (and I must!) I wouldn’t hesitate to upgrade to VIP. In fact, I wouldn’t go otherwise. If you’re thinking of trying out Iceland Airwaves, whether disabled or not, I highly recommend the upgrade. It’s an extremely busy festival (like nothing you’ve ever seen before) and venues are at capacity very quickly. If you want to enjoy the festival, see as much music as possible and cut down the amount of time stood in a queue, get an upgrade. £170 for a 4-day festival is not unreasonable.

Soon after booking tickets, I found an email address to contact about disabled access. We exchanged many detailed and friendly emails with Will, head of marketing and ops at Iceland Airwaves who had such a lot of patience and did his best to pull together some useful information for us. He arranged for us to pick up disabled access bands which, he said would allow us priority as long as the venue had capacity. This was extra reassurance with our VIP wristbands, but we didn’t really need to use them as we didn’t feel it could offer any more than the VIP bands. The VIP bands alone made the festival about as accessible as it could be.

The festival certainly had limitations. In many ways it was highly inaccessible. I really struggled in the queues even though we were given priority. We often had to arrive half an hour early for venues to open so we could get in before they reached capacity. The festival itself didn’t seem to have a capacity limit meaning there were more people than they could fit in venues. The crowd tracker was a really useful tool as it told you how busy venues were and sent out a notification when venues were nearing capacity and then again at full capacity.

Many of the venues didn’t have any crowd control. We stood at the back of Idno crowd and kept moving backwards as it got busier until it was so full we were stood outside. For performances at other venues, we didn’t make it inside at all and were stood outside watching through the windows as the crowds spilled out onto the streets. For many performances, it didn’t matter whether a venue was accessible or not because you couldn’t get inside anyway.

If you’re going as a disabled gig-goer my advice would be to get in touch before-hand and let them know your specific requirements, so they can advise the best course of action. They were really helpful. They also offer PA tickets, so utilise that if you need to. Use the app and the crowd tracker, upgrade to VIP, plan meticulously and get to all your performances early. Lastly – explore! Whilst Airwaves is an incredibly busy festival, its also nice and relaxed with a great atmosphere and lots of fun people to bump into and chat to. Everyone will have a recommendation for you!

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Iceland, November 2018

Iceland is my new spiritual home. I loved everything about Iceland and its perfect way of life. Almost as unforgettable as the breath-taking landscape, must-do lagoons, boat trips, caves and the jam-packed 4-day music festival is the standard of indoor heating. The holiday was back to back memorable moments, from the cosy little apartment I now call ‘our home’, to the trips, the scenery, the food, the city and most importantly the music. It’s been 2 months since we arrived back from Iceland, and whilst it’s been a two-month period of recovery that I am only just emerging from, I’ve finally sat down to write it up (grab a brew!).

Accommodation

After booking tickets to our bucket list festival, our next pay out was for accommodation. We did a little research on what was on offer and the best places to stay – from hotels, to hostels, to Airbnbs. The hotels were expensive as was anything right in the city centre, but we didn’t want to be too far out as we knew we’d be spending a lot of time (and late nights) in Reykjavik at the festival.

We found a reasonably priced and extremely cosy Nordic looking Airbnb studio advertised as a 15-minute walk from the city centre. The walk turned out to be a little longer once we got there but otherwise, it was just what we were looking for. Our host was friendly, answered our queries quickly and gave us all the information we needed for our arrival. The apartment was small and cosy but with everything we needed.

I absolutely loved spending time curled up under blankets on the sofa watching Netflix (a ridiculous amount of Peep Show considering how busy we were) and Kexp Radio shows of the bands we were seeing.

I was glad to have our own kitchen, not knowing how I’d get on with food or if I would be able to eat out, as well as the fact that we’d heard Icelandic dining was expensive. The kitchen had an oven, a hob, microwave, fridge freezer, toaster and kettle meaning that I was able to do a little bit of cooking whilst we were there (a curry and late night curly fries) and we could lie in and make breakfast before heading out. The apartment was warm, cosy and absolutely perfect.

The only downside of our accommodation was that it was more like a 40-minute walk to Reykjavik, meaning that we only did it once. Fortunately, there was a bus stop really close to our apartment (all busses in Reykjavik are accessible!). The busses were regular, circular and ran until gone midnight which was convenient. We used an app for our tickets and happily shuttled back and forth between Reykjavik and rest breaks.

If we went back to Reykjavik (and we will!) we would definitely stay in ‘our’ apartment again. It was a perfect, cosy home from home.

[View it here]

Reykjavik

We walked into Reykjavik soon after we arrived at our apartment at about 5pm. From where we were staying it was downhill to the city centre but a long trudge back up. Reykjavik’s aesthetic is truly picturesque and warmly welcoming on a chilly day; washed out pastel buildings with bright roof tops, modern glass venues sharing space with man-made lakes and rustic hostels and of course Reykjavik’s main landmark, the grand futuristic Hallgrímskirkja cathedral (which looks beautiful at night).

You may have heard that Iceland is expensive – it is. We paid £35 for half a loaf of bread, a small packet of tea bags and 6 bottles of water. But not all the rumours are true. We didn’t find eating out too expensive compared with eating in. The Icelandic cuisine is not as wacky and primitive as you’re led to believe and they don’t actually like eating whale. Eating whale is a tourist tradition and most restaurants in Reykjavik take a stand against whaling by advertising the ‘Meet us don’t eat us’ sticker in their windows.

There is, however, plenty of fish to be had. As a vegetarian this wasn’t for me, but Jonny sampled several different plates and recommends Reykjavik Fish Restaurant as his favourite. He also sampled some of Reykjavik’s famous hot dog stands which were widely recommended to us. He reviews them as ‘excellent, better than Ikea’.

I’d heard that I’d struggle as a vegetarian but that wasn’t the case. Not only do most restaurants in Reykjavik have vegetarian and vegan options but I found them to be absolutely delicious. Whether you’re vegetarian or vegan, I highly recommend trying some Icelandic falafel which is the best I’ve ever tasted. The bar has been set far too high to buy it back home. The falafel in Frederiksen Ale House (extremely warm, comfy and cosy with cheap drinks at happy hour) was my favourite, and after trying it on the first night, I was desperate to go back a second time – so we did. Having got a taste for it straight away, I almost exclusively ate falafel for the duration of our trip.

We spent Saturday browsing the high street and back alleys of the city centre hopping from art shops to second hand shops jam packed with the largest selection of vintage Nordic knitwear I have ever laid eyes on. Our chief concern was music pick-ups because the Reykjavik record shops are a goldmine to get lost in. I was thrilled to pick up both of Mammut’s albums, the day after we’d seen them live, especially after struggling to get my hands on them back home. Jonny picked up some classic Bjork as well as some Fufanu, an Icelandic alt-techno band that we’d discovered at the festival.

Between every side street that separates the city from the sea front, you’ll find a view like this:

Like us, you might find yourself ‘just nipping down’ to have a look and spending an hour enduring a face full of wind whilst attempting to take in the beautiful scenery.

 

Blue Lagoon (day 3)

cof

If you’re heading to Iceland, the Blue Lagoon is an absolute must do. With the exception of the Northern Lights, it might be Iceland’s busiest tourist attraction. We didn’t want to book too much with having the festival to keep us busy, but this was high up on my list. I absolutely love spas and the Blue Lagoon is as good as it gets. It was the first attraction we visited.

We booked our tickets online in advance and we were able pick from two packages – comfort and premium. We picked the comfort package which offered 4 hours in the lagoon, a towel, a free drink in the pool and a silica mask. We paid 6990ISK each which works out just short of £50. For an extra £20, the premium package offers a bath robe (as well as towel), slippers, a free drink in the pool, a table reservation in their restaurant and free sparkling wine when dining. As we weren’t too bothered about dining, the comfort package was enough. Whilst you do get a free towel, I highly recommend taking your own too and leaving it in the changing room. The towels are quite small, and after you’ve hung it up outside (with fifty-odd other towels) and the wind has blown it half way across the lagoon, you’re going to end up going back into the changing room with someone else’s. I was so glad I took my own towel as it would have been a huge infection risk for my tube site.

The day we visited was probably the coldest and windiest day that we were in Iceland. This made for a brave dash from the changing rooms into the pool. However, once you hit the water, the warmth is an instant hit and I was so toasty and relaxed. The lagoon is quite large with seated areas throughout and a lovely little circuit to drift round. Towards the back of the lagoon, there’s a bar and with either package you can have one free drink. We got given bands when we arrived which could be used for our lockers and scanned for our drinks. Despite being in chilly Iceland, we both had a nice cold blue slush which went down well in the heat of the lagoon.

Throughout the pool, there are several generators covered in rock and the closer you get to the generators, the hotter it gets. I’m the sort of person that likes to boil myself like a potato in the bath so I couldn’t help drift towards the seats around the generator, but it was too hot for Jonny. Further towards the front of the lagoon (at the end of our circuit), there’s a hut where we could grab a handful of silica face mask. We were told to leave the mask on for 15 minutes and then rinse it off in the lagoon. My face was so soft afterwards. There’s also a waterfall close to the mask hut which is great for anyone who enjoys a heavy massage, but lovely and relaxing to sit by and listen to.

Whilst we were allowed to stay in the pool for 4 hours, we couldn’t stay in very long as I needed to get back to my feed. However, for me, it was totally worth the money. We really enjoyed our time in the lagoon and it was such a perfect experience. I want to feel so good all over again.

Accessibility information was really difficult to find for the Blue Lagoon. It’s on their web page, but I had to email them to find out. Even after clicking through all the pages and searching the terms ‘accessibility’, ‘disabled’ etc, I still couldn’t find anything. It turns out, provisions are very good and you can find all they have to offer here.

The entrance to the pool is via a wide ramp so easy to get into. As the water is concentrated with silica, it’s very thick and dense so I found it quite difficult to move through. The silica will also leave your hair feeling really thick and stiff afterwards. This is fine (and good!) if you have thin, limp hair like me (I use silica powder on my hair anyway) but might be a nightmare for people with thick or frizzy hair. In the changing room, they have their own special shampoo and conditioner which works an absolute treat for getting it out. It makes your hair feel so nice. I looked at it in the gift shop afterward, but it was a bit too expensive to justify.

Lava Tunnel (day 4)

Whilst I was well aware that Iceland is famous for its volcanoes, the Lava Tunnel was not something I’d heard of. Jonny found this lesser known gem whilst doing a bit of research and we were intrigued so decided to book. Firstly, I should state that this is quite an inaccessible attraction. The tunnel itself is not long and has plenty of opportunities to sit down. The tour guide stops every couple of minutes to give a talk and this is the perfect opportunity to sit down on a rock and catch your breath.

For the first part of the tour, there’s no clear path and it’s almost a rock-climbing expedition. The floor is uneven, and it can be a little slippery in places. Once you’re over the initial mound of rocks, you enter onto a grated platform bridge and the rest is flat and easy to walk on (with the exception of a few steps).

The Lava Tunnel, by nature was a very cold attraction. Before we started the tour we met in the reception hut and we were given a hard hat and head torch to wear and our tour guide ran through some health and safety rules.

The first part of the tunnel was full of rocks and we were given some really interesting talks – if you’re into geology, it’ll be so far up your street. We were told about the different rock in the tunnel and how it was formed by a stream of lava.  This most likely happened around the time of the earth’s creation! The walls in the cave are formed of different colours and textures all as a result of how the lava interacted with the earth and then corroded over the years.

There were holes in the roof of the tunnel to begin with, but as we got further in the tunnel got smaller and we were lit by artificial lights. Near to the end of the tunnel, we reached a viewing platform and we were all asked to take a seat. What happened next was the coolest part of the tour. We were first asked if there was anyone on the tour who didn’t like the dark and after there were no objections, we were told to turn off our head torches and close our eyes. Seconds later, we were asked to open them again and it was pitch black – complete darkness. There was complete silence and our tour guide let us sit for a minute in darkness, listening to the sounds and feeling the atmosphere of the cave. It was amazing. We only walked a little further after this before we reached the end of the tunnel. Our tour guide took pictures of us all at this point and then we were allowed to make our own way back, exploring, touching and taking in the natural aura of the cave.

Whale Watch (day 6)

The whale watch was the last attraction we booked. Going on a whale watch has been so close to the top of my to do list for as long as I can remember. I’ve had a fascination with sea life and the ocean since I was younger (my first experience of campaigning was with Shark Trust when I was 13). I used to fantasise about seeing whales in the wild (in my head, I was always somewhere more exotic). That said, I was reluctant to book because I have terrible sea sickness and I know that Iceland is notorious for windy, choppy waters. However, I would have kicked myself if I’d have gone all the way to Iceland and not done it, so we bit the bullet and I’m so glad we did.

It could have gone either way. A few days prior, someone we met at the festival told us that some trips had been cancelled due to rough waters (this did nothing to easy my concerns).

We were incredibly lucky on our whale watch. Day 6 was the calmest day that we were in Iceland and the waters were so still. I could hardly tell I was on a boat. Not only was the weather kind to us, but so were the whales. We were told that we had about a 60% of seeing ‘something’. This didn’t necessarily mean a whale. It could mean dolphins or puffins or other sea life. On our way back, our tour guide declared that he’d remember our watch for a long time and that it was the most successful one he’d been on. We ended up staying out in the waters for an extra hour, following an enormous pod of dolphins. There were some tourists on our boat that even missed their flight for it!

The boat that we chose to book on (named Andrea) had three decks – two indoor decks (with the middle deck having an onboard café) and a top deck. It was lovely and warm on the middle and lower decks – a nice cosy spot to come inside and warm up with a cup of tea in between lookouts. The top deck was extremely chilly, but also where all the action happened. The guide stood up top and spoke to us through a PA system and we were told to treat the boat like a clock and spread out. If we saw something, we called out the direction on the clock and the guide would announce it so all decks could hear. And we saw a lot. We saw a few puffins, two pods of porpoise, a Minke whale and lastly that huge pod of dolphins. Seeing animals in the wild is incredible and such a different experience to seeing them in an aquarium. After initials gasps of awe and excitement it was so quiet whenever we had a spot. We were absolutely captivated.

The tour lasted approximately five and a half hours and took well over an hour to get back. On our way back to the dock, we gathered in the café and our tour guide gave us some talks about whales, including sharing round some whale parts like jawbones and filter teeth.

We paid approximately £50 each for our whale watch tickets and it was worth every penny. I’m so pleased that I got to do a whale watch and so lucky that we saw so much. Mostly, I’m thankful that I can tick it off my list and that it is memorable for the sea life and not because I spent 6 hours vomiting.

Golden Circle (day 7)

The Golden Circle was Jonny’s choice and was a 6 hour round car journey (including stops) filled with breath-taking natural beauty. By this point of the holiday, I was fully intending on sitting in the car and napping whilst Jonny chauffeured me round like a diva, but the stop-offs were too good to miss. Making the decision to hire a car from the airport when we arrived was worth it for this trip alone. We hired an enormous Dacia Duster that we both had a go at driving throughout our holiday. Jonny offered to do the driving (/hogged the steering wheel) for most of the trip but I’m not complaining. I didn’t envy him the 6-hour Golden Circle journey but apparently, he really enjoyed it!

We only got out the car on 3 of the stops, but drove round the entire circuit. The drive alone is filled with absolutely beautiful scenery. Like most of Iceland, you can barely open your eyes without being hit by an incredible view.

Þingvellir

Þingvellir (pronounced ‘Thing-vil-er in English) is a stunning national park that sits on a valley separated by two tectonic plates. You can access the viewing platforms fairly easily where you can look out over the valley of rocks. From there, you can see the old Þingvellir church – a quaint white monument amongst the golden landscape. If you have a bit more time to spare you can go on a hike through the valley, a history tour or even diving in one of the (beautifully clear) bodies of water. If you can make time and energy for a hike, you can cross the continental divide between Europe and North America.

Gulfoss

Gulfoss was loud, wet, windy, noisy and the coldest temperature I have ever experienced. So cold and wet, it can feel hard to breathe. The size of the waterfall is astounding. From the top, there are three large steps. It is 32metres in height with the largest (final) drop making up 21metres of waterfall. Whilst the waterfall itself is difficult to turn away from, the conditions made it difficult to hang around.

Geysir

It is as cool as the pictures you’ve seen. Geysir is the name of the main eruption site (Great Geysir) and geysers all over the world get their name from it. The Great Geysir erupts sporadically and often stops completely. Strokkur is the name of the geyser that we saw erupt – this erupts every few minutes to a height of about 30 metres, just less than half of the current height of the Great Geysir. We hung about to watch it go off a couple of times and Jonny managed to get this awesome video. His phone added this appropriate music which cannot be removed (but why would we want to?).

 

Well done if you made it to the end! The main reason we went to Iceland was for Iceland Airwaves music festival so I have another blog post on that still to come. Stay tuned for my festival review, which will be posted later this week…

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REVIEW: Teleman and C.A.R at Hangar 34, Liverpool // 05.10.2018

Whatever phase my listening habits are going through, I’m always itching for my next Teleman gig. This was the third time I’ve caught Teleman live, having seen them at two different venues in Liverpool previously – first at The Buyer’s Club and then and Leaf. When Teleman announced their tour earlier in the year, I flicked through to see where they were on at. I hadn’t been to Hangar 34 before and hadn’t heard too much about the venue.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that I’ve been trying to take a bit of a break from gigging this year, and with it being a venue I hadn’t been to before, I was hesitant, so I laid off buying tickets. I have my trusty favourite venues – like Manchester Academy and Manchester Albert Hall – where I can relax and have a good time without having to worry about accessibility and attitudes towards my disability. There’s no safety net when attending a new venue, so I haven’t been so adventurous with new places this year.

A month or so before, I was having a catch-up with Katie and we were talking about the gigs we’d been to (including, round one and two of Teleman) and by the end of the night, we had tickets for Hangar 34. I was nervous, as I always am when I go to a new venue but looking forward to seeing Teleman again – always a treat.

VENUE AND ACCESS

I put off looking for access info until a week or so before. I always end up putting it off for as long as I can, nervous of what I will find or where it will lead me. However, I was pleased to find some really useful access information on Hangar 34’s webpage. Although it doesn’t have a dedicated page for access, I managed to find the information easily enough by clicking on ‘The Space’ in the drop-down menu, reading about the venue and eventually finding access information at the bottom of the page.

As stated on the website, the venue has level access to the ground floor space. There is also a mezzanine area which can only be accessed via the stairs. The website states that PA tickets can be provided for those who need them, although on this occasion we did not request one as we had already bought our tickets. When it comes to smaller venues, I don’t tend to check for PA tickets or request them. I’ve been so used to small venues not providing PA tickets in the past but it’s so great to see more and more smaller venues offering them to those that need them. It means that more disabled people can support independent venues and see their favourite bands in more intimate settings – perhaps as they start out their career.

Unfortunately, strobing was in full force at Hangar 34 for this gig which was pretty disappointing considering all the other great provisions.

The website provides contact details for anyone wishing to discuss their access requirements in advance, so I sent off a quick email. Within minutes, I had a friendly response from Robin, reassuring me that these would not be a problem and to make myself known on arrival. This can occasionally cause problems for me at gigs because not all staff are aware of a venue’s access provisions and can often have very poor disability awareness, but this was not the case at all at Hangar 34.

All the staff were extremely friendly and made me feel relaxed. Unfortunately, the doors were delayed in opening, meaning we stood (I crouched on the floor) for almost an hour before we were allowed in. This meant I was very cold, sore and ready for a sit down once I got inside. All the staff we spoke to were fantastic. When we arrived, a member of staff grabbed two chairs and asked where we wanted to sit. I asked him where he thought was the best place away from the crowds and he told us to tell him where we wanted to go and he would put a barrier up. He suggested the front so we went with that. For the rest of the night, nothing was too much trouble. The staff member on duty down the front was friendly and checked if everything was ok for us before the gig started. All the staff seemed to know the venue well and had such a great attitude.

I can often feel nervous going to venues I have never been before. Sometimes policies can be in place, but not be implemented and one minute you’re having a good time and the next you’re being harassed. However, we were made to feel so comfortable at Hangar 34 that I could totally relax and enjoy the night.

I absolutely love being in a spot in or so close to the crowd and I was totally immersed in the atmosphere and buzz – it was a perfect position and absolute textbook inclusion. The only downside to being in the position that I was in, was that I couldn’t get through the crowds to go to the toilet, but there is no way around this and I fully enjoyed the gig anyway. As a result, I am unsure if there was an accessible toilet and this information isn’t on their website.

I’m so glad I have found this venue – it might just be my new favourite. I can’t wait to go back for another gig.

SUPPORT – C.A.R

Supporting Teleman, was electronic-one-woman-band C.A.R from France. C.A.R started off pretty slow and we weren’t sure where it was going but after a couple of songs we were fully bought in. A perfect pick for Teleman fans, C.A.R pumped out a collection of alternative synth-pop with both French and English lyrics. C.A.R had a mechanical sound that incorporated so many elements – it was dark yet catchy, tribal yet mordern and 80’s and alternative and so much more. You might have to give her a few listens, but you’ll be glad you did (you’ll find her on Spotify).

HEADLINE – TELEMAN

Teleman’s third album, Family of Aliens had been released only a few weeks before the gig and I’d already decided it was their best yet. The penultimate track, Fun Destruction is without doubt joining my old favourite Mainline up in the favourite spot and I was absolutely ecstatic to hear them open with it, beaming high energy through the room from the get-go.

Teleman continued their set with a europhoric, hypnotic, synth heavy setlist, formed heavily of their new music with old favourites mixed in.

Submarine Life was utterly captivating, and the audience connected through a series of synchronised head bobbing and a few thrown arms of worship. Cactus and Family of Aliens were a fierce order of energetic dancing whilst Starlight brought us down a notch, soothing our fuzzy ears and sweaty brows whilst making us Feel Good™.

Fall in Time was as much appreciated two years down the line as it was the first time I heard it, with ‘can’t afford not to fight’ (i.e the most iconic Teleman lyric in existence) bounding from the lungs of each sweaty dancer to the walls and ceiling and rattling through every atom in the room. The final chorus of Fall in Time will always be the climax of their gigs.

Going out with a bang, Teleman finished with 7 minute long rendition of Not in Control and we never wanted it to end.

As well as Teleman being a great band, their gigs are always such a great experience because they seem to have such a great fan base of friendly music lovers. Teleman are such a wholesome band to enjoy, from their feel good electronic beats to their clean aesthetic and their catchy, floaty (absolutely bloody lovely) lyrics to their seamless stage presence. Teleman are a live music high, and equivalent to a superfood breakfast, a crisp morning walk and good news in the papers. 100% healthy goodness.

After the gig was over, we went to join the queue for merch. I was over the moon to discover that Teleman had brought out another limited-edition tour CD with stamped art. I am absolutely in love with them and couldn’t wait to get my hands on one. I have one from the previous tour and absolutely love everything about it. I’ve listened to them both a fair bit and I’m going to get them framed on my very grown up wall of live music stuff. Three out of four Telemen came out to say hey around the merch stand and they were swamped with fans. Katie managed get through the mob and have my CD signed by Jonny, Hiro and Pete (which I wouldn’t have managed without her!) so I’m really pleased about that – thanks Katie! We couldn’t really stay and wait for Tom to come out and complete the collection because we were knackered but we had such a brilliant night.

I cannot recommend Hangar 34 enough. I’m keeping my eyes peeled for my next event there – watch this space!

To find out more about accessibility in the live music industry or find out what you can do to get involved, visit www.attitudeiseverything.org.uk