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Norfolk teenager gives her verdict on how geared up Latitude Festival is for those with a disability

PUBLISHED: 09:38 20 July 2018 | UPDATED: 10:13 20 July 2018

Liesl Hammer enjoying Latitude 2018 (Image: Liesl Hammer)

Liesl Hammer enjoying Latitude 2018 (Image: Liesl Hammer)

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Norfolk teenager Liesl Hammer, who has cerebral palsy, writes about what it’s like to attend Latitude Festival as a wheelchair user.

Liesl Hammer (R) with Lost Voice Guy (L) at Latitude 2018 (Image: Liesl Hammer)Liesl Hammer (R) with Lost Voice Guy (L) at Latitude 2018 (Image: Liesl Hammer)

This is my 7th year at the festival and it gets better every time. As a wheelchair user my family get to stay in the disabled camping area which is the best! I mean we don’t have a Ferris Wheel, like they do in family camping, but we have the lovely people from Attitude, a charity wanting to make access better in festivals for those with a disability.

We arrived on Thursday night, before the rush, so we could comfortably get a space without a fight. As a disabled person I was allowed to enter through the guest entrance, which was much quicker. My family love me for that.

There were two lines so I, being the mature adult, decided to have a race with my little sister to see which lane was the fastest. She won so I had to walk all the way up a long ramp in 30 degree weather, which was not enjoyable to say the least.

Once we finally got to the camp site my mum decided we should put the tent up. I got to sit this one out as I played the disabled card and couldn’t possibly help. We then had a glass of Pimms and pre-cooked Bolognese.

One important detail about any Festival is everything is over priced and you can’t take alcohol in, unless you’re sneaky, so we bring food from home. My mum always brings apples in the hope that we will eat healthily. We came back with just as many as at the start.

No matter how many times I go to Latitude, my breath is always taken away when I enter. The pink sheep, the number of different tents, different food stalls, which have no food left by Sunday night and the lightshow at the end of the night are just a few things which makes Latitude extraordinary.

One complaint I do have is the disabled platforms are too small and I was refused access a couple of times! Make the platform bigger please!

Sometimes when I explain Latitude to my friends they complain they don’t know any of the bands. This is not the point of Latitude as there are so many different things to do beside music. There is comedy, literature, kids play area and even swimming in the lake. Some of my highlight included Lost Voice Guy, Rag’n’Bone Man, The Vaccines and The Killers.

I was lucky enough to get the chance to interview Lee Ridley (Lost Voice Guy) which was an honour and so exciting. I think the organisers of the festival should have put him in a bigger tent as people were queuing outside trying to get a glimpse of him. I explained to him that I write for the EDP so I asked him what he thought of the accessibility, to which he said “It’s certainly not great, but it’s getting there. It’s my first time here but I’m looking forward to see The Killers and visiting friends in the comedy tent.”

I also asked him about how he started out in comedy, to which he responded by saying “a friend said I should give it ago, so I went on Britain’s Got Talent where everyone was lovely to me and it kind of unfolded from there”.

Anyway, back to the festival. If you have a manual wheelchair it will be very hard to get around as a result of the grass. We were lucky this year as we had no rain, but those years where it does get wet the mud can be catastrophic if you’re walking, let alone in a manual chair.

Luckily for me, I have a Tramper, which is like a quad-bike with big wheels so I cope well. It can also be hard in the evenings as there are lots of drunks stumbling around, even with my headlights on. I can only imagine what it’s like for other wheelchair users.

They should make it clear to people that there are a lot of disabled people present. One new feature that warmed my heart was the signer at every stage. A great example of inclusion.

Overall, I didn’t notice other people treating me any differently, the only thing people did was praise my Tramper and occasionally, normally when they were drunk, people would fall on it and call it a car, which was often funny.

All in all it was amazing, so diverse and accepting. I recommend it to anyone, disabled or not!

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