Update (15th June)
Following my tweeting about this blog I’ve had a response from Head of Customer Relations at South Bank Centre offering a refund for the Krystle Warren tickets and comps to see a performance at any time over the next year.

I’ve replied (with thanks). It has to be appreciated that South Bank Centre responded quickly to address my complaint.

I’ve also raised a number of concerns back regarding how they:

  • test in-house and with Deaf and Hard of Hearing people (in real time) the infra red system in their auditoriums to test effectiveness and quality
  • process for complaining (if things go wrong) – similarly it would be nice to give praise when it goes well
  • monitor the effectiveness of the Sennhizer infra red system for Deaf and Hard of Hearing audiences
  • Deaf/Disability Awareness training offered to staff

This is not to be a pain by complaining but to help so that other Deaf or Hard of Hearing visitors have a better experience…..

On Saturday 12th June I went to the Celebration of Kate McGarrigle as part of South Bank Centre’s Meltdown Festival. A treat – a trip from Telford to London as my partner is a huge fan.

I’d seen Kate McGarrigle perform at Glasgow Concert Hall about 6 yrs ago as The McGarrigle Family featuring Matha and Rufus Wainwright her kids. The sound then was fantastic and clear. Last night’s celebration was a moving tribute with a fantastic line up of artists.

Tickets were not cheap – it cost us £83.00 plus travel from Telford for the gig – you expect for that price a great night out at the South Bank Centre  including getting it’s access right for Deaf and Hard of Hearing audiences?

Wrong.

It starts, the quality of sound was awful (my Phonak digital hearing aids come with a music setting to improve clarity of the singing – it doesn’t help). I can only hear distorted music and none of the voices. The induction loop doesn’t work on my hearing aids either.

Song ends I nip out – the back up plan to find the rather unsexy Sennhiser headphones that work with their infra-red system.

The Clockroom staff don’t have a clue what I’m talking about. I’m told ‘we haven’t had training yet’  one of them returns with two A3 sheets with instructions (for staff). She doesn’t understand what the induction loop is.

I glance and spend 5 mins explaining to the attendants what it is they do, how they work. Another returns with two headsets asking me what do I prefer. I grab both (I’m not taking any chances). I ask ‘Are they charged?’. I sign the paperwork.

Basically they have an infra-red system very much like bluetooth only older (a lot older).

The one on the left is the headphones – aren’t they fabulous? The one on the right is a neck loop (got to love the fashion statement) It connects to my hearing aids using the ‘T’ switch like a personal induction loop round my neck.

I’ve been to Royal Festival Hall before and they very same equipment didn’t work (that was in 1990’s at a Jessie Norman performance in RFH) then staff told me and 10 other angry people that it was broken/switched off/switched on)… I wonder if it’s the same equipment.

I go back up – I’ve now missed 20 odd mins of the concert.

They fail – no sound not even a buzz. I’ve missed so much I hang on till the interval. I’m pretty annoyed by now.

I spend the interval missing my trip to the Members Bar with my partner (who’s spent the whole time waiting for me to return and not having much fun either).

I’m back down to Clockroom again. It was supposed to be a treat – I don’t expect to spend £83.00 on two tickets to spend my time telling staff in the South Bank Centre their job.

I ask for the Manager as the staff can’t answer my questions. She appears. I explain. She apologises.

I rush back up with new headsets (I’m told the ice cream isn’t up to scratch either).

The second half begins – yes they both work – my elation is quickly deflated.

Both sound like a really badly tuned radio and I still can’t hear the singing. It’s worse than the sound from my hearing aids. With the neck loop I have to wrap the wire round my ears to get a connection.

I give up. I stay in my seat to the end … it’s a three and half hour gig.

As I return the equipment England scores a goal on the big screen in the main bar. The clockroom is just below it.

I’m calm when I explain what’s happened and how useless they are. I’m told ‘ oh I’m sorry’ and given the form to sign to return them.

I tell her we’re supposed to see Krystle Warren tomorrow night. ‘Oh I hope it’s better’ is the response. I ask for the Manager, Now I really want to complain.

The Assistant Manager returns. She doesn’t understand what the problem is. I explain how the infra red system is supposed to work. I tell her about our plans to see Krystle Warren the next night. How can we – we ask for our money back.

She agrees to take the tickets (to see Krystle Warren) and look into it. I give her my contact details.

This whole situation is made 100 times worse by the fact I sat on the South Bank Centre Access Committee in 1999.

They were re-developing the South Bank Centre and the surrounding area transformed as it is now.

As part of a large access committee SBC were advised by experienced Disabled people on the committee what the issues were for a wide range of Disabled access needs and given recommendations on how to address them.

Clearly none of that has helped or made any difference ten years on …

Update (15th June)
Following my tweeting about this blog I’ve had a response from Head of Customer Relations at South Bank Centre offering a refund for the Krystle Warren tickets and comps to see a performance at any time over the next year.

I’ve replied (with thanks). It has to be appreciated that South Bank Centre responded quickly to address my complaint.

I’ve also raised a number of concerns back regarding how they:

  • test in-house and with Deaf and Hard of Hearing people (in real time) the infra red system in their auditoriums to test effectiveness and quality
  • process for complaining (if things go wrong) – similarly it would be nice to give praise when it goes well
  • monitor the effectiveness of the Sennhizer infra red system for Deaf and Hard of Hearing audiences
  • Deaf/Disability Awareness training offered to staff

This is not to be a pain by complaining but to help so that other Deaf or Hard of Hearing visitors have a better experience.