Guest post by Samantha

On April 12th, one of my favourite artists in the world, Rufus Wainwright, announced an Autumn tour, I was interested in going to several of the gigs. The tickets were due to go on sale on Friday 20th April, but members of Rufus’ website could access the ArtistTickets.com presale on Wednesday 18th, which was online only.

I’m visually impaired, and need to attend anything like this with a Personal Assistant/Carer. I also need to be as near to the front as possible, to allow me to use my low vision aids and be in with a chance of seeing something.

Having played this game before, I decided to try to get some more info before the presale. As I wasn’t well, my friend/housemate/PA started to try to make contact with people on April 16th. ArtistTickets.com is a SeeTickets website, so she emailed SeeTickets. Who said all access requirements are to be dealt with by the individual venues.

She then tweeted about them, and they DMed and offered to help.  They asked which show and venue, and how many tickets we wanted. They said that the policy to only allow access bookings from the venues is a policy from the venues themselves, and not their decision. They said they were really sorry we felt they’d discrimated against me, but would do their best to get us tickets before the general sale. As we were still considering which shows to go to, we asked them for help getting tickets for the Manchester and London shows. Their replies said they’d had “mixed success” and were unable to offer any tickets for Manchester in the presale, for which they apologised, but that they had arranged for us to be able to book presale tickets with Hammersmith Apollo on the 18th.

We also contacted the individual venues, as per SeeTickets’ original response. The responses we got from venues were somewhat mixed….

Manchester O2 Apollo said that their accessible tickets would go on sale on Friday 20th at 2pm, there would be a reduction of 50% for the ticket plus one carer, but the tickets were “first come, first served”. We were able to call Manchester on Friday 20th and get Row D seats. We assume the very front rows went in the presale.

 HMV Hammersmith Apollo, London, said we could phone from 10am on Tuesday 17th for access seats, they said they had an extremely small number of seats available in the presale, and another small amount in the regular sale. They explained there was a free carer’s ticket with every “wheelchair space”, although they acknowledged that these seats aren’t actually likely to meet my needs, they did not say whether this means no discount if you are not in a wheelchair. Their response was in line with what SeeTickets reported too. Some quick changing of a vet’s appointment and we were able to call at 10am, to spend 20 minutes on hold, then get a message saying the lines opened at 11am- the new time of the vet’s appointment! When we eventually got to speak to them, they denied that any tickets could be sold that day. After some debate and arguing, they did finally agree to sell us tickets. But there was no discount for a carer unless you were in a wheelchair!! So, according to the Hammersmith Apollo, only wheelchair users need the assistance of a PA/Carer. This is a clear case of discrimination. This had not exactly made me want to attend their venue, so they were politely told “thanks, but no thanks”!!

 Birmingham Symphony Hall said they did not have the information for the show finalised, but would email us when they get some. This email has not yet arrived. They did say if we specified our seating requirements, they would try to reserve some, dependent on their allocation. We decided the chances of getting seats meeting my needs were slim to none, and since transport also looked to be a nightmare, we gave up on this venue.

 York Barbican said their accessible tickets would go on sale on Friday 20th at 2pm, they said they had no disabled booking line, and no information on whether any discounts would be available, but said they may be able to seat us in front row, as this is where they seat wheelchair users anyway. Unfortunately, there are no trains leaving from York late enough so we decided this was a no go.

 The Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham, were extremely helpful. They said their tickets would go on sale at 2pm on Friday 20th, and one ticket plus one carer would get a 50% discount. They offered to reserve seats if we got back to them before 5pm the day before, and we were able to phone up and pay for our row E seats with no hassle. We assume the nearer rows went in the presale or SeeTicket’s general allocation.

So, we have seats for two concerts, which I may be able to see something from. To get these seats took a total of 8 emails, 3 phonecalls, 2 tweets, and 4 DMs.

All other big fans would have been able to get their tickets via one website visit on Wednesday 18th for the presale, when all the front row seats will have gone.

We were expected to call 5 different places, it seems, 3 of them simultaneously at 2pm on Friday 20th, to access an “extremely small number” of access seats.

Equality??