Bonfire night was, as it is every year, on the 5th of November but there were nearly fireworks when I visited Oxford Street the following night. I heard about the Christmas lights being switched on a few days earlier on Capital FM so thought I’d go to the seasonal event (eventhough I’m not the biggest fan of Cheryl Fernandez-Versini) and get in the festive spirit. I went to see Kelly Clarkson turn them on back in 2011 and enjoyed the evening. Last time, there was a designated disabled viewing area just at the side of the stage because it is impossible to see over a crowd in a wheelchair. That wasn’t the case this year.
Since the ‘Access All Areas’ event in October, I have been keen to see if it as easy for wheelchair users to use Public Transport in London as the people at TfL. As I have said before, access to taxis is basically non-existent but I am pleased to confirm that over ground trains and buses are disabled friendly (well I haven’t tried them all obviously). At least the train to St. Pancras and bus to Oxford Street is. The new route master is quite plush and impressive actually. I haven’t tried the Tube recently but that should be another interesting adventure.
After a successful train then bus journey, my carer and I arrived on Oxford Street at about 16:00. We made our way to John Lewis where the stage was set and a large crowd was waiting to get in. There were event stewards on hand to help but none of them knew of any disabled viewing area with one security guard telling us to "get in the queue like everybody else". It’s probably not hard to imagine but I was incensed as you can imagine. We then spoke to a third steward who told us to "maybe go and try at the other end”. Bad advice.
Luckily I don’t suffer from panic attacks but a narrow pathway packed with 100’s of people is probably a claustrophobic’s idea of hell on earth. It was awful though. Everyone was pushing, which as you can imagine is very dangerous in such a confined area. I was actually scared of getting hit or someone falling on me. I even was concerned that some people in the crowd would get angry and start being violent. London is a busy place but it’s pretty out of order for kittling to be used as a form of crowd control in any circumstance, but especially when there are disabled people and children in there.
When we finally did get out of the crowd (the show was well under way by that point), two helpful young men were sympathetic to our story and wanted to assist us. However, we were outside Debenhams now so were too far away from the stage. One of them did guide us to a screen where we could watch it. This was better than nothing but I might as well have stayed at home. At least the speakers wouldn’t have blown. It would have also saved a massive headache and it wouldn't have cost me a single penny. Plus, Cheryl was only on stage for a minute and didn’t sing. Nothing new there…
By the way, I've wrote a letter of complaint to Oxford Street, John Lewis and Capttal (the latter two sponsored/promoted the event) explaining the issues I had. I doubt it will do anything but worth a try surely.
Bye for now!