Professional Voices: Angharad Jones

Originally published: November 2020

First of all, please explain your role and what you do (or at least what you were doing outside of the current shutdown!)

I am an Accessibility Consultant for festivals/events across the UK. Shows that I have worked on, establishing Accessibility Teams include; Love Saves the Day, The Downs, Wilderness, Lovebox, Truck Festival, Bluedot and Simple Things. In addition, I have worked with existing teams for Glastonbury Festival, Tramlines and the Rewind Festivals. 

How did you start working in the music industry?

I started initially out by volunteering in roles at festivals in my early twenties.  For me, it was a way of experiencing them yet being able to sit down more or avoid some of the big crowds as I found that sometimes it could be a bit overwhelming especially when trying to manage my pain levels.

Over time, the voluntary positions became paid ones. I managed to learn various roles and different aspects of how a festival and event site comes together through the eyes of site management, production, artist liaison, accreditation and steward management.

By doing this, I started to see that there were areas within accessibility that needed addressing and more specifically someone to tackle them.  It was at that point I became aware of AIE and the Charter of Best Practice and decided to incorporate my pre-existing disability training and merge it over into the festival world. From here, I then started to approach festivals about opening up their accessibility processes from the point at which a customer purchased a ticket, right the way through to ensuring reasonable adjustments and accessible facilities were in place on the day for each registered individual.

Do you think there are ways in which having lived experience of an impairment or health condition helps you in your role?

Absolutely! Having to live with chronic pain in my spine, sensory issues (ADHD), and mental health problems myself, it allows me to empathise with my customers. I always aim to understand what they may need to able to get the same experience as everyone else at an event. Unless you have experienced some of these issues first hand, or know someone who has, it is hard to quantify the amount of thought that has to go into someone wanting to attend a festival or gig. From the moment that someone buys their ticket they will be needing to think about the logistics of getting to the site or venue. Do they need accessible parking, how will they be able to fully enjoy the gig if they need to sit down, are in a wheelchair, deaf or struggle in crowds, how far away is the campsite to the area/stages, do they need access to the viewing platforms or do they need to be able to use the accessible toilets? To name but a few.

As some people’s impairments are invisible and customers are having to provide supporting evidence of their conditions, they want someone who they can talk easily with and trust. Therefore yes, I believe that having some lived experience definitely has benefits within this role and helps to provide the best possible service and experience. 

What do you think the music industry could do to be more accessible to Deaf and disabled people who want to work in music?

I think that the music industry has come a long way in terms of accessibility in the last few years, but there is still a long way to go. These improvements are mainly due to AIE bringing out their Charter of Best Practice so festivals or venues have a definitive guide to work from. If festivals and venues aren’t already doing so, I would recommend that they sign up to it as it’s free and can only make a company or establishment better.

In addition, I would recommend that they have designated person who is dedicated to improving their accessibility not only for their customers but also for their staff/crew. Having someone within a team who is able to advocate their reasonable adjustments would help individuals feel supported in their requests for alternative arrangements. Furthermore, I would always recommend that companies review their equality and diversity policy to ensure that it is up to date, meaning they are able to start the discussion of how best to accommodate someone who may have additional needs.

We all know that events take a lot of people coming together. Having someone who is overseeing accessibility it helps to deliver a better experience for customers, staff and crew. The accessibility lead can then help bridge any gaps between management, crew or customers.

What advice would you give to other people with impairments or health conditions who want to get into the music industry?

I can only really advise on this one area within festivals but the answer is to initially volunteer, volunteer, volunteer. 

All the accessibility teams that I work with, rely on volunteers giving up their time to help deliver a service across each festival site. I openly encourage people of all abilities to get involved. In the time that I have been doing this, I have seen a mini-community of regular volunteers of all abilities come together and frequently move show to show which is amazing. 

More specifically, I would advise that people sign up to AIE’s a new programme called Beyond the Music. This programme is designed to open up new possibilities nationally for deaf and disabled people or people with access requirements to participate more fully in social and work opportunities within the live music and events sectors. 

The programme aims to benefit people wishing to volunteer and work within the music industry by addressing the significant barriers people with access requirements currently face when trying to participate in existing schemes, launch careers and develop new skills. The programme provides high quality, accessible volunteering and opportunities to learn skills which are important components when trying to closing the paid employment gap in the UK.

Why is this programme so important and needed? Every time someone new joins one of my teams who is deaf or disabled or has access requirements, they are an advocate for all the other people out there who want to go to gigs or work at events and don’t know how to. 

I have found that the teams I work with have grown each year by word of mouth. Although there are some minor perks (crew ticket and camping along with meals whilst on shift), generally everyone comes together for the love of music, fun, people and most of all to help open up the pathways to events for deaf and disabled people. For 2021, I aim to work more collaboratively with AIE’s Beyond the Music scheme to see what other opportunities together we can provide our community. I am immensely grateful to those who give up their time to volunteer for my shows, I literally could not do my job without them and they have really helped to improve accessibility and raise awareness across the board. 

You can find out more about the work Harry does here. 

A white woman with blonde hair looking at the camera.