There is so much planning that goes into my trips to London ranging from access onto the trains, to hotels and whether they meet my needs, to venues or attractions and if they have disabled toilets. But whether these all work well is another matter! On the 4th January 2017, I took my first trip of the new year down to London to watch one of my favourite Korean rappers in concert: Zico (of Korean group Block B) 🙂
I went with my PA who has been on 4 previous trips with me to London, I felt comfortable knowing we could overcome whatever situation was thrown at us, we have dealt with a lot so far! We left lunchtime on the Thursday to catch the train. I had booked my assistance online at the same time as booking my tickets but unfortunately there are only two wheelchair spaces on the whole train, yet only one has a companion seat opposite. On leaving, there was a severely disabled person in the wheelchair space with two companions and two suitcases already on, but what frustrated both my PA and I was the fact they didn’t offer to move the one suitcase in front of me so she could stand there. I’ve found on the odd occasion that it is the carer of the disabled person who is rude or ignorant towards another disabled person. Both times when leaving and coming back my PA had to sit either behind me or a couple spaces away. This really isn’t ideal! I don’t want the rest of the carriage knowing if I need my tablets out of my backpack! I do feel that something needs to change, maybe take out a couple of seats just to give extra space? It is limiting when only two wheelchairs users can travel by train at a time. Anyways! Once getting to the station in London, somebody was there to help us off luckily and then straight outside and into a taxi:) 🙂
We stayed at the Thistle Euston Hotel, Kings Cross as it was a short walk from the venue. Going or staying somewhere different does make me worry and feel anxious as I like to have a routine but if I want to go to a certain venue or attraction, I need to just go for it and experience new things. This hotel was okay, not the best but it had access and a decent sized room to drive my wheelchair around in which is all that really matters – at the end of the day, it is just somewhere to sleep! My PA and I got to the hotel about 2:30ish so it gave us plenty of time to chill before the concert. My wheelchair just managed to squeeze through the bedroom door…plus it looked as though many others had struggled to get inside from the marks and scratches along the frame 😛 Both the bed and the toilet were at perfect heights for me to side transfer onto which made me very happy! So the bedroom itself was good. The bathroom…there was no way I could use the shower chair 😦 It was very low and unsteady, but I’ve always found ways around problems so luckily it wasn’t that big of a deal. Ordered pizza and chips via room service as there wasn’t enough time to go out to eat, it was pretty good.
The venue was KOKO London, a short walk from my hotel. I had a VVIP ticket which included early access at 6pm and a meet & greet (picture) with Zico. We got to the venue just before 6 and was informed what would happen over next 30 minutes, the only access into the building was by steps but some lovely venue people had placed these 2 large ramps in one of the doorways for me to drive up. Once inside, we met this security guard named Curtis who told us that as the meet & greet was being held upstairs and wasn’t accessible, they would bring Zico downstairs to the balcony where I was sat! There were two spaces at the side of the balcony so as I was first person who needed that area, I was able to choose where to sit – so of course I chose the one closest to the stage 😀
Some point during the time we were waiting, the photographer came over to us and directed me where to sit for the best lighting whilst my PA stayed by the railings and watched. Then suddenly I heard them say he was coming downstairs and OMG I was so nervous! I think about 5 or 6 other people came down with him and stood by the railing too, I was sat there with Zico next to me and 7 people watching right in front – and THEN all the fans downstairs turned and screamed for him!! 3 words: embarrassed, nervous & excited 😀 However, the photographer had wandered off so Zico was stood by me for about 3 or 4 minutes and I couldn’t talk to him D: I was so nervous I just turned and smiled and said hi instead *facepalm*! Everyday almost since the concert, scenarios have been playing through my head of what I should have said…spoken in Korean or asked about his trip…I felt so silly – because what a chance was that I missed?!
There were guest appearances by DJ Illustrious One, Danny Seth & C-Eazy who performed for around 1 – 1 ½ hours before DJ Millic started his set and then Zico who came on about 10ish but unfortunately, it really wasn’t my style of music 😦 I think most people had wished that the first DJ would have played more Korean rap and hip-hop considering the artist everybody was there to see was Korean ^^ Never mind though as Zico was awesome, I loved singing along to my favourite songs and I’d completely forgotten the first group of people 😛 *Credit goes to the fans who took the videos*
*This video belongs to Kate White – https://www.youtube.com/user/thekatewhite/featured*
*This video belongs to Lydia S – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdxPv4PMJbdbj-WZweHjtmQ*
There was only one thing that I really wasn’t happy with out of everything experienced at the venue – the accessible toilet. I always email venues and hotels before going to ask for pictures of bedrooms and disabled toilets, even though I emailed somebody at the venue, he said there weren’t any pictures but they had had no complaints about the toilet. I did have the thought that it doesn’t take long to take a photo for somebody! So my PA went to check it out when we were there (only toilet people could use) and she took a picture but said it looked a little low, I decided to go for it anyways as I had time before Zico came on – however…I didn’t anticipate how low it was! It took 30 minutes just for me to finally get enough energy to lift myself off the toilet and back onto my wheelchair and that was only after we’d removed my seat cushion. All the while people were banging on the door. After that fiasco, Zico performed and we left to walk back to the hotel. As venues and concerts go, one of the best for staff attitudes and access into the building/seating but the worst by far for toilet facilities!
That night I slept very well, but not surprising considering what had happened throughout the day! The Friday morning, we packed and got a taxi to the train station where the train was already there. Same thing with the trains when coming home but this time, my PA was given the seat on the other side of the carriage, opposite a wheelchair space as the lady sitting there moved from the passenger seat to sit in her wheelchair but told me that I was fine where I was sat as I was already positioned. This did really annoy me as she didn’t ask but assumed, surely you would have thought that if somebody is travelling with a companion, they want to sit with them? Every trip is filled with positives and negatives, this time around it just so happens there was more negatives! It is all a learning curve though 🙂 In March, the Korean boy group Block B (who Zico is a member of) are coming to London to perform for the first time which I am excited for! 😀
Till next time,
[Credits go to Cult of Ya for the header image of Zico & the audience]