On Wednesday, March 14th, Harry Styles broke a barrier when it comes to accessible seating at a concert. His show, part of a packed tour, was in Amsterdam’s Ziggodome.
It was my first time attending this particular venue, but when it comes to live music, I’m a seasoned, wheelchair-bound, concert enthusiast. I’ve been to popular concerts in big venues like Wembley Stadium but also to little indie shows in tiny back rooms, since I was 12. Both types of concerts come with their unique struggles regarding accessibility and concert experience. This show falls in the ‘bigger concert’ category. For a wheelchair user like me, that means there are very few tickets available (less than 1% of the ticket total) and the placement of the accessible seating is usually towards the back of the arena, on an elevated platform. A choice made to ensure safety and an unobstructed view, that, suffice it to say, is hardly ever unobstructed. Being in an isolated part at the back of the venue, forced to watch either a speck on the stage or the digital image on the screens, a lot of the artist’s (and excited crowds’) energy is lost in translation. It has never stopped me from going, but it has always left me wanting more.
Imagine my surprise when I entered Ziggodome with my friend and moved to our appointed seat. In front of me, roughly 2.5 meters beyond the barrier that kept me from toppling right off the platform, was a small stage. Surrounded by lights, it connected to the main stage by a clear path in between seats and general standing.
I hesitated. Could this be…? I leaned forward and addressed one of the staff members. “That’s the B-stage,” he confirmed, “He’s going to be right in front of you.”
“Thank you,” I said, calm and collected. In my head, a thousand things were happening. How lucky I felt to witness my favourite artist in concert – UP CLOSE. To be able to connect, like the fans close to the main stage had a chance to do. I wondered if he would recognise me, since we had met in 2015 and I gave him art. But most of all, and this didn’t hit me properly until he was actually on that little stage, right in front of me, singing and playing his acoustic songs in earnest: I felt included. I’m willing to bet that the other ladies on the platform with me felt a similar way. As an integral part of the audience, listening to those songs like they were meant to be heard and able to read every single emotion on Harry’s face. I chose not to record any part of his show, because for the first time, I was truly a part of it, and instead enjoyed it to the fullest.
I hope Harry and his team continue to create inclusive environments with more space for people with disabilities going forward. I think, if they collaborate with venues and promoters, they can make a real difference. And if they’d like an insider’s perspective, I’ve got a few ideas!