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Wednesday 6 December 2023 Dublin: 8°C
Eamonn Farrell An aerial view of the grounds of this year's festival.

All Together Now to undertake 'full review' of disability access following criticism

Calls were made for a review of the festival’s accessibility after disabled people who bought tickets could not access the main arena.

MUSIC FESTIVAL ALL Together Now has said it is undertaking a “full review” of the accessibility of its site to “ensure significant improvements” are made for disabled attendees next year.

It follows strong criticism of the organisers from some disabled people who attended this year’s gathering on the Curraghmore estate in Co Waterford.

The festival is also facing questions about why it claimed on its website that it had partnered with the Irish Wheelchair Association for this year’s event. The charity has denied any such involvement in correspondence seen by The Journal.

The festival has been held since 2018 on the estate of Lord Waterford and is run by music promoters POD.

In a statement to The Journal, a spokesperson for All Together Now said it was looking at providing buggy transport next year to bring attendees who need assistance into the main arena.

It further blamed “extremely challenging weather” for problems at this year’s festival.

However, one seasoned festival goer said that the organisers “shouldn’t hide behind the weather”, as he found accessibility was a problem “almost straight after entering the site”.

Stephen Power, who has spina bifida, has been offered a full refund due to his “really frustrating” experience. He and his family left the festival without staying a night.

Power said he encountered problems included the long distance to reach the main arena from the ‘access campsite’. He can walk unaided for shorter distances and also uses a scooter, which he said would likely have struggled to cope with the mud at the festival.

363847574_1435692517283853_7455504868494458761_n Stephen Power and his wife Bernie

The festival organisers’ statement said: “In light of the extremely challenging weather at this year’s festival, we will be undergoing a full review of the All Together Now access policy, to ensure significant improvements are made for attendees.

“We are disappointed by the impact conditions had on access for attendees and we are focused on making improvements for next year.”

It added that it would speak to the most affected attendees on a “one-to-one basis to receive and review” their feedback in preparation for next year. 

The spokesperson said that the festival’s access campsite was located in “very similar proximity” to the arena as the previous three editions of All Together Now.

“It is located in one of the quietest parts of the site to minimise the sound spill of late-night stages,” the spokesperson said.


Power said he found that compared to previous iterations of the festival, the distance required to make it to the music stages had increased significantly.

“I have been getting so many messages and comments from other disabled people who bought tickets for this event who could not get in or were stuck in their tent unable to access the main event,” Power said on social media following last weekend’s gathering.

Speaking to The Journal, he questioned whether providing buggy transport was the best solution.

“If you get it right from the start you don’t need buggies,” he said.

“They’re saying the campsite for disabled people is in a similar place to other years, but they’ve changed the layout of the grounds so that you now have to walk an hour to even make it to the main gate.

“That’s not accessible – but I bought accessible tickets. If you keep changing the layout inside you have to change the layout [elsewhere] along with it.”

Power added that there was a need for any review to include the voice of disabled people.

While the festival told The Journal that the placement of the access campsite at the farthest point from the music was due to organisers trying to minimise the sound spill of late-night stages, Power said there was a need for different access camps catering to different needs. 

If I’m going to a music festival, I’m going for the noise. I understand maybe placing families who may be able-bodied away from the music if they have children who need that, but we’re not children – we’re disabled people. I can’t get two new legs for the weekend so stop putting us all into the one bracket. 

Power, who attended the festival with his wife Bernie and their two children, said he quickly became concerned after arriving.

“We could see that they had placed the disabled campsite further away from the main arena than the main campsite. I was walking past tents with abled-bodied people in them and they had much less distance to travel.

“It’s simple stuff. I’m not looking to be chauffeured for the weekend, if I can’t walk I’ll stay at the stage I’m at, but please don’t make it that I’m struggling to get into the festival.” 

They were able to see music on Friday night but, having struggled with the lengthy walk involved, decided to head home to nearby Carrick-on-Suir.

“There was no way I was making it in the next day. I was already in pain and hurting for the rest of the weekend. My body had seized up and my wife had to carry me into the bed,” Power said.

He said the family found an advertised access route was shut and their appeals to staff fell on deaf ears, with the use of buggies also ruled out.

After the family was directed to “go back through the main campsite”, they refused and, following a standoff with security, the original access route was opened so they could return to their car.

“I’ve been going to gigs and festivals over the past 20 years and had gone to All Together Now in the past.

“You’d be wrecked but I’d have seen every band I wanted to see and done everything I wanted to do. But that’s different from not being able to access the main gate.”

Irish Wheelchair Association links

Ahead of the festival, Power said he felt reassured by the advertised partnering of All Together Now with disability charity the Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA).

According to a now deleted section of the website, the festival said the IWA would be “managing our Access Campsite 24 hours a day” across the weekend.

The Accessibility Information page of the festival website carried this claim as recently as Sunday 6 August. The claim has since been removed.

363897653_257846117040190_865470085492094392_n A screenshot taken by Stephen Power from All Together Now's phone app promoting a connection with the Irish Wheelchair Association.

When contacted, the IWA said it “didn’t have any official link with the festival” this year. 

It said: “We’re disappointed to hear that there was accessibility issues at the festival this year. IWA didn’t have any official link with the festival this year.

“A number of staff went to the festival as fans/attendees. One staff member is involved with the campsite tuck shop but on her own time and not as an IWA rep.”

Last year, IWA was linked with the festival and benefited from sales made at a campsite tuck shop according to the spokesperson.

All Together Now did not respond in time for publication when asked about why it promoted links with the charity. 

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