A belated post, but let’s talk British Summer Time in Hyde Park!
I went to the festival with the amazing non-profit My Cause UK. This organisation is a festival volunteer community that has provided 5,000 festival volunteers to the UK’s biggest events such as Boomtown, Bestival, NAAS, Love Saves The Day, Lovebox and Download Festival as well as raising nearly £100,000 so far for charities.[i]
How does this work then?
My Cause provides volunteers to work at the festival, earning the volunteers a free pass to the festival once their shift has ended. The festival organisers then provide My Cause with a donation to their non-profit to be distributed to charities. I hear you ask, what charities? Any one of your choice. When filling out their application form, you can nominate a charity that matters to you, because it is MY cause. For example, this year I sponsored Mind[ii], for their mental health work. This year, they had three separate hedgehog sanctuaries sponsored, amongst hundreds of others!
What kind of ‘volunteering’ though?
Excellent question. This year, I was on the Green Team, which to the untrained eye may seem like being a binman. British Summer Time is effectively a closed system, so no waste was brought in. This means that all the waste produced could be split into recyclable plastic cups, Vegware[iii]plates and food, and general recycling. The plastic cups were sent to be melted down to make new cups, the food composted and turned into biodiesel and the general recycling sent to a bigger plant to be split into 19 separate types of recyclable goods. Not only was this a really great thing for the environment, but it’s something that I’m so passionate about, and so were the general public! It was so encouraging to see how readily people wanted to know how to split up their waste.
The lack of single use plastic was incredible in the festival. Every food vendor and bar were required to use either Vegware or recyclable plastic cups, meaning that less than one black bag of waste was sent to landfill (and that contained a nappy!). For water, multiple water access points were set up around Hyde Park so that people could refill their own water bottles or plastic cups from the bars.
As if that wasn’t enough, the whole festival was powered by renewable energy, from the lights on the signs (solar) to the biodiesel used for the sound equipment and food trucks! Plus, there was biodegradable glitter available for the volunteers to get us festival ready!
Talking of food, the range was incredible. There were options for all dietary requirements – vegetarian, halal, omnivore, raw, gluten free, dairy free, and (most importantly for me) vegan! Between wraps, salads, burgers and pizzas, I finally settled on the vegan bao buns, which contained seitan and chick’n and just pure deliciousness. Would definitely eat again! If I hadn’t have filled up on bao, there were vegan churros, doughnuts, brownies, ice creams and all other varieties of sweet treats to get my mitts on.
So how did I find it?
First of all, I didn’t take my wheelchair. I travelled on the coach/tube and stayed with a lovely friend but didn’t think it would be manageable to move my chair with me. So, crutches it was! First of all, coach, tube and train travel is completely manageable with a mobility issue. Research is key, however. For trains, make sure that the rail workers can see you on the platform. Through a magical system that I still don’t understand, the person on the train will KNOW that you need a ramp (if there’s no gap free access). If you’re like me, you’ll take the ramp too fast and do a wheelie, but the general public can be wonderful people (shout out to mysterious train man in Cardiff!).
For coach companies, let them know at least 36 hours before the trip that you’re going to need assistance, be bringing a chair or will need the front seats with the extra room. Every driver that I have had has been exceedingly helpful, so thank you lovely drivers!
For the tube, you take control. There is an accessibility map on the Travel for London website which allows you to view step free access to the platform, size of platform to train step (ranging from green – easy- to red – expert level) and the accessible facilities within that station, i.e. toilets. This is a great guide, but very hard to track down, so I’ve linked it at the end of the article, here[iv]and here[v]. Maps are also available in audio format and large print (both colour and black and white)[vi].
When I actually reached the festival, My Cause were wonderfully accommodating. My supervisor, Tamsin, put me on a station close to benches and the volunteer HQ, meaning that it wasn’t far for me to go for my breaks and I could take an extra rest from standing if I needed. They even provided vegan options at lunch!
The whole festival was very accessible. Every food stand and bar had a lower counter for wheelchair access. At the first aid tent, there was also a mental health area, to cater for every aspect of health need. Festivals can be very overwhelming for those with conditions such as anxiety and Asperger’s, but at the pharmacy shop, ear defenders were available in both adult and child sizes to combat sensory overstimulation.
For deaf or hearing-impaired festival goers, there were options too. On the big screens above and around the stages, someone was being live streamed, signing along to every song so the lyrics were clear.
I would definitely recommend British Summer Time festival, and even more would I recommend volunteering with My Cause UK. The whole day was accessible, thoughtful and wonderful. I got to watch Barbra Streissand, who I love so very much, completely for free, as well as doing something that I really care about by helping the planet. On top of that, a donation was made to continue Mind’s work. I went there not knowing what to expect and not knowing any other volunteers. I left having eaten and sang and chatted with lots of new amazing people and had one of the best experiences of my life. Anyone who says those with disabilities can’t, or shouldn’t, needs to understand that the world is changing and we can do whatever we want. The time is now!