• By: Ryan Lythall

My Experience at CityFolk Can Serve as a Model for Other Festivals

As soon as I heard Iggy Pop was coming to City Folk, I was so excited. Iggy Pop has been on my concert bucket list for a long time. I’ve been a fan for many years, and not just of his music. I’ve always found him fascinating, especially during interviews and more. If you know, you know. That’s all I’m going to say.

I decided to buy a full pass once the full line-up for City Folk was released. Besides Iggy Pop, I also wanted to see the Headstones and Bush; I’ve seen both bands before, and they were great shows.

Besides the incredible line-up, I wanted to see how wheelchair-accessible City Folk was. This was my first time attending the festival, so I was curious.

I was amazed by the level of accessibility at City Folk, especially when compared to Bluesfest and other music festivals.

The first thing I did after arriving was to find out if a building had accessible washrooms and would remain open until the end of the festival. Some of you may remember me mentioning that the public bathrooms at the War Museum were closed during the Nostalgia Music Festival in August.

Being able to use the washrooms at a venue is a significant factor in my decision whether or not to attend an event, and I was pleased to learn that the ones inside the Aberdeen Pavilion were open for the entire festival. On my way to the bathrooms, I rolled past the wheelchair-accessible platform, which was located much closer to the stage than at Bluesfest and Nostalgia Music Festival. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to use it, which I’ll explain soon.

The platform seemed straightforward. There was only one incline to get onto the platform. Bluesfest has three or four slopes, which can be difficult for people. It seems a bit much to me, especially if you need to leave in a hurry.

The other thing I checked out was how accessible the second stage was. When I arrived at the stage, nothing was happening, but it looked pretty accessible. Another important stop for me was the merch tent. Again, the setup was pretty simple and very accessible. I rolled up to the tent and told the volunteers what I was looking for, and they were more than happy to show me a few shirts. I paid and was on my way. The entire process took less than three minutes.

At Bluesfest, between the long line-up and poor accessibility, I took about 15-20 minutes to buy a t-shirt.

So far, my experience at City Folk had been very positive, which rarely happens at music festivals.

Unfortunately, things soon took a turn for the worse. Before I get into that, it has nothing to do with the festival or accessibility. As mentioned, both were outstanding.

As late afternoon became early evening, my hands became freezing.

Due to my physical disability, the colder my hands get, the more difficult it becomes for me to drive my powered wheelchair. The controls for my chair are touch-sensitive. For me to move my chair, my right thumb, as well as my left hand, need to be touching the buttons on my tray. If I wore gloves or a blanket, I would need to find a safe spot to park my chair. Even after doing this, a sudden temperature dip can be too much for my hands.

I also can’t wear anything too heavy on my arms because I have an even harder time moving my hands to control my chair.

The first thing I did when I realized my hands were getting cold was head to the accessibility tent to see if there were any blankets or something I could use to keep my hands warm. Then, I headed to the first aid tent to see if they had anything I could use.

One of the workers suggested draping a mylar blanket over my hands and tucking it under my tray and my legs. I looked like an oversized Hershey’s kiss, but for a little while, it helped.

Shortly after, Iggy Pop took the stage; my hands froze on me. I headed to the washroom to see if I could get them to warm up, but it was too late.

At that point, I could no longer control my chair, so I asked my PSW to call Para Transpo to see if they could pick me up an hour earlier, which they did. I was hoping to be able to return to City Folk on Friday, but my hands were still feeling messed up, and I didn’t want to risk further damage.

Despite the freezing temperatures, I had a fantastic time at City Folk. I was impressed with the wheelchair accessibility of the festival, which was MUCH better than Bluesfest.

City Folk is much smaller than Bluesfest. So, there is that aspect. However, I feel that Bluesfest doesn’t always use its space as well as it could, especially regarding accessibility and the wheelchair platform. One of my big questions, shared by many, is why is the wheelchair platform at Bluesfest so far from the main stage.

Before I roll out this week, I wanted to thank a few people for their assistance at City Folk.

First, thank you to Whimble for doing what they could to help me and other people with disabilities at City Folk. For more information about Whimble, and they may be able to help you or a loved one, visit their website www.whimble.ca.

Secondly, thank you to the staff at the first aid tent at City Folk. Your idea of using a mylar blanket helped me stay warm, even for a short while. Without your help, things could have been worse.

Last but not least, thank you to Para Transpo for being able to pick me up an hour early from City Folk. Without their help, I likely would have had to stay inside the Aberdeen Pavilion until the end of the night.

Photo: Courtesy Ryan Lythall