Weekly Poll – Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2022
Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue. For the week beginning 5 September 2022 we asked a question about the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Please note that this is a snapshot of the views of our membership and does not reflect a policy stance of Disability Equality Scotland. If you plan to reference the findings featured in this report, please contact us in advance so that we are aware of this.
Question 1. Have you attended events as part of this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe?
- Yes – 32% (10 respondents)
- No – 68% (21 respondents)
Question 2. If yes, did you find the event(s) accessible?
- Yes – 60% (6 respondents)
- No – 40% (4 respondents)
We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.
Accessibility and Safety of Venues
There was a mixed response regarding the accessibility of Edinburgh Festival Fringe venues. Respondents shared examples of venues that do not have level access, which restricts some disabled people from being able to attend. Respondents also commented on the acoustics of venues which can be challenging for people with hearing loss.
“I went to an event about OCD It was very good, but it was also up a stairway. Luckily a lovely man was at the front door at the time, and he walked up the stairs with me. I am full of arthritis and often get dizzy if I move too fast. I am also quite deaf.”
“There is very little captioned performances etc and often the acoustics are difficult. Very few venues have good sound systems, hearing loops etc.”
“The exit from the Edinburgh Playhouse was very difficult to negotiate for anybody who was ambulant disabled.”
“I was promised a wheelchair accessible venue, and it clearly wasn’t. 10mins later, a ramp was produced!!! Seriously… they need to update the app, and get better at this!”
“I did not attend any events this year, however I have done in previous years. I do always check venues out before I attend anything to make sure that they are acceptable. However, I know that there are venues which are inaccessible for a range of reasons such as being in the basement of the venue down a spiral staircase and no lift available to use. Unfortunately, some of the access issues are due to there being so much on during the festival that venues are forced to use every available space they have.”
“I have a very weak Immune system and absolutely nobody wore masks. I became really ill, so perhaps some should not be there if ill. It’s not recognised that some people have a lockdown every year -I do as do many others. So, there is no provision for us i.e.: a safer place to sit while in venue if asked for.”
Some respondents praised the helpfulness of staff for providing access assistance at festival venues. One respondent with hearing loss noted that a member of staff did not respond to a request to face them directly, which would have helped with being able to lipread. This highlighted a lack of awareness and a need for disability awareness training.
“I really liked how easy it was for me to check whether venues were wheelchair accessible. Staff went out of their way to be helpful wherever I went. I also like how I get to see “behind the scenes” when I’m being taken to my seat/place the accessible way. Well done for making the Fringe so easy for people like me :)”
“We attended the Fringe and yes the event was accessible and there was help available for my disabled husband.”
“The young guy at the desk asked me something – I saw his mouth move- I asked him to look at me as I can read his lips, but he just put his head down while I was waiting him to repeat it. He didn’t even though I prompted him. I wanted to engage but I am guessing he thinks I am not able to hear and must be thick as well. It certainly made me feel that way.”
Respondents noted that even if the venue does mee their accessibility requirements, there is no guarantee that the journey to the venue will be accessible. Respondents reflected on the steep streets and cobbled surfaces which can make it a challenging environment for people with reduced mobility.
“I didn’t go to the Fringe and not because of venue accessibility but inaccessibility of the cities in our country. For those of us who have to drive, cities are a no-go area.”
“I find Edinburgh a nightmare to get about in a wheelchair so don’t tend to venture there.”
“I chose venues I knew were accessible. I had an incident on Niddry Street on Edinburgh, where the venue was listed as accessible, but the street itself is as steep as a cliff face. My powerchair tipped over trying to find the entrance and box office (all tickets had gone online – no indication in Guide). Missed the event due to hospital visit.”
“I did not attend the Fringe but a few weeks before that I was in Edinburgh and trying to get access to a taxi was very difficult. In the end I had to stand in a taxi queue for over half an hour in Market Street, just outside Waverley train station and turned up for a meeting very late. (The train was already late because it was limited to 20 miles an hour due to the hotter than usual temperature).”
Respondents reflected on the costs of travel and accommodation in Edinburgh. This has been further exacerbated by the rising cost of living to make the festival unaffordable for some disabled people.
“Too expensive and can’t travel to Edinburgh.”
“I was unable to visit the festival or Fringe due to hotel prices in Edinburgh being unaffordable. Only very rich people can afford to go to at that time of year.”
“We are in the middle of a cost of living crisis. I couldn’t afford to go through.”
Along with improving access to venues around Edinburgh, some respondents suggested increasing the number of events that can also be viewed online. This was noted as a factor for a respondent who is at highest risk from becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.
“Getting around Edinburgh on my own would be a nightmare. I was hoping many more of the events would be offered online (like the Edinburgh Book Festival). However, that didn’t happen. So, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is a no-go for many disabled people. Why can’t they offer more online events?”
“As I am shielding couldn’t attend but it would be great if they had some online events. Same with Bookmark Blair – Blairgowrie Book Festival – on line during Covid but now back to in person so some of us can’t attend.”
There was a mixed response regarding the accessibility of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Respondents commented on the challenges of finding events that take place in a venue that meets their accessibility requirements. However, there was an understanding that due to the high number of events taking place, this means that a wide variety of events spaces are used and therefore the accessibility features will vary as a result. Some respondents praised staff for providing appropriate assistance at festival venues. However, one respondent noted that a staff member ignored their request to face them directly to facilitate lipreading. Respondents also commented on the accessibility of Edinburgh’s streetscapes. The steep hills and cobbled pavements can make it challenging for people with reduced mobility to get around. The increased cost of living has made the Fringe more unaffordable for some disabled people. There was a call to increase the number of online vents for people who are unable to travel through or who do not feel safe to attend due to being at high risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.