I went to the ‘Jazz Festival’ which is one of the ‘Fringe Festival’ events in Edinburgh. I love Edinburgh, my father’s side of the family are from Edinburgh so I have strong roots there and I spent a lot of time in the city as a youngster. I am pleased that the city makes considerable efforts to make sure there is good inclusivity for wheelchair users, even though it is an old city and not naturally accessible.
I have found that the ‘Edinburgh Fringe and Festival’ are quite good for wheelchair users. Obviously not all of the venues are wheelchair accessible but the organisers make a massive effort to try and ensure the major venues are wheelchair accessible by using dedicated lifts. Often you can get companion tickets to events for free. There are also specific guides that show you which venues are wheelchair accessible.
The Jazz Festival
For the Jazz Festival, I first went to the free public event Mardi Gras (which was on a Saturday, they were just using the name rather than the actual tradition!). This was held at the Grassmarket area and was accessible with a couple of disabled toilet options. One of the disabled toilets is a RADAR key operated cubicle in the nearby Beehive Inn. There is another in the Mussel and Steak Bar which is not RADAR key operated and may be rather awkward to get to as it is is at the back of the restaurant. The Mardi Gras was good. There was a good atmosphere and various different stages with different types of jazz music. Even though there were lots of competing sounds, when you went to one stage you could hear them quite clearly and the music from others didn’t particularly interfere.
The 2nd event that I went to was quite disappointing. It was a Jazz Festival parade down Princes Street, the pavements were cordoned off and onlookers crowded the pavements so it seemed like it was going to be quite a big deal. However, I only saw one actual jazz group in the procession although a number of the troupes were beating drums so perhaps that qualified them. The noise that they were making was not particularly tuneful and as there was no other instrument involved, I would not count it as jazz! The troupe that I most remember seeing was carrying a banner promoting a local Chinese restaurant. That gives you some idea of the quality of the parade!
The 3rd event that I went to was fantastic. It was located in an area that seemed to have been purpose-built for the Jazz Festival. The marquee in which my event was housed was not immediately wheelchair accessible as it had steps to the main entrance but there was a special side entrance for wheelchairs. Inside the marquee the seating was on fold up wooden chairs so it was quite easy to move them around and create a space for me. We saw The Swamp Donkeys which is a group from New Orleans and they were really brilliant. I would definitely seek them out if I went to New Orleans. They seemed to hugely enjoy their performance, they had great banter with each other and the audience and the whole spectacle was fun with great music. The lead singer had a voice similar to that of Louis Armstrong and he remarked on this and sang a Louis Armstrong special.
I stayed at the Haymarket Tune Hotel http://www.haymarkethubhotel.com/ which seems to now have been renamed as a Hub Hotel. I have stayed at this hotel before and find it is good for wheelchair accessibility. There is a tram stop right outside the hotel and the Haymarket railway station is just opposite so it is handy for transport links. The accessible room is a reasonable size although apparently the other rooms are very small. There is a disabled toilet just behind reception in the general area and is a special lift has been installed for wheelchair users to get up the small level difference between the entrance and the reception, although this can also be used by people with bulky luggage.
My love of Edinburgh continues. If only it wasn’t so bloody cold…