Murray Goulder was diagnosed with epilepsy as a teenager. He is a big music fan and regularly travels the country to go to gigs with his wife Karen. Unfortunately, when they recently went to ABBA Voyage in London, his experience was not as it should have been. He explains below…
I attended a show at ABBA Voyage with my family on 13 October. I had booked tickets for my in-laws’ birthdays at the cost of £395. My wife Karen and I go to gigs regularly and she travels with me as my personal assistant. I count myself lucky because I am not photosensitive. We go to many shows throughout the year. We recently did some work with the Access Team at The O2 Arena in London to make experiences for all disabled people better.
Up until the night of ABBA Voyage, the booking process at the ABBA Arena had been excellent. This was the second time we had been, so we a good idea of what to expect and we were looking forward to the surprise it would be for Karen’s parents.
For some context, wherever we go, I always identify myself with lanyards, access cards, Hidden Disabilities Sunflower bands and Epilepsy Action bands so people around me know that I have a hidden condition. This is so I don’t frighten them during a seizure, and so they don’t do the wrong thing. This has happened before when I have travelled.
Arriving at ABBA Voyage
We got to the show about two hours early as the arena was a bit of a distance from our hotel. I had been experiencing some discomfort from some kidney stones that had been found after an emergency CT scan at hospital a few weeks beforehand after having back pain for almost a year. Due to the severity of what had recently happened, I was having to visit the toilet frequently and was wearing the equivalent of adult nappies.
Just before the show was due to start (perhaps 30 seconds to a minute beforehand), I urgently needed to go to the toilet. I passed a doorman who asked if I was sure if I wanted to go. I said I had to go and it couldn’t wait and would be right back. He said no more.
I walked to the disabled toilet closest to block C, where I was seated, and it was locked so I used the standard male toilets. I couldn’t go any further on my own as there is a risk of me having seizures and I did not know the venue had closed the doors.
On returning to the door, I was told I couldn’t go back in as the show had started and I had to wait. The doorman called a manager as I had some questions. The manager asked me what she could do, and I said my carer and family were just inside and explained I had epilepsy. She started to tell me about her sister also having epilepsy – which to me, in this situation, was irrelevant – and she said I had to wait regardless but gave no timeframe. I have uncontrolled epilepsy and was not told about these barriers to safety for disabled people prior to booking.
I noticed another woman opposite, who had also been locked out, was screaming and crying about spending a lot of money on her tickets. She was getting louder and louder and eventually she was taken into the arena, which was a major concern to me given what I had just been told.
My wife came looking for me and we were eventually let back in. I now have concerns about how disabled patrons are treated at ABBA Voyage. It is potentially dangerous if the staff ignore us.
What really upset me was that I was accused of “using my disability as an excuse” by the door attendant, because I asked questions. They have no right, skills or knowledge to make this comment. I have lived with epilepsy for 27 years. There needs to be some serious upskilling by the venue management.
I wrote to the ABBA Voyage access team and the general venue email address twice. The venue did not respond and the access team said I was a latecomer and ignored my comments. I will not be going to ABBA Voyage again and I will be letting other people know what happened and how they treat people with hidden conditions.
In correspondence seen by Epilepsy Action, the team at ABBA Voyage told Murray that his complaint was escalated to management on the night and that all staff have completed the necessary training during onboarding.
In response, a spokesperson from ABBA Voyage said: “We are in conversation with the guest about the issues raised and are continuing to investigate internally.”
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