Eden Sessions - live music accessible to everyone
The Eden Project has earned an international reputation, not only for its biomes but also for hosting The Sessions, a series of creative and inspirational music events in the summer months. From major rock bands such as Muse and Snow Patrol to singer-songwriters like Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse, the Sessions has introduced a world-renowned music venue to Cornwall. The Sensory Trust has been working with the Eden Project to ensure the Sessions are a great experience for people of all ages and abilities.
Making live music accessible to everyone is no mean feat. The Sessions are attended by thousands of people and there are pressures on the site and staff to make sure it works for the mass as well as for a wide range of individual needs. It has meant looking in detail at every aspect of planning and running the events - pre-visit information, the arrival experience, catering, toilets, crowd control and safe departure. We assessed the site for physical access and invited groups and individuals to the concerts to help us identify barriers that get in the way of a great experience. We have built on these observations and visitor feedback and worked with the Eden teams to test different approaches over the years.
The kinds of improvements that happened were increasing the size of the wheelchair accessible platform, positioning accessible toilets within easy reach of view points, providing areas with more room for families and groups, training staff in disability awareness and introducing hearing balloons so that people with hearing impairments can feel the music.
Eden staff has helped create an atmosphere that is supportive and non-threatening where visitors who may be unused to large groups of people and music concerts can enjoy an evening with some degree of independence. Many people have said they felt that staff understood their needs and that their presence was reassuring but not over-attentive.
Information design has included the development of an Access Guide on Eden's website, outlining the key access information for visitors. We also piloted the use of a different style of maps - ones designed to show visitors a choice of routes from the visitor centre, using a 3D perspective of the site and intended to help them find their way more easily.
A support worker who accompanied two young people with Aspergers Syndrome said: It was the first time the boys had been to Eden and they were blown away by the experience. We all really enjoyed the evening and it was wonderful to see the lads looking so happy and confident.
David Croft, who uses a powerchair, said: The Sessions are, in my opinion, the icing on the cake for Eden in the summer and the platform offers a superb viewing area for disabled people.
The Eden Sessions now offer an inclusive experience for eveyone to enjoy. But we are not resting on our laurels. Each year the diversity of the audience increases, as does the number of people using the viewing platforms, and we continue to receive valuable feedback of individual experiences at the Sessions to feed into future plans.
Vaughan Temby of Disability Cornwall said, "It has been a privilege to witness how the accessibility, and therefore the inclusiveness, of the Eden Sessions have consistently improved each year to now reach a level everybody involved should be proud of."
Eden Sessions on video
Links to more info
Eden Access Guide on Eden's website, developed by Sensory Trust
Visitor information related to attending the Sessions
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