We would all agree that Leicester is an ethnically diverse place as far as race, religious beliefs and cuisines are concerned. In fact, you could probably go on a world tour just by walking through the city centre.
Leicester also has a name for holding big events like the Comedy Festival and the “Simon Says” Festival (also the “Big Eat” event). It is also home to some brilliant talent of its own.
However, would you be surprised if I told you there was a darker side on the reverse of the “Public Image” Leicester chooses to portray to the world? What about if I told you that there is one section of society which Leicester doesn’t welcome with open arms (in some cases to the point of actively discouraging their presence)?
I first noticed that not all of Leicester’s venues are “Disabled Friendly” as a result of attending some of the performances at a few Comedy Festivals in the past. This is particularly the case if you are in a wheelchair (or – like me – you can walk but your sight makes staircases an interesting concept and you do not wish to highlight your difficulty by walking around with a white stick or asking for help).
The irony is that the Leicester Comedy Festival has worked with a wide variety of interest groups regarding raising awareness of subjects like Mental Health, Men’s Health, etc. What is the point if half of the venues only have staircases to the performance areas with no trace of a lift? (Some of the performance areas are really too dark for someone like me to find their way to their seat even if I do manage to negotiate the stairs.)
Apparently us Disabled People have to ring in advance to ensure that the venue can cope with our arrival and our needs. By law we should not need to do this. After all, able-bodied people do not need to warn the venue when they decide to attend a performance.
Even if the building cannot be altered enough to accommodate a lift – surely it would be possible to set up some kind of “live relay” video link to the performance and allow the wheelchair users to view the performance from the Ground Floor?
Leicester is trying to make a name for itself as an All-Inclusive Multi-Cultural city. Unfortunately, until the wheelchair users and those of us with vision problems are catered for in all the venues the city will not live up to that name.