My name is Faith Martin, I’m a 21-year-old music journalist, disability campaigner and live music lover who also uses Changing Places toilets. I live in Portsmouth, a lively seaside city with a vibrant music scene, but I travel all over the UK to watch the artists I follow. My favourites include: Wolf Alice, Arctic Monkeys, Blossoms and Circa Waves, although it’s almost impossible to choose just four, considering I’m at a gig almost every week!
Faith sat to side of stage in her wheelchair, waiting for an act to come on stage.
Live music for me is about freedom of expression. It’s a chance to be yourself without judgment as well as a great way to socialise and meet new people. As a disabled person, I find it a vital means of connecting to a world that doesn’t always include me.
Now as you may expect from a 21-year-old, there’s nothing I love more than a pint to accompany all this live music, but that’s where things get tricky. Whilst I’m fully independent and don’t need the assistance of carers, I do need a Changing Places toilet if I stand a chance of staying hydrated in the hot, sweaty venues that I spend so much time in. A Changing Places toilet is larger than a standard accessible loo (12m² or more). Crucially for me it has a ceiling hoist (I can hoist myself from my chair to the toilet), as well as an adult-sized changing bench, height-adjustable sink and often a Closomat wash and dry toilet.
Without a Changing Places toilet, the following is my reality. Could you do this?
When you wake up don’t drink anything under any circumstance. Got it? Go to the loo before you leave your house at 16:00 ready for a 16:30 train to London Waterloo. You arrive in London two hours later. There are no toilets you can use on the train or at the station, so instead of grabbing a coffee, head straight for the venue. It’s now 19:30. After a wonderful support act you get chatting to some people in the crowd, they offer you a drink. You politely decline as there is no toilet you can use in the venue either and you’ve already had as much to drink as you can allow yourself. The band burst onto the stage at 21:00, by now you’re aware you need the loo, but you ignore it and try to carry on with your evening. It’s 22:30 now and it’s time to make your way back to the station for the last train home. You manage to get on the 23:30 train, more aware than ever that you need the loo, but managing to hold it in. Luckily the last train home is not the slow one, but by 00:15 it’s becoming unbearable and your bladder feels like it’s on fire! If you’re lucky enough not to have an accident, you get off the train at 01:00 AM and manage to reach your front door fifteen minutes later where you rush to the bathroom over nine hours after you left the house!
I’ve had to train my body to function on dangerous levels of dehydration without causing a water or kidney infection. It’s somewhat scientific and I really don’t recommend it!
Now it’s important to point out that not every experience has to be like this. Remember that exciting music scene in Portsmouth I was talking about? Well, I have been visiting the Victorious festival in Portsmouth for eight years. As part of its commitment to accessibility, the organisers include a Changing Places toilet on site all weekend for disabled festival goers that require it (hence why I keep returning).
There are also some large venues such as Wembley Stadium, Principality Stadium (Cardiff) and The NEC, Resorts World Arena in Birmingham that have Changing Places toilets. This is great for arena tours and bigger acts, but what about the smaller venues – the ones that I go to the most? I’ve yet to find a Changing Places in any that I’ve visited.
Changing Places facilities ensure people like me are not risking a medical emergency when they go out for a night of entertainment. They mean we can have a drink with friends, which makes the whole live music experience so much less nerve-racking. But there are simply not enough of these facilities, and we need to make venues aware of the need so they can do something about it!
A mirror selfie of Faith taken in a Changing Places toilet. Faith is sat in her wheelchair and looking at her phone. She’s wearing tartan print trousers, black t-shirt and black biker jacket.
If you have any questions regarding Changing Places facilities, please click here to contact us – we’re always here to help.