05 November 2021

How accessible are Manchester’s best music venues?

Manchester is well-known for its music scene and for being the birthplace of huge bands such as The Stone Roses, Oasis, Happy Mondays and Take That. It is still thriving today with more acclaimed and emerging artists coming out of the city, but something else that Manchester can boast about is its diverse range of music venues.

The city is home to huge venues which welcome worldwide superstars and smaller venues that showcase the talents of up-and-coming artists. Many venues these days offer great accessibility to their visitors with stairlifts, lifts and accessible toilets just some of the facilities on offer.

With so many music venues in Manchester, this article takes a look at how accessible some of these are to visitors who are in a wheelchair or have a mobility issue.

Accessible live music venues in Manchester

  • AO Arena
  • Albert Hall Manchester
  • The Stoller Hall
  • Hallé St Peter's
  • Bridgewater Hall
  • O2 Ritz Manchester

AO Arena

The AO Arena, formerly known as the Manchester Arena, is Europe’s largest indoor concert venue and it attracts more than 1.2 million people every year. The music venue is known throughout the world, has previously been voted International Venue of the Year and hosts anything from rock and pop to classical music.

The venue is very accessible and last year, the venue was awarded GOLD status by Attitude is Everything, the disability-led charity with over 20 years of experience improving deaf and disabled people’s access to live music.

Gideon Feldman, Head of Programmes for Attitude is Everything said: “It’s really exciting to see the work that has been undertaken over the last few years from the AO Arena around the experience they offer customers, performers and their staffing team who are deaf and disabled. The work undertaken to put the charter in place has a wide implication on how the venues run from sign language interpreting for performances on request to the Changing Places toilet installed and we’re delighted that Manchester Arena is now a Gold venue, the commitment shown to access from all is fantastic.”

The AO Arena is now the only venue in the North West to have a dedicated ‘Changing Places Toilet’ facility which is one of four in Manchester City Centre. All staff receive ongoing disability and equality awareness training so that they are able to champion access across the venue and embed best practices in their work and throughout their departments. The arena’s backstage areas have also been upgraded to ensure that they are fully accessible which means that disabled artists and fans alike can enjoy the full Arena experience without compromise.

Simone Riches, the author of Manchester Mummy, would highly recommend people to visit the AO Arena. She said: “Music is at the heart of Manchester. With influences from The Stone Roses and The Happy Mondays all the way through to Blossoms, but there is always something special about seeing a band live in Manchester.

“The AO Arena (more fondly remembered as the MEN Arena) is the largest music venue where I have personally watched artists from Lauryn Hill and Faithless to Craig David and erm... Boyzone. It's accessible and right inside in the Victoria Train station, so seriously handy. The Manchester Academy is an awesome venue to see less well-known bands but expect to be crammed in for a fabulous night of music!”

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Albert Hall Manchester

Albert hall Manchester

The Albert Hall Manchester is an iconic music venue in the city and is a popular destination for acts. It has a fascinating story too as it was closed for more than 40 years until it was resurrected in 2013 and turned into a stunning purpose-built music hall.

Since its reopening, it has played host to both live and club acts of all genres, including, Sam Smith, Hacienda, Marco Carola, Hannah Wants and Annie Mac.

The Albert Hall Manchester spoke about why people should come to a gig at their venue: “In terms of why people should come to watch music at the Albert Hall - we're a beautiful Grade II listed Wesleyan chapel in the heart of Manchester hosting a wide range of events throughout the year. We pride ourselves on being accessible to all.”

The Albert Hall has a lot of stairs and no lift due to it being a grade 2 listed building, but there is a stair climber and a secure wheelchair area in the accessible seating area of the venue that a fully trained Albert Hall team member will help you get to. If you are using the stair climber you will need to visit the venue early as it will take around 20-minutes to scale all the steps.

The accessibility area is located on their balcony level and it has space for up to four wheelchair users. It is a reserved seated area that has an accessible toilet and a great view of the stage so visitors can enjoy the performance they are watching.

The Stoller Hall

Stoller Hall

Based in the heart of Manchester, The Stoller Hall offers a world-class acoustic experience and it hosts music that ranges from classical and chamber, folk and jazz to contemporary music and even comedy shows.

The Stoller Hall is one of Manchester's newest music venues, with welcoming and modern facilities designed for a range of audience needs. This includes accessible toilets, lifts, baby change facilities, a wheelchair ramp entrance, and an infra-red hearing loop in The Stoller Hall.

Speaking about why people should come and watch music at their venue, The Stoller Hall, said: “The Stoller Hall has established a reputation for creating unforgettable live music experiences, through the incredible acoustics, welcoming atmosphere and intimate concert hall space where audiences can get closer to the music. Based in the heart of Manchester city centre, it's easily accessible by train, plane, Metrolink, car or on foot.”

Hallé St Peter's

Hallé St Peter's is a venue that dates back to 1858 and whilst the area has a history linked to the Industrial Revolution, this Grade II listed church is now the principal rehearsal and recording venue for the Hallé Orchestra, Choir and other Hallé Ensembles.

The venue is accessible to visitors in a wheelchair or those with other mobility issues as there is nearby parking for drivers displaying a blue badge, accessible toilets on each floor of the building and there are ramps available to help visitors who struggle with steps.

Even though the building is accessible, as this is an original Grade II listed building there are certain aspects that make it difficult for it to be fully accessible. There are staff who are trained in disability awareness that will be able to aid anyone that needs help getting up any steps.

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Bridgewater Hall

Bridgewater Hall

Bridgewater Hall is a state-of-the-art 2,400 seat auditorium that opened in September 1996. It plays host to concerts that vary from classical and jazz to modern pop gigs and it is also home to the renowned Hallé Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic and Manchester Camerata.

The venue is very accessible as the main entrance has level access from Lower Mosley Street and there is step-free access into the auditorium, meeting rooms, restaurants and bars. Visitors can access all the floors via a lift and there are accessible toilets on every floor.

There are 16 wheelchair spaces located in the auditorium and there is seating available for people who need extra legroom or space for a guide dog. There are even wheelchairs that you can use at Bridgewater Hall, but they are subject to availability.

O2 Ritz Manchester

Band playing at the O2 Ritz in Manchester

The O2 Ritz Manchester may have started off as a dancehall when it was built in the 1920s, but in the mid-20th century, it was transformed into a music venue. It has since played a big role in Manchester’s famous musical history and it now offers you a vibrant schedule of live music, club nights, and special events across all genres of entertainment.

This iconic venue has hosted some of the city’s most famous and popular bands, including The Happy Mondays and The Smiths in the 1980s and early 1990s. Today it continues to attract top acts from across the globe.

It is also an accessible venue with wheelchair spaces and accessible viewing areas for visitors who have mobility issues. There are accessible toilets and lowered counters at the bar and ticket office for anyone in a wheelchair with accessible parking close by.

This guide features some of the best music venues in Manchester and if you are a music lover who has a mobility issue that uses curved stairlifts at home, a wheelchair or other walking aids, you can be safe in the knowledge that these venues will cater to your needs.