26 June 2018

Interview: BST Hyde Park - Britain's most accessible festival?

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In a recent article, we looked at the UK’s most accessible festivals and the steps they have taken to open up their events to as many guests as possible, regardless of whether they are a stair lift user, live with learning difficulties, or have any other condition that could previously have made attendance tricky.

At the top of our list was Barclaycard presents British Summer Time Hyde Park, a festival that has made providing deaf and disabled ticketholders with amazing live music experiences a priority since it was first held in 2013.

Although fully accessible from the start, the festival (often referred to simply as ‘BST Hyde Park’) has taken its commitment to helping people with physical and hidden disabilities enjoy its world-class performers to another level in 2018. We spoke with the Event Director, Jim King, to find out more about what new accessibility innovations the organisers will be rolling out this year:

Interview with Jim King - Event Director, Barclaycard presents British Summer Time Hyde Park

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1) What accessibility improvements have been made for this year’s festival and how will they make attendance easier for disabled ticketholders?

“For BST Hyde Park 2018 we are proud to have made a number of improvements for our customers with disabilities including a more efficient booking system, continuous improvements to the operation of viewing platforms and improvements to BSL (British Sign Language) provision. As well as this, AEG Presents has become a founding member of the Ticketing Without Barriers coalition launched by Attitude is Everything to make sure we continue to lead the way in accessibility.

“As of 2018, ticketholders have the opportunity to provide their evidence of disability in advance. The advantages of this are that people will not need to bring their private documents with them on the day and it will also enable us to build a database of accepted evidence so that they don’t need to resubmit in future years.

“Following customer feedback, the Barclaycard Stage Viewing Platform is now in an improved location and has an improved access route, as well as better access routes to nearby accessible toilets. A roving vendors for drinks service on the Main Stage viewing platform will continue after last year's trialled success.

“For BSL provision, after taking last year's feedback on board, we will be improving the visibility and quality of the screen-in-screen display, as well as making the interpreters more visible at the side of the stage.

“Promoted for 2018 is a Typetext service for those with hearing impairments who wish to contact a member of our customer service team by phone. A text relay assistant will relay the phone conversation between you and the person you’re calling or who is calling you.”

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Image Credit:Daniel Harris

2) BST Hyde Park has obviously taken accessibility seriously since its inception. How did the festival manage to achieve the Silver Level of the Charter of Best Practice, awarded by the charity Attitude is Everything, in its very first year?

“In 2013 we were proud to be awarded the Silver Level of the Charter of Best Practice by Attitude is Everything. This is the first time a UK event has received the award in its first year. Our aim was, and is, to ensure that BST Hyde Park is fully accessible to anyone who wants to attend, and we worked across all departments to make sure that we delivered this in our first year. The work did not stop there and we continue to strive for excellent customer service and experience each year.”

3) It has recently been announced that the festival’s promoter is a founder member of Attitude is Everything’s ‘Ticketing without Barriers’ coalition. What does committing to being part of this initiative involve?

“AEG Presents are proud to be a founding member of the new Ticketing Without Barriers coalition launched by Attitude is Everything. We pledge to work together on industry-leading solutions to ensure an equal ticketing experience for deaf and disabled audiences.

“As outlined by Attitude is Everything, the coalition will enable members to exchange ideas, issues and solutions, and work towards a single, unified vision for what best practice means when it comes to facilitating access booking for deaf and disabled people.”

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4) Can you tell us how you came to develop the festival’s new, easy-read accessibility guide and where ticketholders can find it online?

“The aim was to produce an information page that would highlight BST Hyde Park’s access facilities in a format that is clear to those with learning difficulties and disabilities. It was developed by our Access Manager in line with best practice guides and can be found online on our disability access information page.”

5) There are clear provisions that can be made for wheelchair users to improve their enjoyment of live music. However, what does BST Hyde Park also do to ensure those with hidden disabilities are given the help they need at the event?

“This is a really key focus for us. Invisible disability, or hidden disability, is defined as disabilities that are not immediately apparent to others. Those with hidden disabilities have access to areas such as pre-bookable viewing areas, quiet areas, accessible toilets, a welfare service, and the option of a free personal assistant pass if required. Our dedicated Access Manager is the main point of contact on site for anyone who needs assistance and is based at the dedicated Access Information Hub.”

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6) There is plenty of support available at the festival, but what about getting to the venue itself? Is there a particular accessible route you would recommend?

“For those using public transport we have put together a clear video showing the best route to get to the venue from step-free Green Park underground station. The video is on our website and can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/0Y7lr_RsvQ0. It was recorded and edited by a wheelchair-user and regular festival-goer.

“For those who require car parking, we have a number of pre-bookable Blue Badge parking spaces available which are provided free of charge at the time of booking tickets. An accessible buggy service is provided from this car park to and from the accessible entrance.”

7) How can disabled ticketholders and their carers get in touch if they have any specific questions or requests regarding access facilities at the festival?

“If access ticketholders require further assistance our access customer service team can be reached via our dedicated BST phone line on 0844 824 0300 (18001 0203 481 55 06 for Typetext), and also contacted by email on access@bst-hydepark.com.”

8) Do you have any advice for other festivals / live events looking to improve their facilities for disabled guests? What should their priorities be in this area?

“Attitude is Everything is a brilliant resource for advice and support. They have 19 years of experience in supporting non-profit and commercial organisations to make what they do more accessible and inclusive for deaf and disabled people.”

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9) Looking to the future, are there any further accessibility improvements in the pipeline for next year’s festival and beyond?

“Each year we look to improve based on customer feedback which we collate via post-event surveys and mystery shoppers. We are also very excited to continue our work with the Ticketing without Barriers coalition to collaboratively strive for industry-wide world class booking processes.”

10) Finally, which of the headline acts are you most excited about seeing at BST Hyde Park this year?

“We have six amazing shows lined up. I'm most excited about Paul Simon, however, because it is part of his Farewell Tour and his last ever UK show.”

BST Hyde Park: the 2018 line-up

As Jim mentioned, the six shows that make up this year’s BST Hyde Park line-up are particularly impressive, and not just because they will be rounded off by that very special final UK performance from Paul Simon.

Friday 6 July

Headlining: Roger Waters

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The 2018 edition of BST Hyde Park will kick off in style with a show headlined by the legendary former Pink Floyd frontman, Roger Waters.

Five years after his last world tour, The Wall Live, became the highest-grossing of all time for a solo artist, Waters returns to the UK with Us + Them, a show that has already been delighting audiences from France to Australia. Sure to amaze casual and hard-core fans alike, the performance promises to feature favourites from classic Pink Floyd records like Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here, as well as tracks from Is This the Life We Really Want?, Waters’ first fully-fledged solo album for 25 years, released to critical acclaim in 2017.

As with all the BST Hyde Park concerts, the headline show will be preceded throughout the day and evening by performances from a truly impressive supporting cast. Before Waters takes to the stage, the sold-out crowd will be treated to sets from the likes of former Verve frontman Richard Ashcroft, the hobo-turned-blues-sensation Seasick Steve, and Squeeze, the iconic new wave group who first found success in the late 1970s.

Support highlights:

  • Richard Ashcroft
  • Seasick Steve
  • Squeeze

Saturday 7 July

Headlining: The Cure

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Whilst Roger Waters’ appearance is just one of many dates he is playing as part of an extensive world tour, the next day at BST Hyde Park will see hugely influential rockers The Cure perform what is scheduled to be their only live European show of 2018.

Founded back in 1976 in Crawley, West Sussex, The Cure – whose line-up has changed many times over the years but with idiosyncratic frontman Robert Smith remaining a constant presence throughout – released their debut single two years later. Now, the band are celebrating the 40th anniversary of their breakthrough, and have chosen to do so in the beautiful surroundings of Hyde Park. Tickets for this much-anticipated date have already sold out, with loyal fans looking forward to hearing classic tracks like ‘Close to Me’, ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ and ‘The Love Cats’ in person.

The opening Saturday of BST Hyde Park will also be, as The Cure would say, ‘Just like Heaven’ for fans of classic 2000s indie music. Among the support acts will be critically-lauded New York rockers Interpol, who will be releasing their sixth studio album in August, the enduringly popular electronic duo Goldfrapp, and the guitar-driven five-piece Editors, who are arguably one of the this century’s most consistently high-quality UK acts.

Support highlights:

  • Interpol
  • Goldfrapp
  • Editors

Sunday 8 July

Headlining: Eric Clapton

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Image Credit: George Chin

Sunday 8 July will see a true guitar legend grace BST Hyde Park’s Great Oak Stage, in the form of Eric Clapton. Another performance which has already sold out, it is no surprise that fans of the rock God took little time snapping up tickets for his only upcoming scheduled show.

From his formative years as a member of influential bands including The Yardbirds and Cream to a spectacular solo career that spawned such eclectic hits as the rock anthem ‘Layla’ and the beautiful ‘Tears in Heaven’, Clapton has enjoyed almost unparalleled recording and touring success.

Once again, describing the acts that will be entertaining the crowds before Eric Clapton arrives on stage as ‘support’ seems a little unfair, given the iconic status of those who will be playing. Perhaps most exciting of all is the appearance of Santana, the Latin rock group that has now been led by hugely talented frontman Carlos Santana for over 50 years. Fittingly, the bill will also feature a set from Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton’s long-time friend and former collaborator in projects like Blind Faith, whilst the resurgent strength of modern blues will also be celebrated with the help of Gary Clark Jr., a Texas-born artist whose high-profile fans include the likes of The Rolling Stones and Clapton himself.

Support highlights:

  • Santana
  • Steve Winwood
  • Gary Clark Jr.

Friday 13 July

Headlining: MichaelBublé 

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BST Hyde Park is spread across two weekends, and the second will begin in style on Friday 13 July with the help of the incredibly popular pop-jazz vocalist MichaelBublé.

The Canadian singer has sold upwards of 75 million records worldwide since self-releasing his first album back in 2001, and is now widely regarded as one of the most successful mainstream jazz acts of recent decades, bringing back into fashion the kind of crooning first made popular in the mid-20th century by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.

It is a testament to Bublé’s popularity that he is being supported by Van Morrison, the Northern Irishman who is arguably among the greatest singer-songwriters of the past 50 years. Despite enjoying a lengthy, prolific and high-quality recording career, ‘Van the Man’ has never been one to rest on his laurels, and recently released his fifth album of the past four years! Other acts appearing on Friday 13 July include Bananarama, the classic girl group who enjoyed colossal success in the 1980s with hits including ‘Robert De Niro’s Waiting…’ and ‘Love in the First Degree’, and power-pop quintet The Feeling,

Along with BST Hyde Park’s two closing shows, Friday 13 July is one of only three dates for which tickets can still be secured. For more information on the packages available, click here.

Support highlights:

  • Van Morison
  • Bananarama
  • The Feeling

Saturday 14 July

Headlining: Bruno Mars

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The penultimate day of BST Hyde Park 2018 will see one of modern R&B’s brightest lights, Bruno Mars, raise the roof when he tops what will be the youngest line-up of this year’s festival.

The Hawaiian-born sensation is already on the official list of the world’s best-ever selling musicians, having shifted over 130 million records despite releasing just three albums. With a string of chart-busting hits like ‘Marry You’ and ‘Uptown Funk’ to his name, as well as a reputation for putting on uniquely exciting and inventive live shows, Bruno Mars is a true 21st-century sensation.

Mars will be supported by special guest Khalid, whose debut album, American Teen, was hugely successful and led to him being the most streamed artist on Spotify for four days in a row. In addition, there will be sets from funk-pop outfit DNCE and Charlie Wilson, former lead vocalist of The Gap Band, who in recent years has enjoyed a remarkable career resurgence and found mainstream popularity amongst a new generation of listeners.

A strictly limited number of tickets are still available for Saturday 14 July, so be quick and reserve yours by clicking here.

Support highlights:

  • Khalid
  • DNCE
  • Charlie Wilson

Sunday 15 July

Headlining: Paul Simon

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Image Credit: Jessica Gilbert /Legacy Recordings

There could surely be no better way of bringing this year’s edition of BST Hyde Park to a close than by staging the final UK performance of an undisputed musical legend and one of the finest singer-songwriters the world has ever seen – Paul Simon.

From the phenomenal success enjoyed in the 1960s with his singing partner Art Garfunkel to seminal solo works like 1986’s Graceland, Simon has over the last 50 years built up a back catalogue that includes a number of history’s most popular songs. Fans still have the chance to hear classic tracks like ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’, ‘You Can Call Me Al’ and ‘The Sound of Silence’ live for the very last time by booking tickets for the show here.

As if that wasn’t enough, Simon’s supporting cast for his last UK show reads like a who’s who of renowned folk and blues singer-songwriters. Folk-rock icon James Taylor will be joined by his All-Star Band, who will no doubt be rolling back the years with their renditions of old favourites like ‘You’ve Got a Friend’ and ‘How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)’, with blues hero Bonnie Raitt and modern-day, folk-inspired troubadour Johnny Flynn rounding off a day to remember.

Support highlights:

  • James Taylor & His All-Star Band
  • Bonnie Raitt
  • Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit

A brief history of BST Hyde Park

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Prior to 2013, it would be fair to say that most people’s idea of a summer music festival was pretty far removed from what is now offered by BST Hyde Park. With most of the UK’s favourite such events taking place away from major cities, and often in the difficult-to-reach countryside, the addition of British Summer Time to the country’s festival calendar was a very welcome surprise for the millions of music lovers based in London.

Providing many elements of the classic British festival experience in the convenient and accessible heart of the capital, BST Hyde Park was a roaring success in its very first year, thanks to the kind of inaugural line-up that most new festivals could only dream of: Bon Jovi, The Beach Boys, Lionel Richie and Ray Davies were just some of the musical legends that took to the stage alongside rock ‘n’ roll pioneers The Rolling Stones, who played not just one but two memorable shows. 

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Since its 2013 debut, BST Hyde Park has continued to entertain thousands of people with sets from a number of greats spanning many different genres, including the likes of Neil Young, Black Sabbath, Tom Jones, Justin Bieber, The Libertines, The Who, Take That, Carole King, Stevie Wonder, Green Day (pictured above), The Killers, Blur, the late Tom Petty and Arcade Fire (the latter of which was described by the Metro newspaper as ‘the concert of the summer’).

Now well and truly established as one of the best annual music events not just in London but anywhere in the country, and with a number of prestigious awards to its name, BST Hyde Park is awaited with an ever keener sense of anticipation with each passing year. With such an impressive roster of artists scheduled to perform this year, 2018’s instalment of the festival is set to be quite possibly the best yet.

Additional Image Credits: Barclaycard presents British Summer Time Hyde Park