Curve Fashion Festival 2018: The Good, The Bad and The Future

22 November 2018

As you may have seen on social media I attended The Curve Fashion Festival in Liverpool on the weekend and the accessibility was extremely poor. I wasn't sure whether to write a post on it as I have been in talks with the organisers about how we can make next year better. However, I thought it was important to highlight the issues and what needs to be changed on here so that more people can understand and learn from it. 

Curve Fashion Festival 2018 Review
My mum and I set off for Liverpool on Friday evening as it's a 3.5 hour drive and we both suck at mornings so thought we'd better stay the night before. I then had the worlds worst nights sleep as my back was agony and I am not about the single bed life. An hours sleep before a day out is not the one. 0/10 do not recommend. 

Luckily as I was meeting up with my babe Sarah and her mum, Sarah told me the best/cheapest place to park. We also magically managed to time arriving at pretty much the same time, even though me and my mum are notoriously late for everything. 

We headed over to St George's Hall and met our first hurdle. There weren't any signs and we had no idea how to get into the building. The top was fenced off for the Christmas market so we asked the guys there how to get in and they sent us to a side door. Unfortunately, this still wasn't the way in and we were directed to go out of the building and all the way around to the other side which meant going down a long bumpy hill and back up the other side. The surface was pretty difficult to push on and by the time I got to the top I was knackered. This was not helped by the fact that when we found the entrance we realised we could have cut through the Christmas market and avoided the hill. 

Once in we were shown the lift and taken up to the floor we were told we needed and then just left in the corridor. Once again no signs meant we had no idea where we needed to go. Luckily, one of the lovely staff members found us, sorted us out with stamps and itineraries and showed us up to the Catwalk area. They then moved the VIP seating around to create some extra room so we could sit in our wheelchairs and not be in the way. My mum did comment that for a plus size events the seats were really close together making sitting next to people awkward and uncomfortable. 

After the catwalk, we decided to venture down and check out the Fashion/market hall. This was where it all went downhill. The room was simply not big enough for all the stalls and the sheer amount of people. As soon as we went in, the noise and the heat hit me. My mum's really badly claustrophobic so she didn't last very long before she had to escape into the corridor. 

We basically got swept around in a sea of people because if we stopped we couldn't get going again. I spent the whole time feeling in the way, apologising to people and terrified I was going to run someone over because I couldn't see where everyone's limbs were. I have to say the majority of people were amazing, helping us get through and asking people who hadn't seen us to move. However, as usual with being in a wheelchair in a busy place we got our fair share of bags to the head. We also couldn't see any of the clothes let alone buy any as we couldn't get to the stalls and if we stopped we blocked the whole aisle. 

We didn't even make it down the last aisle as it was so narrow we didn't fit. My heart couldn't hack the heat, my anxiety hated how damn crowded and loud it was and it was just an all round horrible experience. As the event was spread across 2 floors with only one lift, the lift was always extremely crowded as well.  

We even waited for a talk to start and tried again but it never seemed to get any less busy. It got even worse when people started queuing for cocktails as the queue reached halfway down the middle aisle reducing the space even more. There was also a queue for a meet and greet which reduced said aisle even more. It was just chaos. 

Also for an all-day event in a hot room, the only drinks were cocktails and the only food was doughnuts and cupcakes. Now I love a cake but that's not exactly filling. I ended up not eating all day and luckily I'd taken my own water otherwise I would definitely have passed out. 

Unfortunately, as the accessible toilet was the easiest one to find everyone had been using it and not realising the door was electric had been pushing it which resulted in the motors being burnt out and a broken door on the only accessible toilet.

For the rest of the event, me and my mum found a seat in the catwalk area and just sat and watched all the talks and shows. We even stayed up there when there was an hour break because at least we had a seat and weren't being squished. Leaving was also pretty stressful because the lift was super busy and the signage to get out wasn't great. Also sidenote - don't try and get back to St Johns carpark at peak time because the lifts are awful and there are some angry ladies with pushchairs out there. 

Although the event was not geared up for wheelchair users I still had a lovely weekend away with my mum and we had the most epic Indian takeaway when we got back. I got to spend the day with Sarah and I got to meet people that I have spoken to and admired on the internet for years. The catwalks and talks also inspired me to try new outfits and fall in love with different styles. 

I felt extremely frustrated and let down on the day because once again accessibility wasn't taken seriously. Paying money for an event which you can't actually access half of is extremely frustrating.  Just because a building says it is legally accessible doesn't mean it will necessarily be suitable for your event. 

However, I know for a fact that the organisers have taken what's been said on board and are making changes so that next year everyone can enjoy the event safely. They are willing to listen to disabled people and are organising focus groups to hear what we need to make it accessible. I will be one of the people chatting to them so if you have anything you want mentioning either leave a comment or drop me an email and I will make sure to bring it up. 

Accessibility is so important and something that I hope to help improve wherever I can. Here's hoping TCFF will be amazing next year.

You can also check out Sarah's post on the day to see her thoughts and how she was affected. 

Beth...x

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