AFTER two years of lockdown, the world is slowly returning to a new normal. This includes music gigs and open air festivals.

In the past I've been to lots of gigs but not to a festival, so I went with trepid anticipation and some new, and borrowed, camping gear.

Doune the Rabbit Hole, set in Cardross Estate, Stirling, is a four-day festival which featured Belle and Sebastian, Amy McDonald, Teenage Fan Club, 10cc, Baccara, Boney M, The Bluebells and a lot more over three main stages. 

The festival, postponed during the pandemic years 20-22, was widely promoted this year as family-friendly but no real mention of disability accessibility.

During the festival, there was a wide demographic from ages one and below to 60s and beyond, and there was also a family area including workshops, crafting and talks.

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Gig Buddies and Stay Up Late Scotland were also there to work and promote the organisations, and have some fun.

Gig Buddies enables adults with a learning disability to live an active social life. The project pairs up people with and without learning disabilities and/or autism to go to gigs. This means they'll be sharing their passions with each other and be able to fit their volunteering around their other commitments.

Stay Up Late Scotland works alongside Gig Buddies. I'm the chair of this campaign, which started out as we realised that people with a disability often have to leave nights out early when support workers' shifts finished at 10pm.

We had a pop-up stand over the four days, sharing some promotional material and a unique tote bag workshop, for disabled people to express feelings on what it means to get out, or restrictions on going out and staying out late. There was excellent footfall at the stand, and hopefully, it will create more buzz and a few more members.

A few of us held a 45-minute presentation, in the Douniversity tent - this helps to stretch further awareness of the campaign to a wider and more varied audience.

As well as key members of the team giving a short history of both campaigns, we heard from a few members about how being part of our growth in Scotland has enhanced their life experiences.

This year saw an estimated 15,000 including myself attend Doune. I've not got the best review for accessibility onsite. The accessible camping site was on a hill, those in wheelchairs or with mobility issues struggled to navigate easily and comfortably.

Adjacent was the rear of the festival cordon, and a dance tent open with people raving until 2am - unfair to people with health conditions trying to get to sleep, some there for a full four days. Generally, feedback from fellow campers was they were enjoying the festival but that access was poor.

At the accessible camping area they had a Pamiloo, this is the first Scottish mobile changing places toilet. This vehicle can be used for events like festivals, as people with a disability are unable to attend events or visit outdoors venues due to the lack of appropriate toilets. The organisation behind this is Pamis - Promoting A More Inclusive Society.

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Though the festival was a short uphill walk from the camping, when we got in it was good to see and hear live music again. I did notice around the site there were raised platforms to view the stages. I can only comment on this festival as it's the first I've been to, but there was a nice atmosphere.

It wasn't until after the festival was over I discovered that unpaid carers had free entry. I think the festival has to be commended for this, as they recognised the great work that unpaid carers do every day, to award them with a free pass for the four days was uplifting.

For next year I think the festival organisers should get feedback from people with lived experience when it comes to visualising and creating a fully accessible camping site. I would go back to this festival. Also, the weather was great, so that was a bonus.