I’m sure you all know by now that I absolutely love going to concerts, they are my happy place and there really is no feeling like seeing one of your favourite bands or artists live!
I love writing blog posts on concerts that I’ve been to and telling you all about the experience that I have had as a blind fan so today is another one of those posts.
As you can guess from the title, I saw Aston Merrygold live on 10th April at the O2 Institute in Birmingham. For those of you who are not familiar with who Aston is, he was in the boy band JLS. Now don’t judge me here, but JLS have been and always will be my favourite boy band. They have never been just a boy band to me, they have given me some amazing memories and I’ve got to know some of my friends through those boys.
It’s safe to say that when they split in 2013 I was absolutely heartbroken. I was lucky enough to meet them in 2012 and attended their farewell show at the O2 Arena in London in 2013 among the many concerts of theirs that I went to which is so surreal to think about, I will forever be grateful.
The boys have moved on to do their own separate things but Aston has carried on singing, going solo. He has released some songs including an EP over the last couple of years so go and check those out (after reading this post of course).
At the end of 2017, Aston announced that he would be doing a tour in April so I obviously wanted to go. My friend Jess said that she would come with me as she really wanted to go as well, we decided that we would go to the Birmingham date as it was easy for us both to get to.
The gig was at the O2 Institute Birmingham which is where we saw Jessie J last year so I was pretty confident that we could get disabled access tickets as the venue already had my access requirements on record.
As soon as it was decided that we were going to go, I emailed the access team asking if I could book disabled access tickets for Aston’s show, I didn’t receive a response so decided to email again a couple of days later just in case they hadn’t received my last email. I got a response the second time around and someone from the venue arranged to call me so that I could pay for the tickets and she could double check my access requirements. One thing that I really like about the O2 Institute is that they call you at a time that suits you and give three options of booking accessible tickets: online, over the phone or in person at the box office.
The lady called me and I paid for our tickets and she double checked my access requirements and confirmed that I wanted a free personal assistant ticket for my friend. I asked her where we would be seated as last time I had a choice of stalls or the balcony. I was told that it was slightly different this time and I would be allocated disabled access seats.
Once I had booked our tickets, I was sent a confirmation which I had to print and take with me to the concert, this was confirmation of my free personal assistant ticket as well. It said on the confirmation that I had to collect my tickets, I didn’t think any more of this as that is what it said on my Jessie J confirmation last time and we were able to be let in with the confirmation so I didn’t think anything would go wrong.
We sorted out our trains and hotel and waited for the day to arrive. The concert soon came around and I was making my way to Birmingham!
When we arrived in Birmingham we had quite a few hours to go before the concert, so we decided to do some shopping, checked into our hotel and went to get some food before the gig. We knew that we didn’t have to queue as disabled people got priority entry and were able to enter the venue 10 minutes before everyone else.
Time soon went by and we made our way to the O2 Institute.
When arriving at the venue, we showed the confirmation of disabled access tickets to a member of staff outside who told us where to stand and said that he would let us know when we were able to go inside at 6:50pm. They were late opening the doors for some reason but we were soon able to enter the venue. I seemed to be the only disabled fan at that point which is very unusual for a concert, this was quite surprising as there is usually quite a diverse range of people that attend concerts.
Once the doors had opened, we were able to go in, in the hope that we would miss the mad rush of getting in and hopefully get merchandise as well.
When we got inside the venue, we showed a member of staff the confirmation, she asked where our tickets were and I explained that we didn’t have them as the paper stated that we had to collect them, however this wasn’t an issue at the previous concert that I attended. She told us that we had to go and collect them from the box office so off we went.
We were then told by the lady at the box office that we didn’t need them but after we explained that we had been told different, she gave them to us.
We headed back to see the first member of staff and presented our tickets to her. By this time people had been let in so we missed out on priority entry. My friend noticed that it said “standing” on the tickets which was contrary to what I had been told when I booked the tickets. There wasn’t anything that we could do as more and more people were coming through the doors so we had to go and find a spot to stand.
So, in the few minutes that we had been inside we faced quite a few problems – not having our tickets already as there was no option to have them delivered, a misunderstanding between staff about whether we needed our tickets or not to get in and the fact that I hadn’t been told that we would be standing and was automatically allocated standing tickets without any prior warning.
I had never been in the standing area at a concert before, so it was a new experience for me. I didn’t know if I was going to get pushed and squashed and obviously didn’t want to lose my friend amongst the crowd. Luckily none of that happened but I would have liked to have known that I would be standing in advance. What happened to the designated disabled access seating that I had been told about?
I have mixed feelings about the whole experience of standing, I was still able to enjoy the concert but had someone have pushed me or bumped into me, I don’t know what would have happened.
Nevertheless, I wanted to enjoy the show and make the most of it all.
Aston had two support acts which were both really good but the second one was my favourite. He was really unique, he performed a mix of original songs and mashups of covers.
Before Aston came on stage there was a DJ that got the crowd fully hyped for the show then it was finally time for Aston to come on stage!
Aston performed a mixture of songs – some brand-new songs that no one had heard, some familiar songs and he also did a medley of JLS songs which was amazing. My favourite new songs was definitely ‘Rest Of My Life’ as the song has such a lovely meaning, it’s about his little family. The new material has made me even more excited for the release of his first solo album, I cannot wait for that.
I loved the atmosphere of the gig, everyone was having a good time, singing along and enjoying themselves. His vocals were also incredible, they blew me away! He completely owned that stage as a solo artist and I can’t wait to see where his solo career takes him.
Photo credit: Jess
Aston finished the gig with his song “I Ain’t Missing You” which was a perfect end to such a brilliant show.
Once the show was over we made our way out, we wanted to buy some merchandise but they didn’t have the sizes we wanted in the t-shirts. I was even more gutted that I was unable to get it at the start like I usually would have done because of the previous problems that we encountered.
Once outside the venue, we decided to try and meet Aston which we knew would be a slim chance of happening. The concert finished at around 10pm so we said that we would wait until around 11pm.
A while later Aston’s support acts and dancers came out of the venue as well as people who were packing all the equipment away.
A short time later Aston’s security came out and a fan asked him if there was a chance that Aston would come outside and meet us and he said yes so we decided to wait, we both knew that we would have regretted it if we didn’t.
At about 11.30 his security told us that if we wanted Aston to come outside we had to be quiet, as his baby boy was sleeping but if we weren’t then he would leave which was completely understandable.
A few minutes later, Aston came outside and made his way down the line to meet and take a photo with everyone.
It took him a couple of minutes to make his way down the line to me and Jess and it was soon our turn to have a little chat and a photo. I didn’t realise that Aston was actually stood next to me, so was just casually stood there and Jess had to tell him that I was blind…it was definitely a #BlindGirlMoment! He was really apologetic and kept saying sorry for not realising, it was absolutely fine as I didn’t expect him to know that I was blind. I did laugh about it and then when he realised I found it hilarious and joked about it, he laughed as well. That’s a bit of an embarrassing story that involves my blindness but it also makes the experience quite unique in a way. Honestly, I keep laughing every time I think about it.
I then asked him if he would mind taking a photo of us as obviously I couldn’t do it, he was more than happy to do it. He asked me if I was ready to have the photo taken, he proceeded to take them then told me that he had taken three photos of us and handed my phone back to me.
I thanked him for everything over the last 10 years and he thanked me back and also thanked me for coming to the show.
He then took a photo with Jess and that was it, WE HAD JUST MET ASTON MERRYGOLD!!!!
As soon as we walked away, I burst into tears (happy tears of course) as I couldn’t believe what had just happened, I met JLS back in 2012 and honestly never even thought that I would ever meet any of them again as it can often be a challenge to meet your favourite band or artist. I was in complete shock but I was also over the moon, I was genuinely happy.
I cannot describe how I felt, it was truly an incredible feeling. Aston was so so lovely, he is honestly a genuine, down to earth guy who is so grateful for his fans. He didn’t freak out or panic about my visual impairment either and he was so cool about it, he was more than happy to take the photos for me and took the time to speak to me. I am so so grateful that I got to meet him again and feel extremely lucky.
Once we had met Aston we headed back to our hotel to process what had just happened! I was over the moon; the gig was amazing and meeting Aston after made it even more special.
The next day we got ready and packed our things, we then went into the Bullring and grabbed something to eat before getting the train back home and headed our separate ways.
That concludes today’s post, it was a rollercoaster of a day with a whole lot of emotions! I am hoping that the post highlights the difficulties and barriers that disabled people face when accessing live music but that it is possible to still meet your favourite band or artist even though you have a disability. The problems that we faced at the gig still frustrates me and it really does annoy me that I faced these because of my disability, I wish we didn’t encounter so many barriers when accessing live music like non-disabled fans.
I would just like to thank Jess for some unforgettable memories and to Aston for being such a genuine person and for being so so lovely, the concert and meeting after really reminded me why I have supported him and the JLS boys for so long.
Have you faced any challenges at concerts because of your disability? How did you meet your favourite band or artist? Let me know in the comments.