Disability news

Festival is congratulated after improving access

Cat Dafydd being hugged by her two daughters

A youth arts festival has addressed issues raised about its lack of accessible facilities by making this year's event a success for disabled visitors.

The annual Urdd Eisteddford event held in Llandovery, Carmartenshire, was scrutinised in 2023 for its poor access.

Taking the concerns on board organisers Urdd Gobaith Cymru upped their game this year by partnering up with Disability Arts Cymru.

Cat Dafydd, a wheelchair user from Llandysul, [pictured above], told BBC News: "It makes me think they've listened.”

This year’s festival saw the introduction of British Sign Language [BSL] translations for the main stage, track marks covering the ground and a high-dependency unit toilet complete with a hoist.

Ms Dafydd has been disappointed with the accessibility over the past few years, although this time she was pleasantly surprised.

"When we’ve visited the Urdd before, it has been very difficult to move round, very difficult to find somewhere suitable to go to the toilet,” she explained.

"It was hard to go into the pavilion and find somewhere, to roll in, to stay."

However she added that "this time it's different".

"A lot of things I can see they've really considered and changed.

"I complain a lot about things to make it fair for people in a wheelchair.

"They've listened, not only me, but there's a lot of different disabilities... it's very important."

Festival accessibility officer Ollie Griffith-Salter secured his new role after raising concerns about the lack of facilities for disabled visitors over past years.

“They listened to me,” he said.

“We’ve made a lot of changes this year with the Eisteddfod staff, bringing in people like myself with disabilities, to improve the understanding of disabilities across the board.

“We want the Eisteddfod yr Urdd to be one of the most, if not the most, accessible festival in Wales and in the UK.”

Griffith-Salter’s vision to ensure the festival is accessible for future generations, saying the event is “a part of our DNA culture”

He added: “We will never settle for the bare minimum. We thrive on providing the best that we can and we will always be pushing, as the Eisteddfod yr Urdd, to make our festival better every year.

“Having a disability shouldn’t stop you from enjoying your life and going out into stuff like the Eisteddfod yr Urdd, with your family and friends.”

Each year the Urdd’s Fund For All scheme selects families on low income and covers their admission so they can go to the festival.

One of the families chosen this month was the Bolwell’s from Risca, Caerphilly, who were able to take four-year-old Brychan who lives with autism.

Emily Bolwell (middle) with her family

Mum Emily, 35, uses crutches or a wheelchair on a daily basis [pictured in the middle of above photo]. 

She told the BBC: “I do think there is a massive thing with disabilities and Welsh language [events], people seem to think they aren’t compatible.

“There is always room for improvement, but it’s improving year on year. And the more feedback they get off the disabled community, the more changes they can make.”

She added Brychan made good use of what he called the “chill-out tent”.

“They have got a lifetime of memories and the more awareness we raise, the more money we raise, the better for children in Wales,” Ms Bolwell continued.

“The Urdd shows them they can achieve anything, no matter what obstacles come in your way.”

Lilo Maddocks, the Urdd’s Director of the Arts, said “festivals deserve to be enjoyed by all”.

She launched an accessibility forum and collaboration with a number of organisations  to “ensure the Urdd’s arts experiences continue to evolve and grow”.

[ The Urdd’s Fund For All scheme hopes to increase their spaces for families on low income from 110 last year and 300 this year, to 1,000 in 2025. ]

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