Accessibility at the O2 Arena and the stunning RAYE

At Christmas we were stunned by a performance on BBC of RAYE at the Royal Albert Hall where she talked about becoming Independant from her record producer as they would not allow here writings to be published. At the age of twenty six years young, she somehow had the belief in herself to take this on as an independant, and was she amazing? Yes she was.

Absolutely stunned by her openness and honesty in her performance and writings about her early life, plus a very delicious sound of her melodic singing, I don’t really know genres of music, we heard that she was to have a performance at the O2 arena on the 15th March 2024, and there tickets became available. There were 18000 and these all sold out within the first day. Wow. This is going to be so good.

Now, I struggle downstairs most days at present. So, lets put this into perspective. I can drive to the O2 arena, park somewhere nearby and somehow get into and out of the same arena; or maybe we could come by train into North Greenwich on the Jubilee line. This should not be an issue, as there were only 20 thousand people to dissipate into this train station on their way home.

Prior to the visit, I did call the support assistance people at the O2, as I had previously used their help a month earlier at a Strictly concert. In that visit, I had walked in from the car park, and then been transported in their wheelchair at the end of the performance back to the car park. The car park was expensive, and a considerable distance to walk (for me), and we decided to arrive by train and with our own wheelchair, which was a major feat of its own, and the O2 arena informed me by email that I could leave my chair at their customers services points on level 1 or level 4. Our seats were block 105, level T, which was ten rows down from level one and fairly near this customer support point – too far for me to walk unaided.

My story of the day, it was brilliant at every stage, mostly. I checked the lifts were working with c2c_rail at twitter.

The plan was to travel up early afternoon, and have some food in town, and arrive at the O2 by train, or cable car, or boat, or somehow. We parked in one of the sixteen disabled spaces at Upminster station. You just turn up, and cannot be booked in advance. The station is easily accessed by a side entrance, no lift needed at this point. I was offered assistance onto the train, which was unnecessary as I can walk a number of steps unaided. The first train was full, and we wited for a later train which was late. The c2c goes to Fenchurch street, and at Limehouse it is very easy to exit the train and change for the DLR. If you cannot exit here due the step, you would need to warn the station staff, I think.

At Limehouse, a short walk gets you to the DLR and we travelled to Canary Wharf, a very new area, with stations for the DLR, Jubilee, and also the amazing new Crossrail Elizabeth line. These are all spread around Canary wharf and linked by various shopping malls around, and with numerous eating and other shops on differing levels. There are lots of lifts, most malls have one accessible, or open, door. All outside areas have some form of lift available to avoid any steps. At the Crossrail place there are some excellent toilets on level -3 including accessible toilets and on the top floor is the green and relaxing oasis roof garden which is beautiful. Someone spends a great deal of time in the range of plants being on show. I was able to share these areas with my wife (carer, wheelchair pusher), who was unaware of many of these nice spots in London.

We eventually stopped near Crossrail at a restaurant serving sourdough pizzas called Franco Manca which was very pleasant, and slightly different. It was fairly quiet, and not rushed, and priced OK. A relaxing glass of wine was also nice.

We headed off for the O2 arena, with the Jubilee station a distance to walk, better in a wheel chair, and a couple of stops along the Jubilee line to North Greenwich.

Here you are hit by the size of the O2 Arena, which appears very small, but scale is difficult to guage. There were people on the roof, walking the apex of the Arena! A cheeky Tesco express is at the entrance, and good for stocking up on sweets etc.

The Arena was buzzing, with huge crowds of youngsters, and all ages actually. My wife left me whilst she visited the claokrooms, and a security guy made sure I was OK, which was good. We then headed through security, and a quick visit to the customer services at level 1, where the really helpful guy answered any questions we had. Eventually, my wife wheeled me to the entry point, and took the chair back to the ‘cloak room for chairs’. We ascended the ten levels to row T, which was fine.

The concert started about 7.45 with RAYES younger sister Absolutely, who was great. And then RAYE! The Arena erupted. It is difficult to describe someone as rough as Amy Winehouse and as good as Adele, and as lyrically musical as Beyonce and Raye is very professional, and she sings her heart out, with an acrobatic display of chords, and octave-vaulting – and the way she talks, part-singing coach (explaining reverb and harmonies to the audience), part-therapist, part-best friend and she tells her story in the way we all need to be ablt to tell our story to our concellor friend about life and its tribulations. Sh sang for nearly two hours, all of her own songs and lyrics, all from the heart, and all shared with us, her best friends, because we supported her when her record label said NO, and the ‘Ice Cream Man’ makes most of us cry, and makes her an evern stronger and great woman we all have learned to love in such a short time.

It was very loud, and the lights were dazzling, and there were at least one hundred people on the stage. Raye does not mention her six Brits awards, or maybe she does. She earned every one of them. Thanks RAYE.

And at the end, i struggled up ten steps, and collapsed in the arena as thousands walked past me, and my wife retrieved the wheelchair, and then we set off via lifts awaiting us with dedicated staff all helping out, and out of the arena, towards North Greenwich station, and we work our way through the masses to an entrance at the station where staff let us through into the station, and this is the most tricky part getting to the lift. But there are some incredible, and lovely people out there, complete strangers, who help us find a way though the crowds, and move barriers, etc. The train was fine, back to West Ham, where serveral lifts later we find a c2c train almost awaiting us. We travelled from the show ending at 10.30 arriving at Upminster by 11.30-ish.

And home.

Thanks again RAYE, and the wonderful support assistants at the O2 Arena. Thank you, it was a brilliant day.