Tag Archives: School Spectacular

Accessing Schools Spectacular.

Last Saturday night, our family attended the NSW Schools Spectacular held at Qudos Bank Arena, at Sydney’s Olympic Park. Schools Spectacular is the largest variety show in the world and features students from NSW Public Schools and guest artists. Our daughter was performing in the 3,500 strong mass choir and I was really looking forward to a fantastic night out.

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However, as a someone living with disability and chronic illness, I naturally had some reservations. Large crowds throw up all sorts of unpredictablities  for me. It doesn’t take much for a simple fall to have major consequences…a broken foot a few years ago being case in point.

However, despite these hazards, I carpe diem and seize the day. I get out and about and I would move heaven and earth to see our daughter perform.

There were simply concerns about THE HOW and that meant reducing all the unpredictabilities. It’s not rocket science. It’s just like making sure you pack a water bottle on a hot day. However, I usually have a lot more variables to consider and most of them are unpredictable. We have to think on our feet.

That’s also because I’m on my feet using a walking stick, not in a wheelchair. I thought I’d better point that out because it makes quite a difference to the types of accessibility problems I face.

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The Finale.You can feel he electricity, can’t you!!

As much as we all loved and enjoyed the performance and can’t wait to see it all over again on TV next weekend, we did experience some difficulties accessing and leaving the venue.  After trying unsuccessfully to have my needs accommodated at the time, I’m sharing my experiences with a view to implementing change through greater community awareness. After all, people living with disability and chronic illness are entitled to a fun night out, without needing to advocate for disability access rights!

To give you an idea of what it is like for a disabled person with a walking stick to attend a big concert, I thought I’d hobble you through the highs and lows of our evening.

Starting out with the positive, I have a companion card. This entitles me to a free carer to accompany me to a huge range of venues. This meant that as my companion, my husband’s ticket for School Spectacular was in a sense free. However, it also meant that he was also his wife’s keeper and he was on duty  (Confirmation that there’s no such thing as a free lunch!).

Secondly, we were able to get subsidised disabled parking a short walk from the venue. I can’t overstate how having a Disabled Parking Permit opens places up for me. Of course, it’s great to be close to the venue. However, that proximity also reduces unpredictabilties, producing something of a protective bubble. There’s still that element of risk, but it’s much reduced. This allows me to lead something close to a “normal” life.

However, on the down side, despite having the Companion Card and disabled parking permit, I was deemed capable of queuing up with the crowded throngs to get through the security check. Given that the show had 5,000 performers, the crowds were phenomenal. So, we’re not talking about a trickle. Such crowds pose a genuine risk to my physical safety and my concerns have nothing to do with being “anxious”!.

I politely asked the ticket office about disabled access and was told that everyone had to go through the security checks. But I wasn’t asking to by-pass the security checks. Nor would I want anyone to by-pass them. Obviously, they’re critical. However, there should have been a way for people with disabilities to by-pass the queue and go straight through the checks. I was using a walking stick, had a Companion Card and a Disabled Parking Permit.  So, these people at the ticket office knew I wasn’t well. They could’ve walked me to the front of the queue and helped, but instead they stuck to their officialese.

That’s when I donned my political hat. Not because I couldn’t wait for the queue to die down or take my chances in the crowd. I did it because there should have been decent disability access. Somebody needed to speak up for those who can’t or struggle to speak up. I clearly expressed my right to disabled access and was bluntly told the queue was the only way. I spoke to the supervisor and received the same rule-driven response.

Of course, I was the problem!

We were naturally unimpressed (read understatement!!)

However, very soon our experience dramatically improved.

Having made it through the security check, I confronted a metal turnstile and wasn’t feeling comfortable. This time the staff member asked me if I could get through and guided me around the turnstile. My husband and I almost hugged him, thanking him profusely for his attitude. It was such a welcome contrast to the people at the ticket office who had their rules, which clearly made no allowance for disabled people.

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So far so good. We made it to our seats and really enjoyed the performance. It was superlatively sensational and we want to thank and acknowledge all those beautiful performers, the teachers, and everybody who put so much into this incredible event. In no way do I want my concerns about disability access to lessen what was a truly unforgettable experience.

Naturally, after the performance was over, we had to get home.

As I said, we had a very convenient Disabled Parking spot. However, we hadn’t anticipated that being on level 1 would make it incredibly difficult to exit the car park with all the cars pushing down from upper levels. While there is a sign warning that it takes an hour for a full car park to empty, for many people living with disability or chronic illness, that’s a very long time…especially if you’re stuck in the queue for an extended period.  There are seriously disabled and chronically ill people who can’t wait around in a car park for an hour to exit. These families live on a very short piece of string and need to get home like a bat out of hell.

As we were parked right next to the toilets, my husband decided we were better off waiting and staying put rather than getting stuck in the stationary traffic stampede. This gave me a chance to watch the panicked pandemonium. It was like someone had yelled “FIRE” and everyone had to get out immediately, right now and the thinking part of their brains was definitely switched off. At one point, we saw people converge on one exit point from five different directions, which clearly wasn’t “legal”. Drivers behaved like crazed maniacs in a case of:  “Just get me out of here. I don’t care about anyone else.”

While I was watching all of this, I came up with an idea.

What about if the people with Disabled Parking Permits were allowed to leave first and other motorists had to give way?  It would probably cause an outrage, but it wouldn’t hurt most people to wait an extra 15 minutes or even half an hour. However, knowing we could exit a venue quickly would provide seriously disabled and chronically ill people with much greater community participation.

What do you think?

For our family these recommendations also have further application. My Mum had bought a ticket to the lunchtime matinee concert but seriously put her back out and couldn’t attend. I’d actually encouraged her to have a go, because I thought the venue would help us find a way. However, I’m glad she stayed home because it would’ve been too much. She would’ve needed a lot of extra support and as much as catering for one little girl’s Grandma isn’t much to ask, that crowd was brutal and to be fair, she’s nowhere near well enough.

My intentions here are not to criticise or throw stones but to raise awareness. Let you travel in our shoes for a night and open your eyes to our struggles. Before I became aware of my own disabilities, I never thought about such difficulties either. I was young and only thought about number one too. However, all I ask is that you open your eyes and respond from your heart, instead of your rule book. Have compassion.

I am not talking about making huge changes, but together we can move mountains. Not just these mountains, but all sorts of mountains which make it harder for anyone to fully participate in the seemingly simple things of life.

Okay. So where’s your shovel? Let’s start digging!

xx Rowena

Further Reading
Here are some other posts about living with disability:

Beyond the Flow: A Wheely Good Night at the Opera House

Beyond the Flow: Forgiving the Unforgivable (your chronic illness).

Living in a limited world: NHS Cruelty

A Spectacular Performance -Weekend Coffee Share: November 29.

This week, you’re invited on a virtual cafe crawl as we catch the train from Woy Woy to Sydney. Have breakfast in Glebe then drive two hour’s North via the Sydney Harbour Bridge to the Hunter Valley and then back down to Parramatta in Western Sydney and back home again. I assure you with this grueling schedule, you will require every single coffee and no doubt a few nature stops along the way.

The last week has been truly incredible.

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Before we get onto my daughter’s performance at School Spectacular, I just wanted to touch on a bit of a shadow which hung over things last week.

You see, my daughter was concerned about being caught up in a terrorist attack while she was in Sydney. Of course, being a kid, she didn’t express her concerns so succinctly. She simply asked where she could buy herself her own armour after seeing Police with bullet-proof vests on TV. I had a chat with her about it all, advising her on a few things she could do if she was in an emergency, which I outlined in this post: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/11/25/a-conversation-no-parent-should-have/

I have to admit that even though I knew the chances of her getting caught up in a terrorist attack were very unlikely, there was that remote possibility and there’s definitely that sense that trouble’s brewing at the moment but we don’t have that crystal ball.

Anyway, off she went and on Friday morning, I caught the train down to Sydney with our son and the rest of the local kids. It was only a four carriage train and it was packed, mostly with kids. As we were about to head over the Hawkesbury River Bridge, the lady next to me turns to me and says: “The guy next to me asked me to mind his bags while he went to the toilet but he hasn’t come back and he’s been awhile. I’ve got to get off. I can’t remember what he looked like. He might have been tanned but what does a terrorist look like anyway?”

Now, let me just put you right into my shoes. Here I am on a train packed with school kids including my son, my friends’ kids, friends of friends kids and the teachers who are like family to me and suddenly I’m in charge of potentially deadly situation. I’ve heard the announcement countless times while waiting on train platforms. If you see unattended luggage, please report it to station staff. This was exactly what they were talking about. At the same time, I looked at the large bag of Christmas presents, all beautifully wrapped in Christmas paper, wondering how they could possibly blow anyone up? How could Christmas presents ever be considered dangerous, even deadly? I noticed the intercom for the guard nearby and gave him 10 minutes to return. I was hoping that he’d been eating plenty of fibre and it wasn’t going to be a legitimate (but very extended) call of nature and I’d just caused pointless stress.

This was a lot to take onboard, especially after my chat with my daughter. I certainly didn’t expect to be thrown in the dead end like this. It was all supposed to be over-active imagination and now I’d somehow become embroiled in a plot, which was way too big for this little black duck.

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Illustrator Sarah Davis

Of course, the fact that I’d been to a three hour writing workshop with Australian Illustrator, Sarah Davies the day before, didn’t do much to appease my imagination. Suddenly, I’d become the reluctant hero but what if I made a mistake? It was a huge responsibility!!

Fortunately, the man returned and calm was restored. I could get back to reading my book. I was in the Quiet Carriage while the kids were in what could only be described as “the loud carriages”.

This was the second false alarm I’ve had recently. You might recall that the day before the Paris attacks, we had four Army Black Hawk helicopters flying just above the rooftops of our quiet beach-side town. They were circling around doing lap after lap after lap and while I wasn’t thinking about terrorists, having a very dangerous criminal on the loose wasn’t desirable either. But…that was also a false alarm.

However, we made it to Sydney rather uneventfully in the end and I was able to meet up with Miss before her grand performance.

 

Miss Spectacular

Miss Spectacular

Our daughter performed with her school choir at School Spectacular, an absolutely huge extravaganza held at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. They were part of a huge mass choir, a sea of white shirts made up of 1500 kids singing 30 songs and doing actions. They did 4 performances over two days and had a pretty intensive rehearsal schedule as well. I am surprised any of them were still upright by the end.

Finale- School Spectacular, Sydney Entertainment Centre.

Finale- School Spectacular, Sydney Entertainment Centre.

As we live in Greater Sydney and about 90 minutes away, Miss ended up staying across the road for almost a week with her friend’s grandmother. They were staying nearby 53 levels above the ground with the most incredible views of Sydney. She was so blessed and having her there made things so much easier for me with juggling transport.

Here I am enjoying the view from where Miss was staying.

Here I am enjoying the view from where Miss was staying.

While Miss was living the high life, I booked Geoff and I into the cheapest accommodation I could find which wasn’t above a pub. It wasn’t too bad but when we checked it out on Google Earth, we did notice some kind of Chinese massage parlor next door and Mum did warn me to make sure Geoff didn’t disappear during the night. The place had a pretty dodgy metal fire escape out the back and while comfortable,could well have been the sort of place a fugitive would hide out. Needless to say, there were no views from our hotel room. Indeed, I’m not even sure there was a window.

Hotel Carpark.

Hotel Carpark.

Saturday morning, we headed off to Glebe for breakfast. We had intended to have breakfast at Glebe Markets, where I used to hang out several lifetimes ago but we couldn’t find parking and after weaving out way through a series of dead end and one way streets, we found ourselves sitting at the first cafe we could find on St Johns Road and refueled with coffees, an almond croissant and omelette.

Rebel Red Shoes.

Rebel Red Shoes.

I should also point out that I was wearing really dodgy shoes and could barely walk. After breaking my foot last December, I’ve virtually spent the year in joggers but as we were going to my cousin’s wedding, I just couldn’t resist wearing my fave red shoes. They have wedge heels and being flat on the bottom, I can sort of walk in them but it’s definitely a case of “Ricketty Ro” and much of the time, I have to hold onto Geoff’s arm for dear life.

While I have nothing approaching a shoe fetish and wear sensible shoes almost all the time, sometimes I just want to step out there and feel a bit pretty, elegant, frivolous and NOT a matron or person living with  disability. Be myself. If you haven’t worked out the obvious by now. I am not a sensible person so why should I wear sensible shoes?

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Driving Across the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

 

Moving right along, we’re having our next coffee in Kurri Kurri in the Hunter Valley. Kurri Kurri is a coal-mining town on the gateway into the Hunter Valley, one of Australia’s most famous wine-producing regions. Like many regional towns looking to put themselves on the tourist map, the town has rebadged itself as “The Town of Murals”. Fifty murals, each with a hidden kookaburra, have been painted around town: http://www.kurrikurri.com/kurri-kurri-murals-project/

More Coffee...Kurri Kurri Tourist Information Centre.

More Coffee…Kurri Kurri Tourist Information Centre.

After over compensating for Sydney traffic congestion, we arrived at Kurri Kurri 2 hours before the wedding. Needing another caffeine hit (make that a strong one, please!) we stopped off at the Visitor’s Information Centre for great coffee and Caramel Slice before driving our town checking out the murals.

Red Bus Mural, Kurri Kurri.

Red Bus Mural, Kurri Kurri.

Next stop, was my cousin’s wedding. This was so exciting that my trigger-happy camera finger went into overdrive and I’m surprised I haven’t developed some form of RSI. The wedding and reception were beautifully intimate and included personal wishes from the groom’s grandparents, which just added a certain magic.

We drove home last night and had my uncle to stay. Made him pancakes for breakfast and must’ve totally exhausted myself as I didn’t photograph his visit at all.

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Drove down to Sydney to pick up the kids and head off to the Muscular Dystrophy NSW Annual Christmas Party, which is so generously put on by the staff at the Commonwealth Bank in Parramatta. This is a real extravaganza and the kids loved playing on the slot car rack and enjoyed the arrival of Santa and their presents. I was particularly thrilled to meet up with other members…friends I’ve made at an Adventure Camp I’ve attended. This is my community.

Mister with Santa

Mister with Santa

Right now, I’m ready to hang up my red shoes. “There’s no place like home” and a deep sleep!

I hope you’ve enjoyed our coffee and I look forward to topping up the caffeine levels when I pop over your way.

This has been part of the Weekend Coffee Share. Here’s the linky: http://www.inlinkz.com/new/view.php?id=585846

Love & Best wishes,

Rowena

PS Bilbo and Lady have made an an appearance at the Weekly Pet Share November Round-up. It’s a great post! https://hopethehappyhugger.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/weekly-pet-share-november-round-up/

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Iced Coffee + Heat Wave …Weekend Coffee Share.

If we were having coffee today, you’d be asking for extra ice with your iced coffee or tea. You’d even thank me for pouring ice down your back or offering an ice-filled bath!

Indeed, temperatures shot up to 43° C or 109.4° F and it was so hot, that my eyes actually burned. Desperately seeking relief, I evacuated to an air-conditioned oasis…printing photos out at K-mart. It was my husband’s birthday and due to the heat, I put off making a cake and we went out for dinner to an air-conditioned venue. While we have air-conditioning at home, we don’t like the financial aftershock. Much better to use someone else’s!

Happy Birthday, Geoff!

Happy Birthday, Geoff!

So, how are you? How was your week?

If we were having coffee, I’d have to tell you that I’m feeling better this week. That’s not to say that I’m fine but at least, I’m not feeling shell-shocked anymore after last week’s damaging hailstorm and events in Paris https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/11/15/weekend-coffee-share-paris-and-the-week-that-was/.

You might enjoy reading I post I wrote about recovering from the storm, especially after the physical damage has been fixed but the emotional scars remain: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/11/17/recovery-after-the-storm/.

I also really enjoyed this post from Diana at Part-Time Monster who had a very “interesting” bath during a storm: http://parttimemonster.com/2015/11/18/how-to-take-a-bath-when-its-storming-in-20-easy-ish-steps/

A week after the Paris attacks, I’m not quite sure what’s what. Stories about the survivors and the dead, have been truly chilling. I felt such empathy for the victims. I celebrated my 22nd birthday in Paris and been in their shoes walking those streets. Hung out in Parisian cafes drinking cafe cremes. I felt numb. Yet, Monday morning still came around again and the routine started up again without me. I had to really slap myself. Reality check. It really annoys, even grieves me, that life callously moves forward without so much as a glance over its shoulder. Doesn’t shed a tear.

However, if we’re not to remain victims and if we’re going to be prepared for the inevitable terrorist attacks to come, lying face down in the mud isn’t an option. Indeed, the Parisians took to the streets singing “La Marseillaise“. They’re not going to sit back and let the terrorists win!

By the way, I just thought I’d Google to words of that and it’s no wonder the Parisians are singing it with such gusto. It’s more than just a national anthem. It’s a call to arms: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Marseillaise 

With the horrors of last week, I completely forgot to mention our good news. Our daughter has been accepted into what’s known as an Opportunity Class for her last 2 years of Primary school. These classes are for high achieving students and they need to sit an entry test. It’s going to be quite a commute but she’s really keen to go.

For all of you taking part in Nano, how are you going?

Although I’m not doing it, all the talk of word counts has got me going.  Although storm damage to the office stonkered progress on the Book Project, I participated in a flash fiction challenge at Carrot Ranch writing about the incredible connection of holding hands https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/11/17/flash-fiction-11th-nov-2015/

I’ve also completely  re-written a manuscript for a kid’s book I wrote about 5 years ago and am really pleased with the results. The original was way too long and this version is well under 1000 words. It’s currently “stewing”, allows all those creative juices to penetrate the page and mature.

However, I must also confess that I have a lot of “stews” experiencing total neglect and it wouldn’t surprise me if the dogs have even eaten a few. Leaving stew unattended around here is a very risky business. Indeed, we’ve lost a couple of meat pies lately.

I've taken the dogs for a few beach walks this week.

I’ve taken the dogs for a few beach walks this week.

Moving forward to next week, Monday morning I’m getting stuck back into the book project. I’m aiming for Monday because, as everyone knows, everything starts on a Monday…diets, exercise. No more pressing the snooze button on more fronts than I’d dare to mention!

Little Miss in front of our Morris Minor.

Little Miss in front of our Morris Minor.

Next week, Miss will be performing in a huge, multi-school choir as part of School Spectacular to be held at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. It’s a huge deal to be a part of this and so exciting. I don’t even know if we’ll even be able to spot her on stage but it’s an opportunity of a lifetime. We’ll definitely be needing our binoculars.

Happy Birthday Dddy/Geoff!

Happy Birthday Daddy/Geoff!

If we were having coffee, I would also tell you that today was my husband’s birthday. He’s been away at a conference for work this week and it’s been great to have him back. His main present has been a memory book. Both Geoff’s parents had passed away before we were married and so the children have never met their grandparents but are very close to my parents so I wanted to even things up a bit. This is one of those store-bought pre-printed books with headings and spaces for memories and photographs. Rather than having it all written out and finished, I’ve made a pretty good start and plan to get Geoff and his sisters to contribute. This is one instance where you really do need to know what you’re writing about.

I've taken the dogs for a few beach walks this week.

I’ve taken the dogs for a few beach walks this week.

It’s now Saturday and thank goodness the heat has eased and we’ve had a blessed cool change. Rain is threatening and there are strong winds, roaring like  a rough surf. Took the dogs for a walk along the beach today and chatted with a friend. Needed that.

I hope that you’ve all had a good week and that somehow your faith in humanity has somehow been restored. That there have been some uplifting moments as we as a global community try to live with the lurking shadows of terrorism and try to reach some kind of solution.That will no doubt be requiring some kind of super-strength cup of coffee but we need to have faith and we need to keep trying. Never give up!

Meanwhile, our prayers go out to those affected by terrorist attacks in Mali yesterday.

Go on check out the other coffee share posts over on Diana’s Blog Part-Time Monster and join the linky yourself!

Love & God Bless!

xx Rowena