Music fan wants more consideration for wheelchair users after Gary Barlow’s Sunderland show

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A music fan is calling on venues to do more for their disabled audience members after her view of Gary Barlow’s gig at Sunderland Empire was blocked by people on their feet.

Like many Take That fans who have followed the singer’s career, Tara Johnson was excited the night of the first of his two shows had finally arrived after more than six months of waiting.

Venues need to take responsibility for it and artists as well.

Tara Johnson

But the 35-year-old, from Whitburn, was devastated when her night was ruined as the stalls area set aside for those with wheelchairs had its view of the stage blocked off by the crowd.

Empire bosses have asked Tara to get in touch to discuss her experience so they can help ensure wheelchair users enjoy gigs without disruption.

While the youth engagement officer, who has cerebral palsy and uses a power wheelchair, was able to lift the level of her machine to see better, at 5ft she was unable to see the vast majority of the show beyond glimpses between heads or through her camera screen.

She does not begrudge others having a good time, but says venues must do more to ensure those with mobility issues can still watch performances.

Tara, who was accompanied by her mum Donna Mackings, 53, and gran Sheila Elliott, 83, to Monday’s show said: “Obviously everybody was massively excited to see him and I’m a 25-year fan of Take That and I knew everyone was going to be up on their feet as soon as he set foot on stage” she said.

“But nobody could see from where we were.

“There was no effort to suggest people should sit down.

“I know this was a really popular event, but this happens more generally, you go to see something like a music concert they could put a raised platform in so that if there’s anyone sat in front, you could still see.

“Venues need to take responsibility for it and artists as well.

“I think there needs to be some investment into making facilities better and we also have an aging population as well, things definitely need to be improved.”

A spokesperson for Sunderland Empire said: “We are very sorry to hear about Tara’s disappointing evening at the Sunderland Empire, which has been brought to our attention today.

“We would invite Tara to contact us directly, so we might discuss her recent visit.

“Making sure all customers have a great time in our venue is our absolute priority and we would like to discuss with Tara how we might improve the experience of wheelchair users in the future.”