Accessibility at The Summer House
Note December 2017: this document will be updated following a full assessment of the new venue for 2018
Disclosure and communication
We hope it goes without saying that the Summer House respects everyone's right to disclose as little or as much as they feel comfortable with when it comes to disability, health, access requests and so on. If you choose to contact us, what or how much you disclose is of course at your discretion — we will not ask you to prove your status and we will keep your details known only to those people who are required to act on it.
You will notice in this document and elsewhere we encourage guests to contact us in advance or during the event with their access requirements: this information is kept private to our very small team. We intend that our team will be open and responsive to feedback & requests for assistance. However we recognise that it may not always be feasible or feel comfortable to get in touch. If you need anonymity or feel like the issue cannot be resolved by the Summer House team itself feel free to contact the fully independent Wellbeing Team — they are not connected organisationally to the Summer House team. After that if you're unhappy with the way the Summer House team has handled your enquiry, feel free to make an anonymous complaint to the independent body as described on step 9 here.
About us and this document
This document has been written by non-disabled team members at the Summer House, drawing upon on advice and questions from community members who have a range of disabilities.
We're aware that there are gaps and always room to learn / improve. If you have any questions about any aspect of the event or how we can assist in fulfilling your particular needs, please do not hesitate to contact us. We will do our best to answer questions, update this document and do anything we can to facilitate your attendance and enjoyment of the event. We can provide you with photos / maps / measurements of the building and grounds if needed. We can respond to you via other means including phone calls if your preferred communication medium is not email.
We're in the process of adding descriptive tags to images, though the majority of the meaning and context on the site is carried by text. If there's any section of the site that is not legible or understandable please contact us.
We offer a limited number of "access tickets" (at a variety of levels from free to paid) to people with disabilities, chronic health conditions, people in financial hardship, people undergoing significant life changes, carers, single parents and members of other marginalised groups or folk who might not otherwise be able to attend. For more information please see our access tickets page.
We are happy to provide a free carer’s ticket to any disabled guest who wishes to bring along a carer. Contact us for details.
Briefing our team & security
If required we can brief our team & security in advance about any concerns and requirements, so that they can be handled in whatever way you prefer — whether they be related to disability, mobility, gender, chronic illness, age or any other factor. Feel free to contact us about such details.
The majority of guests camp, with some guests making use of "glamping" and a small number — from summer 2017 — staying in rooms in the house. We have set aside a separate, limited number of indoor bedrooms — with access to kitchens and bathrooms — for people with chronic health conditions or disabilities. These are on a pay-what-you-can-afford basis, part subsidised by the other rooms for sale. Sadly these rooms are not fundamentally any more accessible or step-free than other spaces around the venue. We have allocated the first batch of rooms but it is likely we will get cancellations. If you would like to put your name down please contact us.
If not travelling by car, the public transport option is by train to a rail station, followed by a 20-30 minute road journey. There is a local taxi company with wheelchair-accessible vehicles.
Arriving on site
Feel free to contact us if you would like for us to make a note on our guestlist of anything our door team can do to assist you upon arrival. Please note that we request photo ID from all guests, but we can make a note in advance if this ID is likely to show a different name or gender from yours.
In terms of parking, camping and unloading your stuff, we are keen to offer assistance in whatever way works for you. If you have chronic pain / exhaustion or mobility issues, we can mark your name on the guest list in advance and help carry your belongings.
Guests with chronic pain / exhaustion / mobility issues can be given permission (in advance of arriving on site) to camp closer to the main house than most guests. Due to fire regulations we cannot permit you to park cars permanently next to your camp, but we're happy for guests with mobility issues to drive their vehicle up to their tent temporarily at any time to pick up or drop off belongings. We cannot organise this support "on the fly" and it has to be kept for the benefit of disabled guests, so please do request it in advance! This is primarily for Blue Badge holders or folks who get an enhanced mobility rate of PIP.
The parking area and the camping areas are at opposite ends of the same large field, with a paved road running along it.
Imagine a garden environment rather than a rolling festival field. Once inside the furthest distance from end to end is around 300 metres, and the main journeys that most guests take are a fraction of that distance. There is a paved road from the car park and camping area to the house. Though most guests are likely to take a cut-through which is shorter and involves a grass path.
The camping area is a flat, mown rough long grass field. The rest of the outdoor parts of the site are short mown lawn grass. Drainage is good and so unless there has been extended rain it is usually dry underfoot.
We have a pack showing aerial shots and some exterior photos that should give you an indication — if you wish to see this file please contact us to request the link.
Stairs / steps
There is a step into the main house for which there is a ramp. If you believe you'll need this, please contact us so we can set it up. Once inside there is a toilet, the door of which is wide enough for a wheelchair, but it is not a properly wheelchair accessible toilet and lacks grab bars etc. There are no steps on the ground floor of the house.
Most of the activities and workshops take place in rooms on the ground floor of the house or in tents in the garden. The talks space and two biggest workshop rooms are on the ground floor. Our quiet Wellbeing Room is also on the ground floor, with no steps to any of these. We have a playroom in a tent (The Sensual Dome) which is outside, a quiet tent, marquee for meetings, shows, workshops and dining — all outside and accessible via grass.
There is one workshop and playroom on the first floor of the house, and those require two flights of stairs inside the house. The Fungeon and late night disco is downstairs in the basement, down a short but rather narrow flight of stairs. Our team will be happy to give you assistance reaching those rooms if necessary and our workshop hosts can prioritise your entry if you so desire.
The Friday and Saturday night party and cabaret rooms are on the ground floor and marquee.
Workshop & talk spaces
At the event we provide several ways for you to find out in advance about the content & facilities of each workshop and space. You're welcome to speak to our reception team at any time; we also give a printed guide; and there are some basic descriptions in the online programme.
We are happy to reserve a space at any workshop or talk for guests with disabilities, so that you do not have to queue or worry about being able to find space. Please alert our reception team during the weekend if there are particular workshops that you wish to attend.
Most workshop rooms are mostly laid out for standing or cushions. Some workshops involve movement — these are labelled in the programme and announced during the morning meeting.
We will ensure that there are at least a few chairs in each workshop and talk space (some have lots anyway, particularly the marquee), and we will ask facilitators to ensure that space is prioritised for those with disabilities / mobility issues. We ask all facilitators to be aware of the wide range of abilities and experiences of our guests, including invisible disabilities. If you find that a workshop facilitator is failing to take this into account, either make yourself known to them or get any member of crew or wellbeing team so that we can both sort out practical issues and communicate anonymously to ensure facilitators are fulfilling this requirement.
We do not provide interpreters, captioning or assisted listening — please contact us if this lack would prevent you from attending.
There is one stage at the event, in the marquee, and generally we only use this for the morning meeting and the Saturday night cabaret. If you are performing or facilitating and need a ramp or other assistance for this stage please contact us. No other workshop & talk spaces have stages.
Toilets & showers
All toilets & showers are gender neutral.
We have a wheelchair accessible outdoor toilet which also has a handheld heated shower attachment. This is locked with a numerical padlock and only a small number of guests including obviously any disabled guests have the code. It's not glamorous but it's functional.
The general use shower trailers in the camping area do have a step up — if you have a sense of particular depths or steepnesses that work for you we can check in with the supplier and tell you how our shower trailers compare.
There are bathrooms in the cottages that we can provide access to for those who for reasons of mobility would not be able to use the showers. There is one ground floor bathroom but these are not specifically designed as accessible — indeed it includes a bath tub that might be difficult for some to access.
Guide dogs or other registered assistance dogs are permitted though not other types of animals.
Medication, power, refrigeration & food
Where specific medical conditions require it, we can provide access to power and refrigeration for medication & food. Generally we do not permit most guests to store or prepare their own cooked food using our facilities, though guests who have booked the cottages (including some disabled guests) will have access to kitchens to prepare their own food.
If your health requires specific exceptions please contact us so we can consider it.
All our food trucks offer gluten-free and vegan options though these may be prepared in spaces where meat and gluten is present, due to the small spaces of the trucks.
Our buffet dinner option is vegan and gluten-free (with some labelled non-gluten-free add-ons) prepared using fresh ingredients. Please let us know if you are gluten free, coeliac, dairy free as our chefs can certainly prepare dishes for common allergies. Alert us if you have complex or rare food allergies / diets or wish for the chefs to share their ingredient lists, as we can usually help with enough notice. The booking form has a space to add this info.
If needed our staff can carry food to your table.
Camping guests may of course bring & prepare their own food. We provide an indoor and outdoor picnic table area.
Online / mobile communication, devices and printing.
Our code of conduct requires that guests do not use mobile phones openly / in shared spaces. There is very little mobile data connectivity anywhere on site — you will probably be limited to texts and phone calls — and our tests have shown the wi-fi does not work. You can leave messages for other guests at reception and on our chalkboards. We can providing charging facilities for people who use devices for assistance or health, though generally we do not take responsibility for guests' devices or for charging. Due to the need to respect individual privacy, our code of conduct does not allow guests to share specific information on the internet about what goes on at our events, so livestreaming or livetweeting is not permitted. However we are happy for general findings to be shared, if not personally identifiable. If it helps for you to have something printed or noted-down our production office has access to a printer (though not internet!).
Flowers, pollen, fragrance, chemical sensitivity
The entire indoor space is no-smoking. Given the outdoor setting it is likely you will encounter flowers, pollen and possibly petrol fumes. In some spaces you may encounter food & drink smells plus fragranced guests. Some of the candles used at night are fragranced, though we are increasingly trying to minimise this. Some workshop facilitators may use incense. If this causes you allergic reactions please contact us so we can communicate this to space-holders and minimise this activity.
The daytime workshops and talks generally held under natural light, perhaps with some shading if projections are used. No fluorescent lights are used. The evening parties are lit with a combination of candles and artificial (LED) coloured & white light. The outdoor spaces are floodlit (lights on trees, non-fluorescent) and LED festoon bulbs to light pathways around key areas. The disco and cabaret shows tend to use flashing disco lighting, though not strobes. If you are epileptic or require specific lighting conditions please contact us.
Noise / stimulation
Generally (compared to a festival, for example) The Summer House is not a noisy event, and our larger venue for 2017 means more physical space for each person. However the Friday and Saturday night parties include more by way of disco / dancing / music performance. At all times there will be at least one quiet, calm "non-engagement space" available for people who wish to get away from stimulation. We also have a quiet / sober play area called the Sensual Dome.
The camping area is a silent space after 9pm. It has been known for a small number of guests to disregard this, something we raise in daily meetings and ask our security team to listen out for. If guests are disturbing your sleep, please do not hesitate to get a member of the crew / Wellbeing Team / security (24 hours).
One environmental note touching upon noise: the area where the venue is situated neighbours some military exercise areas, and on one of our four visits to the venue, we were able to hear gunshot in the distance. There is sadly no way for us to predict or discover when the military exercises may happen, and we are told they can even sometimes happen during the night. If this is a problem to you at the time of writing (March 2017) please let us know ASAP and we can refund your ticket.
Alcohol & intoxication
We do not permit intoxication in any of our workshops & talks.
We have 1-2 bars that serve a range of soft drinks and alcohol, mostly during dinner and the evening parties (the majority of guests do not consume alcohol during the day). It is during these evening events that you are most likely to encounter alcohol use, but we still expect all guests to be respectful and well-behaved.
Our code of conduct requires that guests do not heavily intoxicated at any time, and this goes especially for play areas where consent is key.
Lots of our guests experience the event sober: we provide a quiet, sober playspace called the Sensual Dome, and a quiet, sober "non engagement" space.
If any guest appears to be intoxicated during a workshop or talk, or if the behaviour or intoxication of any guest is causing you concern, please inform the workshop facilitator, a crew member, a member of security or one of the Wellbeing Team, either during or after. This will enable us to deal with the individual guests as well as checking with the facilitator to ensure our guidelines are being met. Your report will be kept anonymous.
There will be about 300 people attending the event, but spread over many areas. If you have attended the Summer House before, please be aware this new venue is much larger inside, so we expect for there not to be the level of crowding in workshops and at parties that you may have encountered before. We are increasing the size of the marquee so that guests may be accommodated more comfortably. If you need to get away for peace and quiet we provide one dedicated "non-engagement" space and a quiet Wellbeing Room.