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27th May, 2022

“From The London Palladium, Taking A Step Through History And Then To A Ball…This Is London” Georgina’s blog

Unfortunately, there was no blog last month due to being knocked for six after testing positive for Covid but this month, I was back out exploring the great things London has to offer. I will never tire visiting this city, when you think there couldn’t possibly be anything else to do, something pops up on your wavelength and another trip is planned.

First up was a trip down to see George Ezra at The London Palladium, a venue that is quickly becoming a favourite of mine. I think I have previously mentioned this theatre and the accessibility it offers. This is our second trip there and it couldn’t be more welcoming. It is accommodating and feels very inclusive. It was also our second time seeing George Ezra and the small intimate vibe created in the theatre suited him so well. From the moment he set a foot on stage, the atmosphere was incredible and made for a brilliant night. We followed this day up with a trip to one of the Imperial War Museum sites, Churchill’s War Rooms. Yes, the very same war rooms that Churchill won the Second World War from sat untouched and perfectly preserved. A labyrinth of corridors and network of rooms from bedrooms to the very same map rooms that they were able to keep an eye on the troops with. It was incredibly fascinating to be amongst history. Even in my wheelchair, I was able to get everywhere which I was definitely surprised at considering when it was built. Of course, the corridors were quite narrow but thankfully the design of the Whill is also rather narrow so I was able to fit through with no problems. I’ve always been interested in our history and this place was truly amazing. To think that Churchill himself along with so many men and women spent days on end down in these war rooms figuring out the next move back in the 1940’s just for one day to turn off the light unknowingly for the last time and then become a place of heritage that people from all over come to visit and see. I would definitely recommend.

A spur of the moment ticket purchase took me and my sister into a world that once again like the war rooms, took us back in time but this time in an immersive 1800’s Ball inspired by the Netflix series ‘Bridgerton’. This was an opportunity to wear fancy evening gowns and experience an elegant evening fit for “diamonds of the season”. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always dreamt of going to a Ball and it finally happened so I can tick that off my bucket list. It was a Secret Cinema event which means everything is kept just that, a secret. Even the location! You meet at a meeting point and get led to the event venue. We didn’t really know what to expect but it turned out to be even more incredible than we could have thought. No phones were allowed during the experience (only allowed at the after party) and it was so nice to have them locked away so we could just be in the moment. We felt like main characters while the string quartet played modern songs and people danced old style dances, the atmosphere was beautiful. Everyone got involved in each of the different rooms from supporting “boxing” matches to even talking like you were from the era which was rather fun.

There, our dresses made sense however our taxi driver was very confused as to why we were so dressed up. I’ll take a posh ball over clubbing any day, this is more me! We both smiled and laughed so much. Our night was made by Darwin, our VIP host and accessibility guy who literally parted crowds for us. He would throughout the night, find us, check in and see if we needed anything. Accessibility was not an after thought – it was inclusive so we were made to feel like everyone else. From the moment we got down the ramp of the taxi, a security guard spotted us and escorted past the queue and into the venue. From there that’s when they parted the crowd to get me through into the main part and then into a guided tour. Even the cast (actors recreating scenes from Bridgerton) got us involved and even made it so that we could have good views of the performances. I didn’t have a good prom experience, so I always hoped I’d get a redo and this occasion fitted the bill perfectly. I wore the same colour dress here as I did at prom so that better memories could be made in it. This time around, I felt more confident especially in my wheelchair, happier, more myself and I got to share it all with my little sister which was so special. It was also a new experience wearing a floor length evening gown in a wheelchair. I expected to be really conscious of the fabric getting caught in the wheels but with the guards over the front omni-wheels I needn’t have had to worry. I checked in to make sure the dress wasn’t too close to the wheel guards but I never had a problem with it. If you get the opportunity to go to a Ball, especially a secret cinema one, do it! They’re such an elegant, gorgeous and fun evening.

A bonus note: we pretty much always travel by taxi whilst in our capital city as its just so much easier than the tube with the wheelchair. Every London black cab has a ramp and with the Whill its so simple driving up into the back of the taxi with still room for three people to be seated in the back with me. A lot of cab drivers have commented on the ease of getting my chair into the taxi (plus often compliments on my “smart bit of kit”). On the way back from the Ball, we were in quite a quiet area of London so we used the Gett app to order a taxi to where we were. You can even order a taxi that is specifically wheelchair accessible so you know that you’ll be able to use the taxi, it’s a bit of peace of mind.

As a wheelchair user, every single journey seems to be different. Some good and some straight up awful. Last month, I had a span of 10 days where I took 8 trains (two of which were two legged journeys but I try and travel direct wherever possible) and in those trips I experienced a few troubles like multiple broken lifts. The photo in the car park that goes alongside this blog is taken not long after I had a really stressful train trip. I needed to get to Sheffield for a specific time as we were seeing a theatre production and I needed to do the trip in two parts as there is no direct route however when I arrived at the second train station after the first leg of the trip I was informed that the only lift (and way to get to the platform I needed) was out of order. I was panicked and flustered for 5 minutes whilst they tried to figure out a plan which, thankfully, they did but it meant getting to the other end of the station in a couple of minutes as they were holding the train for me. Some of the trips like the last London ones went as smooth as anything thanks to the Passenger Assistance UK app (highly recommend) and the staff on the day. I’ve never had a problem at my local train station but it’s well known in the community that assistance can be hit and miss which puts a lot of disabled people off travelling by train, it can be daunting. Yes, there may be wheelchair spaces and ramps available but when you’re travelling with a wheelchair, you rely on other people working the trains and stations to be there to help and when they’re there, it’s perfect or if something goes a little awry, most of the time l know how to handle things but sometimes after a bad experience – it still gets to me. Does this mean I’ll stop travelling by train? Definitely not, it’s still the best way to get around and for the most part I feel confident on these kind of trips. At the end of the day, it opens up more possibilities to get around so I’ll take the next journey and all that goes with it in my stride with the hopes that the changes and progress into making travel more inclusive continues so that it’s accessible to all and helps people feel confident getting out and about more.

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