V Music Festivals

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V is the UK's first and only dual two-day festival, occuring simultaneously in Chelmsford and Staffordshire This year on August 21/22 2004 (subject to licence)

Since V's inception in 1996, Richard Ashcroft, Travis, Manic Street Preachers, Coldplay, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Suede have all headlined. Other star acts have included James Brown, All Saints, Macy Gray and Moby.

Both sites have their own special charm. At Hylands Park in Chelmsford there is the 500-year-old oak tree while Staffordshire's Weston Park has a lake. The two sites annually attract over 120,000 people and 50 bands perform in the 4 main arenas.

V Festival has been regularly voted European Festival Of The Year at the annual Live! Magazine Awards.

I used to attend a lot of rock concerts before my injury in '94.  Last year I had my 40th birthday and my partner bought me a weekend ticket to the Virgin festival V2003 in Chelmsford. The 'V' festivals are held over a weekend normally during August at two different locations.  One is at Hylands Park in Chelmsford Essex and the other is in Staffordshire.  The bands that play Chelmsford on the Saturday then swap with the bands playing in Staffordshire for the Sunday and vice versa.  There are several stages at each venue with the main stage, called the 'V' stage hosting the better known acts.  Last year 'Coldplay' headlined on the Saturday night in Chelmsford and my favourite band 'The Red Hot Chili Peppers' headlined on the Sunday night.

My experience is limited to the Chelmsford festival and the following information relates mainly to that venue.  There are various types of ticket that can be purchased.  The weekend tickets are available with or without camping on the site.  We had a non-camping weekend ticket (80) and stayed nearby over the Saturday night in a bed and breakfast.  I met several other chair users who were camping there.  You can of course buy a ticket for just one day.  I was told by several 'V' veterans that you only need to buy one ticket if you are a chair user and your carer/partner will be allowed in free of charge at the gate.  Virgin don't publicise this fact in their booking info.

I had great trouble finding information about wheelchair access and viewing areas prior to the event, even the staff at Virgin couldn't help me very much.  There wasn't much I could find on the internet either.

There are separate car parks depending on whether you are camping or not.  If you are not camping you need the 'BLUE' car park.  This is on the A414 Writtle bypass.  Then park as close to you can to gate number 1. You will be searched on entry and no bottles, cans or alcoholic drinks can be taken in.  Once through the gate you'll see a tarmac path going up hill.  This will take you to the top of the hill then the 'V' stage is to your right, the 'NME' stage to your left, you'll also be right amongst all the vendors stalls.  Once off the tarmac using a chair is tricky.  They do cover all the grass with a black matting and while this provides better grip than grass it also hides all the potholes!  It was dry and hot all weekend last year.  I imagine the black matting would be even more hazardous when it rains.

Hylands Park is a very big place the two main stages are at the bottom of two sides of a large hill in the centre of the park.  Both have dedicated viewing areas for people with disabilities.  The main 'V' stage viewing area is at the back at the top of the hill, the disabled viewing area for the second largest stage 'The NME Stage' is better positioned about halfway back from the stage.  You can get reasonably near to the front of both stages in a wheelchair, but viewing becomes limited as most people here are standing.  Each of the dedicated areas is fenced off and had two disabled portaloos and 2 or 3 stewards controlling access.  However they were very lax about what constituted a disability, allowing too many able bodied people and groups of their friends in too.  This was stopped after we complained.  They did provide seating for a carer/partner too which was good.  The music both days started around lunchtime and goes on through until about 11pm.  It's advisable to get there early if you want a seat in the front row.  Even with the viewing area being at the back for the main stage the sound quality was good and loud and the atmosphere was great.  There are large video screens either side of the stage.  There was food and drink nearby, if you want beer you have to buy tokens first as the beer tents don't take cash.

The whole weekend was brilliant and a lot of fun, the atmosphere is very laid back and I saw no trouble at all.  We met some nice people and listened to some great music too.  I'm already looking forward to V2004.  See you there!


Useful Links:-

www.vfestival.com Official Virgin V Festival web site.  Great photo galleries too

www.efestivals.co.uk Info on all UK festivals, very active community forums.

Great Unofficial V site
More info about V here

V Survival guide A good guide about what to take with you for the festivals




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