Tramlines! Festivals and chronic illness

Tramlines is a Sheffield festival that is an amazing party in July each year. This year felt like the best one yet!

I got through on a bucket load of pain meds, my The Alinker UK, my Neo-Walk cane, very good friends and the brilliant access team. Festivals can feel like an unattainable mountain when you have a chronic illness. So I thought Id share a few of my top tips…

A woman sits on an alinker mobility aid posing with another woman at a festival in front of a sign that says I heart Sheff

Access Team

Get in touch with the festival access team asap to explain your needs and find out what support they have. I had a wrist band to use their many accessible loos, go on their viewing platforms and also just let them know I’d be bringing prescription meds (they even had a fridge if you need your meds to be kept at temp!) and I had my alinker and cane. I also got a PA pass for someone to be able to help me. Tramlines was awarded Gold Status by Attitude is Everything, a charity that improves deaf and disabled people’s access to live music. Search the website of the event or festival you are going to, to find out more about what they do for their access customers.

PA or Friend

Lots of festivals do a free ticket for you to bring a friend or PA with you. My friend Sarah helped me all weekend and I wouldn’t have managed to get through it all without her!

Know your limits

We’re all individual and have different needs. Know what your limits are, have a look on the website before and try to plan your day a bit. Who are your must see bands? What other activities are there onsite? My awesome friends Responsible Fishing UK were there stone balancing so I knew that was a bit of a chill out area that I could go and sit down at. Don’t beat yourself up if you have to arrive later or leave earlier, listen to your body x

Be prepared

Think about what you’ll need for a full day. For me it’s about how many ostomy bags do I need? What about a change of clothes if I leak? How much medication? Lots of festivals limit the size of bag you can bring in, but if you speak to the access team and explain what your needs are, they have to support you. If you’re at a festival with camping and will be away from home for a period of time, make sure you have more than you think you’ll need of your medical supplies! I once had a nightmare at Glastonbury when I just started to leak constantly and went through all my bags in a couple of days! I was saved by a kind stranger, you can read about it here!

You may no longer be a mosher!

Back in the day, I’d have been right down at the front for watching bands! Some of you may still be there! I am not! Viewing platforms are great sometimes, but honestly I prefer to just be further back in the crowd, you still get the audience atmosphere and there’s a bit more space! Personal preferences, but having a space where you can sit if you want, where your mobility aid has room and where you can get back and forth to toilets is the right choice for me!


If you drink alcohol just be aware of how it effects you. Can you drink on your meds? If you have a bag, do certain drinks make it fill up quicker? Don’t over do it, take care of yourself and be safe x

Medical needs

If there’s a medical need, festivals should have medical assistance onsite, though depending on the size of the event depends on how good it will be. Tramlines medical tent is like a little hospital!!! I can’t believe how much they have there! If you have a medical need onsite, ask someone for help and they’ll be able to show you where to go. For smaller needs, there should be a Welfare tent where staff can help. Don’t be afraid to ask.

disabled woman at a festival wearing a waterproof pink poncho and using a cane.

Have fun! (whether you make it or not!)

If you can make it to a festival, enjoy! Enjoy however you can manage, however makes you happy. If you can’t make it, then don’t beat yourself up. There was no way I’d have managed Glastonbury this year, we’ve been loads of times but I knew it was just too much for me this year. It happens and life goes on, have your sadness for a moment and then do some nice at home that you couldn’t possibly do at a festival! Gorge bubble bath watching Netflix and having a glass of fizz? Yes please!!!

Plan your journey

However well organised, getting tens of thousands of people off one site is always going to be busy! Planning your journey home is important. At Tramlines this year, the accessible parking was as close as they could get to the entrance but that did mean that you had to either leave a bit earlier or wait for roads to reopen. Not a massive deal for me but only because I planned for it, we just spent that time posting on Instagram, having a drink and chatting about our day. If using public transport be aware that it’s going to be BUSY! Planning ahead is key.

Festivals have always been an important part of my life, I love seeing live music, I love the vibrancy and sheer fun of them. I have taken my kids to festivals all their lives and have so many beautiful memories of them. After over twenty years of festivals all over the UK, as I become more poorly and have more mobility issues, I feared that perhaps I couldn’t manage them any more. But life is about adaptation, I may not do them in the same way as I used to, but I can still do the things that I love the most.

Tramlines is run by my husband, he has been part of the production team from the very beginning in 2009 and to see it grow into such an amazing, huge event is so heartwarming, I am immensely proud of everything he and his team have achieved! Some people say I get preferential treatment from this festival, but I go through their access team the same way as everyone else. The staff aim to treat everyone the same, to ensure access customers get any support they need to have an absolute blast and it’s important to me to go along as a normal guest so I can see how their team works and if there is anything they can improve on so I can feed this back to my husband.

This weekend was just incredible, I have to thank my friend Sarah again for all her help and support in being my PA. She’s a star and made everything a little easier.

I would love to hear your own top tips on having the most fun at a festival! Add yours in the comments below!

Peace and love

Sam xx

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