As a stand-up comic, I’m sometimes asked to appear at these, so once again this summer I endured a handful of such outdoor bookings: lovely crowds, great shows... fewer good facilities. Backstage (when there was a backstage), the conveniences were no more convenient than frontstage.
One festival booked me for two days, but not being a happy camper, I went home between the performances. On night one, I was pointed to the Comedy Tent, told what time to be there, and given my $10 food voucher (enough for about a quarter of a quarter pounder). My venue was right next to a huge old manor house – the only permanent building on site. I saw band members come and go into the house, past Security. So, I chanced it – knowing full well that as I hadn’t been told I could go in, I probably couldn’t go in.
Sure enough, I was politely directed to the scummy portaloos a few hundred yards away. No free coffee in the living room for me, nor fancy toilets with scented tissue paper.
As I sat in a pitch-black portable toilet, unwrapping a catheter using my alcohol-gelled hands, I considered that I deserved a bit more than this. I wasn’t here as a punter, but as a performer. My urological needs were far greater than the band members who right now were filtering their free coffee via regular bladders and the luxury of a mahogany toilet seat. That’s showbusiness... So, after I’d done my business, I did my show, then drove home and sent an email.
By night two, the organizers had heard of my plight – and while I rarely plead a special case for my medical quirk, on this occasion, it was worth it. Now with special access to the fancy manor house, I took pleasure in walking past the same security guard as yesterday, now flashing my fancy pass. The toilets didn’t have mahogany seats as I’d imagined, but they did have permanents walls, a ceiling, lights, a sink, soap and a general air of cleanliness. Oh, and there was that free coffee.
I played at another festival a week later, so this time I planned ahead, emailing in advance with my access requirements (“the best quality toilets you have on site”). Kindly, rightly, without judgment but with tact, they enabled me to use the best they had. Unfortunately, this festival didn’t have a manor house, so the best they had were still just portaloos, but they were slightly nicer, slightly bigger facilities nonetheless.
It’s been a change for me this year. Where normally I try and act like everything’s normal, I’ve finally realized that there are times when it’s worth making a song and dance about our access needs, so we can enjoy the song and dance of a festival.
The opinions expressed here are of a personal and anecdotal nature, and are in no way a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always consult your doctor or nurse if you have any questions.