News Story

Cheltenham Jazz Festival will this year host the first Access To Music Conference, which will see industry figures gather together to explore the challenges faced by disabled people participating in music and live events.  

The one-day conference is intended to help discover how the sector can become ever more welcoming to, and appropriate for, performers and audiences with additional access needs. Panels of experts will discuss topics including the experiences of artists and audiences, developments in technology and education, and latest insights into research and policy.  

There will also be live performances and the opportunity for attendees to experience the BEAT BLOCKS haptic dancefloor, which provides sensory feedback to audience members at live music performances. Adrian Bossey, Head of Business & Experience Design at Falmouth University and trustee of Attitude is Everything, will deliver the keynote address. 

Delegates will be able to attend both in-person on the Festival site and online via a live stream. The only comparable event anywhere else in the world is the prestigious Berklee College of Music’s ABLE Assembly in Boston, USA. 

The event will see Cheltenham Festivals join forces with the Musicians’ Union and the industry’s representative body UK Music, among other leading industry bodies. Other attendees will include national arts charities Youth Music and Drake Music, alongside entrepreneurial social enterprise Creative United. 

The co-location of the one-day conference at Cheltenham Jazz Festival, one of the UK’s leading live music events, is especially exciting, says Cheltenham Festival’s co-CEO, Ali Mawle. 

“In recent years, Cheltenham Festivals has made huge strides in accessibility, with changes to our front-of-house, backstage and sitewide processes and policies,” she says.  

“We’ve always made a point to share and consult with colleagues across the sector and community in our work, and this conference is an amazing opportunity to bring everyone together to explore a shared roadmap for the future of accessibility in music and live events.” 

Tom Kiehl, Interim Chief Executive of UK Music,  the collective voice of the UK music industry, agrees that the event offers a unique opportunity for the sector: “Access to Music is a fantastic initiative that UK Music is proud to be part of. We all experience music in our own unique way yet for some there are obstacles to this enjoyment. This conference provides an opportune moment to bring the sector together and identify a common way forward.” 

“It’s vital that we create spaces where disabled musicians’ voices are centred and work together to explore ways to make the music industry an accessible, equitable place for all musicians,” adds John Shortell, Head of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at the Musicians’ Union.” “The MU are proud supporters of the Access to Music 2024 Conference.” 

Tim Wheeler is a Senior Project Manager at Arts Council England, and is developing All In, a UK-wide access scheme. He will also be attending. “I'm delighted to talk about All In at Access to Music,” he says. “As we develop the new UK-wide access scheme for creativity and culture, we want to learn from the brilliant practices I know already exist across the music sector.” 

The Access To Music Conference will take place on Friday, 3rd May in Montpellier Gardens, which will also that day see performances from Brand New Heavies, Bettye LaVette, and Nubiyan Twist & Orchestra Baobab as part of the Jazz Festival’s 2024 programme. 

Tickets are available to purchase via, for both in-person and online attendance. 

Thanks to the support of