Podcast: Making the music scene accessible with Kray-Z Legz

The Disability Download

As we move into festival season, avid music fan Joshua Reeves catches up with rap artist, drum and bass MC and electronic music producer Kray-Z Legz (Mark Humphries).


[music starts]

Mark Humphries (Kray-z Legz): Why shouldn't people like ourselves be able to enjoy the show just as much as anyone else kind of thing, and you know, be part of that experience. Be part of the audience, like front row seat?

Erin O’Reilly: Hello and welcome to The Disability Download, brought to you by pan disability charity Leonard Cheshire. I’m Erin O’Reilly and on this podcast we respond to current topics, share stories and open up conversations about disability.

Hi everyone and thanks for tuning in! So, festival season is very nearly upon us – and there seems to be so many great options for festivals these days, both in the UK and abroad. So on this month’s episode, my colleague Josh Reeves, who is a big live music fan himself, catches up with rap artist Kray-Z Legz to talk all about accessible festivals and music events. So Kray-Z Legz is a rap artist, drum and bass MC and electronic music producer based in the South West. [music ends]

And he’s also an ambassador for Leonard Cheshire. Now he’s no stranger himself to the festival scene, having played at events like Boomtown in the past. So they have a really great chat about what they look for in music events, Kray-Z Legz shares some of his own experiences performing and they also discuss what festivals and venues should be thinking about when it comes to accessibility and inclusion. So, let’s hear from them!

Joshua Reeves: Hi everyone, welcome to The Disability Download and my name is Joshua Reeves. I’m the Campaign Support Officer for Leonard Cheshire. And today we've got this real special guest, can you introduce yourself please?

Mark (Kray-z Legz): Yeah hi, my name is Mark Humphries or also known as Kray-z Legz. I'm a rap artist from Somerset, well Street in Somerset which is a little town near Glastonbury and yeh it’s a pleasure as always to be joining you.

Joshua: Thanks, thanks Kray-z Legz, and we are here today to talk about festivals and so I want to ask you...so what type of festivals do you go to and why do you like going to festivals?

Mark (Kray-z Legz): Well my first major festival that I went to was Boomtown in I think it was 2018. And again music’s been a passion of mine since I was a really small child and I was lucky enough to be scouted at a smaller event. One of the Boomtown team seen me perform and approached me and asked if I'd like to come along and perform. And yeah, that was my first experience with the festival. Which you can imagine, was pretty intimidating, but no, they were amazing and they made sure I was really well looked after and it was a really good experience and things.

So yeah, I go to all different types of events though. I love BoomTown just for it’s theatrical side in how it's all decorated and everything like that. It's very immersive, again, they're doing a lot to support people like myself, artists with disabilities as well. So yeah, I do enjoy the larger side of things just to say the least [laughs]. But no, uh, yeah, the main things that I go to is things like Boomtown. I've done NASS a couple times. I'll be doing again this year, which is an extreme sports festival based at the Bath and West Showgrounds in Somerset. So yeah, I'm trying to get out and experience as much as possible.

So yeah, it's usually the larger events that I really tend to enjoy, but don't get me wrong, I do enjoy like the smaller ones as well, which is just like you know, local pubs and things like that. I've played that before as well and yeah, I try to get out and socialise and network with people as much as possible.

Joshua: That's good and have you ever been to like the big festivals like Glastonbury and performed there?

Mark (Kray-z Legz): Not Glastonbury, even though it's right on my doorstep it’s always the one that has alluded me. Fingers crossed one day, I'll be there and there has been talk about this year, I could possibly be going. When I first started out before I started doing my rap career, I used to host drum and bass like MC basically. And I've done a lot in Bristol in different nightclubs and things like that.

So there is talks that I might have a potential opportunity at Glastonbury this year doing that. So going back to my roots a bit so but fingers crossed, yeah, I mean it's...I see it on TV every year and well every time it's on, you know? [laughs] I’m like oh my God, I wish I was there. But yeah, fingers crossed one day it will be on the near horizon. [laughs]

Joshua: Yeah and with obviously festivals what do you think the accessibility, what do you think of the access there and how can it be improved?

Mark (Kray-z Legz): That's a great question. Boomtown as I said, they were amazing when I went. I was obviously quite worried 'cause I'd heard nightmare stories from friends that had gone to things like that, about you know people they've seen. For example, one of my best friends, he's a bodybuilder, very big build, and one year he had to help a lady out, because her husband was in a wheelchair and they got completely stuck in the mud. It was really muddy one year and he said this lady her husband had got stuck in the mud and she was trying to help get him out and couldn't do it.

And my friend said obviously being a festival, everyone was there pretty well inebriated [laughs] and was just walking past and leaving her to it kind of thing, so my friend had to go over and help and help get this chap out of the mud, and like you know free him. So yeah, my first festival I was very nervous that I was going to experience something similar. That I'd get stuck in, you know me and my partner wouldn't be able to cope kind of thing. But Boomtown were amazing, they actually provided a special mini bus and it was adapted with a ramp and things just to shuttle us around site.

And the driver gave me his personal mobile number when I got there and he said anytime you need a lift anywhere, basically give me a call and yeah they were amazing. I couldn't ask for enough from them. But I think a lot of the other festivals could definitely learn a lot from what Boomtown do. Cause I know there's a lot out there that don't really cater as much to you know people with disabilities.

Joshua: Yeah yeah. And do you go to festivals then, as well as being part of the audience and as well as being a musician? And what was your experience like there?

Mark (Kray-z Legz): Yeah, no, for example, me and my partner, we went to an event back in October last year and it was called Westfest. Again it's at the Bath and West showground, but that's more like it's kind of like a large indoor rave kind of thing, so it's about 10,000 people. But again, it gets very crowded, and I mean that's my experience, I'm used to getting lost in the crowds kind of thing. And then like that's it, we end up in our spot and we kind of stay there because I've got no chance. I either fight my way through and find the spot and I stay there or otherwise yeah, I'll be right in the back of the arena.

And again, that's something else I found from attending events and festivals like you said, viewing platforms and things like that, I've noticed a lot of the time viewing platforms are quite far back from the stage. I mean they’ve got amazing views, but if you're like myself and things like and to be in the thick of it, you know interacting with the crowd and everything like that, I mean, if you're on a platform at the back, you feel segregated a little bit almost. And yeah, I think that’s one thing that I've noticed that I'd love to see change is maybe the viewing platforms brought forwards a bit and you know, just in the crowd a bit more so you feel like you're part of it just as much as anyone else.

Joshua: Yeah definitely. Cause I go to different festivals to you and well, obviously yeah, I imagine so 'cause I'm more into Metal now, I love hard Hard Rock and Heavy Metal music. And it's literally the platforms, that I know exactly what you mean 'cause you just can't, you know you have to just focus on the big TV screen because it's right in the back. You know it's not engaging with the band and with the artist that you were seeing, and it makes you feel isolated from that experience. We should be at the front or maybe giving that disabled person the option because I've been to quite a few venues now where they've said to me, oh, you can't go down to the front, I'm like, well, I don't want to go on the viewing platform. Is that happening to you, where you've been wanting to go down the front?

Mark (Kray-z Legz): Yeah, again I was, praising Boomtown here again, one of the security guards was there and me and my partner we were waiting to see Chase and Status perform and as you can imagine there was a massive crowd building up and it got to the stage where I couldn't even see the stage anymore, it was just people I was looking at. And my partner said like you know, would you like to get a bit closer kind of thing? And we started trying to fight our way through the crowd a bit and to make our way closer. And with that one of the security guards seen that we were struggling to get through the crowd. And bless his heart, he come and literally parted people like the red sea [laughs] just pushing people out the way so I could get through. And yeah, he made sure that we got a lot closer.

So yeah, there are good people out there that will assist then, sometimes, but I mean I think I was lucky. And like you said, it's a complete nightmare to get anywhere near the front otherwise. And you know, I think it should be resolved, because why shouldn't people like ourselves be able to enjoy the show just as much as anyone else kind of thing, and you know, be part of that experience. Be part of the audience, like front row seat. [laughs]

Joshua: Yeah, yeah and that's, that's what it's like, I remember after my first festival after the pandemic I was like I wanna go down to the front to see Kreator because it it was one of my one of my favourite bands and I just wanted to get down there 'cause I was like I've missed music so much during the pandemic and I just want to live that experience. And there are like people that generally move to the front, but like I said it depends on the venue and they could be kind of funny sometimes, especially staff and stuff.

Mark (Kray-z Legz): Yep, Yep.

Joshua: How great is the staffing of festivals when you perform as well, like you mentioned about, a guy helping you get lift into different areas across the festivals, but can you give me some good and bad experiences on that as well, some other ones?

Mark (Kray-z Legz): Yeah, just like again, going back to Boomtown and things like that. The last time I performed I was on one of the larger stages and there was kind of a platform to get up and when I got there, there were steps and obviously no ramp and I thought, oh God, here we go. But they've always looked after me and then a couple of chaps actually come along, and luckily I'm in a manual wheelchair, and yeah, they kind of grabbed an end each and lifted me up and made sure that I got up there. So I meant, yeah, they're very good. There's always good people out there that will make sure you know that no matter what that you'll get to do what you need to do kind. But bad experiences, I wouldn't say I've had so much a bad experience at a festival. More it's more smaller venues and things, like indoor venues. I mean there's a couple in Bristol, I won't mention names, a couple of bars and things like clubs like that have actually turned me away. I went for one of my friend’s birthdays before, a few years ago, and I actually physically just got refused entry at the door. They said mate, there's no way you're coming in here with that, I was like what? And basically they just said, they basically called me a trip hazard. [laughs]

Joshua: Wow

Kray-z Legz: They said that you know people will be falling over me and they said it's too dangerous, you can't come in, there's not enough space. So, my friend started getting quite aggravated at that, as you can imagine. And in the end I said look it's fine, it’s fine, I said 'cause I just avoid conflict if I can, I mean I just couldn't be bothered to argue with these security guards that were obviously quite shallow people and I just said look, it's not worth the hassle, so I’ll just go somewhere else mate and my mates ended up coming with me and then we went to a different bar in the end. [laughs] But yeah, there is some places out there that I know it's happened to a friend of mine as well. He's got cerebral palsy, and he's been refused entry from certain venues as well before because he uses an electric wheelchair. So yeah, I'd say that was more on the bad side of things. You know there's a lot that can be done for accessibility in smaller venues as well as festivals and things like that.

Joshua: Yeah, I could just imagine, imagine as well like performing and then just needing the toilet. And like there's no accessible toilets at the venues. Because I went to a venue one time in Bristol and it was a very small venue and they were like it's accessible but we don't have toilets, so how is it accessible then if you don't have toilets? It’s a simple toilet? So I have to go and I have to go into a pub to like, access the toilet and luckily that they were so friendly next door to this pub that they allowed me to do that. But they could, I could have been like they could have just said no, because you're not buying a drink here and so that's how bad it is. And I'm and I'm just thinking, uh, I'm not a musician, but as a musician I bet that's always in the back of your mind going whoa, I, I might need a, I might need to go to the bathroom after my performance, where am I gonna go?

Mark (Kray-z Legz): Yeah, yeah, no exactly. Again, it's funny that you said Bristol. Again I heard of a nightmare story a few years ago about a similar case to what you experienced actually. Someone went to one of the bars or clubs in Bristol kind of thing and they were a wheelchair user. Like you said, they've been, I think it was for friend’s birthday party or something like that, and they'd been planning it for a while and he said when they arrived there, before they arrived sorry, the friends enquired that you know, is it accessible, the venue and things like that. And they said, yeah, yeah, it's all accessible and you know it should be fine, no problem at all. And then when this person got to that bar, they found out, like you said, that they didn't have toilets, accessible toilets at all, and they had to be escorted outside of the venue, like you just said, into the premises next door just to go through and they had to go through a separate business just to access what toilet was out the back of this venue kind of thing. And that was their accessible quotation ‘accessible’ toilet. Like the person said, you know you shouldn't have to be dragged out through a separate business, just to use, you know, bathroom facilities. This you know, almost like this person said, they felt humiliated, you know, when I was reading about it. And I just think Christ, like you know, something as simple as like you said, just going to the toilet. You know like you say if I've been performing I come off stage and I’m bursting for the bathroom, you know, I shouldn’t have to wait to go out and be escorted around and shown, you know, into a separate building. Like you said that it should be there on hand, the same as anyone else. You know anyone else needs the toilet, they've pop to the bathroom. It's that simple and it should be that simple for us too.

Joshua: Yeah, and I was gonna ask you about when you get off stage and the access going through the back. What is backstage like, is it accessible and what do you do? 'cause my friend recently became a musician for the band and he had to bring his own ramp, and he couldn't even get into the backstage area. So that's how bad it is. Have you got any experience with backstage and what would, what would you like to see improve?

Mark (Kray-z Legz): Yeah, again, like you said some of the events I've been to, one of my enemies is speaker stacks. [laughs] Like you said, if it's a smaller backstage area or sometimes the way it's all set up on the sound system and things like that, quite often they'll have to face things, obviously quite close to the front so they're close of the state. And I've had it before where the speaker stacks have been that close to a pillar and things like that that I've not even been able to get through. I've got stuck and someone had to lift me, lift me out of my wheelchair over through the speaker stack, and then lift my chair through separately and so yeah, that's not ideal. And again, other times it's usually ramps like the portable ramps you get. And they bring those out, and they Can be fun Sometime. Obviously you gotta get the width right, otherwise you’re dicing with falling over [laughs].

But no, again Boomtown they've always been amazing. They've always made sure they've had ramps, etc. there backstage for when I need them. But again I have been places where it's been nothing and the stage is raised and things and I'm like Oh my God like kinda looking like how am I getting up there on my own kind of thing. But luckily someone from the staff or someone, even sometimes from the crowds like quite a few times I've had chaps from the audience come up seeing me struggle and lift me up in my wheelchair and make sure that I've got up on stage no problem, so it varies a lot. But I think there's a lot, the main thing I'd like to see is just if an artist with disabilities is booked, like myself, that's a wheelchair user or something like that you know, management just take that into consideration and try to maybe plan a little better. So like you said, things are in place before you arrive, so then you know it's just a smooth run through the same experience as it would be for anyone else. Because yeah, it's quite frustrating when you get that far and you get to the stage and you're like oh well I can't even get on there now. [laughs]. So yeah, yeah but I think as long as things are put into place for each individual artist, then I think that's all they can do, really. That would be a great step forward to see.

Joshua: Yeah, well I'm glad that you haven't bought your own ramp yet, because like I said, I got a friend that's in a band and he has to bring his ramp everywhere. So that's the trouble that I think artists have when performing. Is that it's the scary bit as well. Because if I if I had a good voice and if I wanted to be an artist and then I would worry about well I can't be an artist because I can't get up on the stage. And I bet that you're more scared of that than actually getting up and performing in front of people!

Mark (Kray-z Legz): 100% mate yeah, 100%. Yeah it can be quite embarrassing as well, sometimes like you said, if you get all that way, all the way to the stage side and then you know you can't do what you're there to do and it can be quite frustrating and humiliating in some ways, you know, it's yeah, it's definitely frustrating. [laughs]

Joshua: Yeah, and I just, I just feel like that with it being like 2022 and now and stuff too, and that you would think that, right, there’s artists out there that want to perform, let's make it inclusive as possible. That's the problem, is that they're missing out on so many, much talent, with that. Being uh, being a disabled person that that wants to get into gigs and wants to watch gigs, I struggle with ticket systems and getting access to tickets, going through third parties. What are the troubles for you with that, obviously, I know that you're a musician, but when you go, when you go out and you experience other bands, as you were part of the audience, do you have trouble with the ticketing system?

Mark (Kray-z Legz): Yeah, again, it's always you know, for example, like you, some places offer a free ticket for a carer kind of thing for assistance, and again that can be an absolute nightmare regarding like you said, depending on which ticket system it is, some are better than others. But I've, like you said, third parties you've always gotta drop an email or phone call, and then speak to this other person to and then send proof that you are actually disabled kind of thing just to get your ticket in. Sometimes that can be a nightmare and it's just left last minute and you're kind of scrambling for your ticket kind of thing.

But I've been pretty lucky, for example, that event that I said me and my partner attended in October, I was speaking to them earlier on in the year and I just enquired about the ticketing system and whether they provide, you know, the carers tickets, etc. And actually lucky enough they got back to me, I think it took a few weeks, but they got back to me in the end and they gave me and my partner a free ticket. So we ended up going for nothing, which was a really kind gesture of them to do. But yeah, I've experienced it as well like you said, you're having to fight this third party to try and sort out things that way, it can be quite frustrating again, in having to prove your disability it’s quite intrusive on your personal side of things.

Joshua: Yeah, and from a gig goer I guess that from my experience that it's really hard to like know the venue as well and to see whether you could actually get to the venue. So I've booked tickets, I've managed to get through to the third party and then I'm like, well, I'm a wheelchair user and they're like, oh, you can't get up the steps. So I guess for you as a musician that you struggle with a lot of planning beforehand to like most of your... like you've got, you've got your setlist to worry about, you've got your remembering your lyrics to worry about, and your performance and about lighting, about the stage, what it’s going to be like, but you also have to worry about steps, also have to worry about mapping and getting there as a disabled person. And like is there a system that you've got before you perform to make sure that it is accessible to your needs?

Mark (Kray-z Legz): Yeah, usually Google, one of my best friends, [laughs] I usually use Google Maps. First thing to do is just check the venue, if I can, through Google Maps to see you know if it's a club or something like that to see the venue and if like what the main access is like. That gives me the first step. You know idea of what I'll be approaching, because like you said it can be quite frustrating sometimes, like you're saying about management of different venues or festivals and things like that, when you enquire about accessibility, sometimes the people you're speaking to aren't really educated on the subject and you know it can be a false information. Sometimes they can, like you were saying earlier, and say oh yeah, everything, we've got accessible toilets etc. And they're going from an idea in their head that’s not realistic if that makes sense. And I think the sooner they realise that everyone, every person with a disability is gonna be different, is gonna have their individual needs and I think we need to try and work out a system that you know they can approach people like you were saying beforehand and actually getting an idea of what that person needs or wants to know and actually provide accurate information so we can make an informed decision then around things and not be left last minute like you said, scrambling like Oh my God like you know I thought it was all OK and now I’ve turned up and I can't even get through the front doors anything. So Uhm, yeah, Google like I said is usually my best friend, but then again, otherwise, it's just talking to third parties and trying to explain the situation and having to go through all that, so, like you say, it's an extra worry on top of everything else. [laughs]

Joshua: We are nearly running out of time for this podcast. But before I go, before you go is there anything that you would like to... anything else that you would like to say? Like to mention? What, uh, what gigs have you got lined up?

Mark (Kray-z Legz): Yeah, I've got Boomtown again this year, which I'm very excited for, I’ve missed them over the last couple years. I'm running a DJ and MC workshop at NASS Sports Festival, sorry, this year as well and fingers crossed I'm waiting to hear about Glastonbury, so that's another good one. And I'm sure I'll have a few more smaller events come up through the year. But I think one of the main things you touched briefly on earlier is just about the sheer amount of talent that's out there as people with disabilities, like myself and things, and they get overlooked day by day by these festivals and promoters and things like that. And I think there's a lot more that can be done to represent artists with disabilities. Cause from personal experience I’ve always had amazing feedback from people, and, you know, it's I’ve had people come up to me, and, you know, say that they've got relations that use wheelchairs full time that won't even go to events like this because they're scared of getting trampled and things like that, or that they won't be able to get around etcetera, and you know they say oh it's amazing you're here performing, they would have loved to see, and I think things like that need to happen more often. And from personal experiences from them it's usually, I'm usually pushed to smaller stages, it's a side kind of thing, it's I think it's almost seen as like a novelty act like oh fair play they’re having a crack at it kind of thing. When you know, really, there's people out there that really have a talent and can put on the show just as much as you know Eminem, Jay-Z, anyone else out there or like rock bands like yourself you know? I've seen the line-up for Download this year and it looks incredible like Kiss and things like that. You know there needs to be more artists like that, that are praised for what they do, and for example, again my dad was a rocker and yeah I used to listen to like Queen and Deff Leppard and things like that when I was younger. And I know the drummer from Deff Leppard only having one arm for example, and he was always an inspiration to me. I thought wow, like what an incredible man and again I don't think enough noise was made around him of what an inspiration he was and you know what he actually done for the music industry?

Joshua: Yeah, and that and that's why I mean, is that it's mainly like hidden from from the news as well in terms of in terms of what disabled artists are out there. 'Cause I listen to a death metal band called Possessed and this, the vocalist had basically had an accident that led him to be paralysed. And now he always goes up on the stage in his chair. So I don’t know whether you've watched any performances by Possessed but uhm, yeah, it's just crazy to see a wheelchair on the stage and it shouldn't be like that though, because to me it feels like, woah, I can do that, or whoa, there's more people out there that can actually perform because uhm, say I want to play guitar I wouldn't wanna know whether I could play the guitar, I would wanna know whether I can perform with the guitar and that's the problem.

Mark (Kray-z Legz): Definitely buddy again, I think as you know it's one of the main things is just representation and just being thought of, you know, taking a few minutes to think extra of you know people in our situation would go a long way and like you said, it can help inspire a lot of other people as well. And that's the main thing to me. You know if I can inspire someone else to go out there and do what they love to do, then you know my job’s done. Because I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for people encouraging me when I was first starting out. So I meant, yeah, I think a lot more needs to be done. Like you said representing and you know just show other people that you know you can do this, and you know it is possible. It shouldn't be shied away from and you know you should be centre stage you know making noise as much as the next person.

Joshua: Yeah, before we wrap up, can you, can you please mention your social medias and where people would find your music?

Mark (Kray-z Legz): Yeah yeah, I'm on social media. I'm on Instagram, it's @KrayzLegz. It's KRAYZLEGZ. Same on Facebook, you can find the Kray-z Legz page. All my music it's on YouTube, again if you just search Kray-z Legz it should come up no problem. And I’m also on Spotify and iTunes and all the other major stores. So yeah, yeah, no, it's been a pleasure and I can't thank you enough.

Joshua: Well, thank you for being part of The Disability Download and obviously I just I just look forward to seeing more disabled artists like yourself and I'll check out, check out your music. I'm not saying they might be my cup of tea, mind, [both laugh] this is way out of my comfort zone, but I'll check it out and be very open minded 'cause it's not my type of music!

Mark (Kray-z Legz): All right, great!

[Music starts]

Joshua: But yeah, and you know, I'm actually, it's actually great to see talent up there that that is not pushed down, because you just keep on growing and growing and growing and I’ve seen that from your social media. So good luck and hopefully Glastonbury if you’re hearing this, please let Kraz-y Legz perform, so that'll be great.

Mark (Kray-z Legz): Thank you very much buddy, it’s an absolute pleasure!

Joshua: Take care!

Mark (Kray-z Legz): You take care, thank you!

Erin: I don’t know about you, but that chat’s got me really excited for a summer full of music. And while you know it was great to hear about some of the good experiences they’ve had, it was also really important to highlight some of those challenges as well and identify those areas for improvements that all events should be taking into account when planning.

So we want to hear from you as well – let us know if there’s any festivals you’ve been to that you think are getting it right when it comes to accessibility – which ones are you looking forward to? And who do you think needs to do more? Let us know by emailing disabilitydownload@leonardcheshire.org or contacting us on Twitter or Instagram @Leonard Cheshire

And I'll also put links to Kray-z Legz socials on our Simplecast site, and you can check out some of his music from there as well. And as always please do remember to like, share and subscribe to the podcast! Thanks so much for listening everyone, stay safe, until next time, I’m Erin and this has been The Disability Download!

[music plays out]