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Wacken Open Air 2017 in a wheelchair: Metamily & Friends – a guest article by Andrea Schütt
Hello to all the metalheads and interested readers out there,
My name is Andrea Schütt and since 2010 I rely on a manual power assist wheelchair I call ‘Mücke’ (German for ‘mosquito’, usually a nickname for something or someone being small and fast). Here I am again. Has it really been already a year since the last time I sat down and wrote about my previous experiences of W:O:A in a wheelchair? Man! How time flies!
On the first weekend of August 2017, the world’s biggest Heavy Metal Open-Air Festival took place again in the tranquil little German town called Wacken, in Schleswig-Holstein. Quite the impressive list of bands was announced beforehand, e.g. Amon Amarth, Avantasia, Volbeat, Kreator, Hämatom, Heaven Shall Burn, Lacuna Coil, Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson, Status Quo, Paradise Lost, Accept, and many more. There’s basically a little something for every metalhead – let the party rock!
How did I access the festival?
Already on Monday, W:O:A opened its gates for early arriving metalheads. Thus, we also pitched our tents on Monday in the ‘Wheels of Steel’ area. It was on Camping Site A and is specifically meant for people with disabilities. There was a vivid hustle and bustle everywhere – much more than the years before.
And would you believe it? The sun was shining! Raising tents on a sunny day only happens once in a blue moon. We were hoping the weather would continue to be in our favor. But first things first. We were really looking forward to meeting the team at the service point for people in wheelchairs. It was such a warm welcome when we saw each other. A feeling like returning home. After all, we have known each other for many years and had our fair share of beers during this time – fun obviously included :) ! In addition to that, the team plays an essential role here at W:O:A, enabling me to attend this festival in the first place.
Essentially, it also lies in the interest of the W:O:A team to provide metalheads in wheelchairs a fantastic festival experience, with Dress Ringert (also in a wheelchair) being my contact. The team is supported by Sunrise Medical and medical house ThiesMediCenter, which provide the know-how, material, and staff. In addition to a mobile wristband handout station for people in wheelchairs, we benefitted from a variety of services such as repair service, storing medicines requiring refrigeration free of charge, physiotherapy with tapes, and free recharge stations for power wheelchairs and similar aids. Furthermore, Sunrise Medical lent wheelchairs to footsore metalheads – in keeping with the phrase “You’ll never roll alone”.
As you can see from the pictures, my ‘Mücke’ was very thankful for being able to use the recharge station for power wheelchairs … these grounds seem to be more draining than usual.
My festival wheelchair
During this time, I borrowed the Jive M powered wheelchair from Quickie. It had been specifically pimped for Wacken and featured extra-large outdoor wheels. Even though we experienced beautiful weather, the terrain was still slightly muddy because it had been raining a few days ago. But thanks to the Jive, I could return to ‘Holy Wacken Land’ with its Wackinger Village, Metal Market, Beer Garden Stage, and Wacken Center. That was awesome! Ever since 2014 I did not have the chance to see them due to weather conditions. And I enjoyed it to the fullest, e.g. with the band Skorbut on the Wackinger Stage, or a stroll along the different merchandise, drink, and food stalls. And the city of Wacken did not manage to escape us either. Nothing beats visiting Old Metal Bar or having breakfast in Muttis Biergarten :)
Aside of these awesome features provided for people with disabilities at the service point, we also used this place as a hub to meet new and old friends. This is where the party’s at!
Getting to know new people in Wacken Open Air Festival
On Tuesday, for example, I met Öczan, who uses a wheelchair due to Spina bifida, and his assistant Felix. Both hailed from Switzerland. The following picture shows us three together at the service point. For Öczan, it was his first trip to Wacken and he could not stop grinning from ear to ear. We talked a lot about different things, and they explained to me how they met for the first time.
In everyday life, Öczan must rely on assistants for support. However, none of his friends wanted to tag along to W:O:A. Thus, he decided to advertise the job at a flea market website. Back then, Felix was initially looking for spare parts for his car when he stumbled upon Öczan’s ad. When I asked him, what compelled him to respond, he simply answered, “I have no idea, but my gut feeling told me to do it”. I do have to remark that Felix is a social worker taking care of homeless people and addicts in Luzern. In any case both are planning to return to Wacken next year. Kudos, Öczan, for that great initiative!
I could fill this page with many more interesting encounters, but introducing each one of them would sadly go beyond the scope of this article.
Living the real Wacken adventure
Something you guys definitely need to see are the Wacken Firefighters on the Beer Garden Stage. They unofficially opened W:O:A on Wednesday. As always, this meant a ton of fun for all and is an incredible sight to see.
But then a storm hit us! We had fantastic weather until Thursday. Right when W:O:A was to be officially opened by Skyline, it began raining cats and dogs. But, what would Wacken ever be without rain and The Holy Wacken Mud? We would actually miss out on the important stuff :)
We experienced a few smaller showers before the sun finally returned. Time to paint the town red with my Mücke or power wheelchair! Whenever I wanted to get on top of the handicap platforms in the Infield, people would carry me up there with the help of ratchet straps.
So why am I writing a report this year again? My clear answer: Because it is one hell of a party and I firmly believe that you should read about it. Maybe I can convince somebody else to be bold and daring. Essentially, there is always a solution at hand, and you always get the support you need. I, too, require assistance and have always received it with pleasure. So, be brave, guys!
More than 80 countries celebrated peacefully together. No wonder W:O:A co-founder Thomas Jensen dubs it ‘United Nations of Metal’. Thank you so much to all the metalheads out there in the world! And thank you to all who have made it possible for me to attend.
We so cannot wait to go back next year. Tickets are pre-ordered and preparations are underway. After all, the next Wacken is right around the corner.
And without further ado, party on, Wacken!
P.S. We did have a funny incidence involving the police. On Wednesday night, an attendee filed a complaint about loud music on the camping site. The police simply recommended he should use ear plugs to survive the remaining days of the festival.