Proud Camden’s reputation tarnished by disability incident

A CLOUD of controversy has surrounded a celeb-friendly Camden nightclub after the daughter of a well-known disability campaigner was turned away at the door due to ‘lack of space.’

The daughter of journalist and campaigner Dea Birkett, who is in a wheelchair, was waiting in the queue for Proud Camden – the nightclub on the same site as Proud Galleries – and was told that the “one in one out” policy that the club was running due to high capacity didn’t apply to her as she “took up 20” spaces. She then waited in line as other people queuing behind her were allowed into the club.

Anger at the venue came to a head on social networking site Twitter after Ms Birkett tweeted her frustration at the venue’s behaviour to her 1,200 followers. She said: “Daughter refused entry to @proudgalleries cos uses a wheelchair. Told she took up too much room.”

Hundreds of sympathetic followers and other users of the site ‘retweeted’ the message adding their own outrage – although many were under the impression Ms Birkett’s daughter had been barred from a daytime gallery, not a nightclub.

As soon as the fury began to spread Proud Camden’s owner Alex Proud jumped in to defend their record on supporting disabilities.

He told the Ham&High: “This whole thing has really upset me as it is completely opposite to my own opinion.

“I have offered to speak to Dea Birkett’s daughter and to invite her back any time.

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“I still don’t know if it was bad communication of the one in one out policy or if it was just someone being bloody stupid, but it is completely against our beliefs as a nightclub.”

Mr Proud said that all his staff and four doormen are getting retrained by disability experts Pesky People following the incident. Another representative at Proud said that if the doorman who had made the comments could be identified he would be dismissed from the company straight away.

Mr Proud added: “People assumed that it was a half empty gallery which was not the case – it was late at night at a popular club at capacity. It’s quite difficult with Twitter because the story is out there and there is nothing that we can do about it.

“One incident like that can wipe out years and years of good work which is the sad thing – when we looked into a charity that we wanted to support as a nightclub we thought really hard, and access is something that a lot of people find very frustrating in bars and nightclubs, and we thought that this was something we could make a real difference in.”

Proud Galleries have been hosting a long running club night with Mencap to provide a space for people with learning disabilities.

This week a Lets talk Disability event was held at the venue: ‘Campaigning with Ch4’s Battlefront to change people’s perceptions of disabled people’ led by teenage activist Ella Prendergast.

Ms Prendergast, 17, who ran the awareness event held at Proud Camden, said: “I’m not sure exactly what happened but I definitely don’t agree with a reaction that means someone in a wheelchair is not allowed in when others are – all I know is that if that happened to my sister, who is in a wheelchair, I would be really angry.

“And Proud is not the most wheelchair accessible venue – it has a long uphill, cobbled street up to the front door which can make it very difficult.”

However, she was quick to point out Proud’s previous record on encouraging access and supporting causes mean this was very likely to be an isolated incident.

Ms Birkett told the Ham&High: “Proud have apologised and say they’re going to change things. That’s a good outcome. It makes me glad that I raised it.

“It also shows the power of Twitter!”