I have been researching online guides on how to produce accessible performance and I found this clearly explained working document by ‘unlimited’ arts commissioning program for disabled artists, titled Demystifying Access. The guide opens with a statement: ‘If you care about reaching a wide and diverse audience with your work it is essential to consider questions of access – there are 11 million disabled people in the UK alone; that’s almost 1 in 6 people (Source: www.gov.uk). The law requires that no one is excluded from accessing public services and demands reasonable adjustments to be made in order to ensure this – so it is our job as performance makers to think ahead and not discriminate!’
As an audience interviewer in the cultural sector and with my experience of and working with neurodiverse people I have a feeling that this 1 in 6 statistic is actually higher. Part of my frustration with the world is how slow we are to change and implement access from the start of things which is why I am passionate about developing this over a period of time into my work. I want to develop a Touch Tour for my next showing of Statue and I have struggled to find this activity in the real world to experience first hand which is how I like to learn. However, this online access document to Touch Tours will support my planning as it includes references to performance companies that offer this activity.
What is a Touch Tour? A Touch Tour is an opportunity for the audience to explore the performance set through touch and an opportunity to ask questions before the event starts. I like how this offers another way into the work, its a quieter introduction with additional sensory opportunities to interact with the work. My costume and make-up are visually and texturally really interesting to look at and to touch. I can imagine questions being asked about how the costume is made and how the makeup is applied. Could I take this a little bit further where people could apply a small amount of makeup onto me? This is a really exciting way of thinking about how children engage with the set when I present this at The Orchards specialist school, Trafford where there will be individual needs for 1-2-1 or smaller group interaction. We know that offering different ways of engaging with work can only be of benefit to everybody.
As part of my a-n bursary and Arts Council England project grant, I visited a Makaton integrated family theatre show titled Ribbet Ribbet Croak by Moulded Theatre at The Cockpit in London this was a bit further than I wanted to travel however there was nothing else available for me to see in the North West. My initial research into this area really did surprise me at how little Makaton friendly performances are out there and how some of the Makaton friendly theatre venues do not provide this in there programming. It was worth traveling to London to see Moulded Theatre, Makaton friendly show where I got to meet the director and the cast, they also let me have a look at their performance set before the show started. In the show, the two performers dressed as frogs signed through the entire set with symbols used in a 2D format that were hung on a washing line.
The show was very interactive with lots of opportunities for the children to get up and play and touch different materials. One of my favourite parts of the show was how they used some basic materials to mime bringing to life through live action the Makaton symbol for a rollercoaster. The cast were really engaging and kept really calm even when children started wondering into the performance set, I left feeling like I had seen a theatre show for families that was fully signed in Makaton. I feel that what I am developing is a different kind of structure using both the workshop format with a micro performance and I want the audience to go away with some knowledge of Makaton with additional resources to continue there learning at home. I want my work to go beyond performance and encourage people to actively explore and do Makaton in the world.