Showcasing Nottingham’s accessible theatres on Disabled Access Day

BSL, case studies, 2016, stage & screen, Nottinghamshire, England

Showcasing Nottingham’s accessible theatres on Disabled Access Day

The Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham both got involved with Disabled Access Day earlier this year, we caught up with Emily the Access Manager of the two theatres, to find out about their event and to get some top tips for venues considering getting involved next year.

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What event did you hold on Disabled Access Day?

On Disabled Access Day we held a free open day event at the Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall from 10am to 1pm. Visitors were able to find out more about the accessible facilities on offer at the Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall and could learn about the variety of assisted performances available throughout season including audio described, British Sign Language (BSL), captioned performances and relaxed performances.

We also used this as chance to show the new lift at the Theatre Royal and detail the recent access development works completed on the Theatre Royal Dress Circle. We also offered people the chance to have a look at the seating options in both the Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall and familiarise themselves with the layout.

We held a Dementia Friends information session giving an insight into what it is like to live with dementia & how to understand & help those living with dementia in our community. We offered free tea or coffee, as well as chats with staff and our resident pianist played a selection of show tunes.

Plus, we joined forces with other venues across Nottingham to offer a variety of accessible events for Disabled Access Day. The Nottingham Playhouse also held an Open Day, as well as accessible backstage tours; Broadway Cinema held a supportive environment screening of ZARAFA; The National Ice Centre hosted Ice skating for persons with access requirements and Dance4 held an information stand at the Theatre Open Day detailing the accessibility of their new state-of-the-art International Centre for Dance and Choreography opening in summer 2016.  

How did you prepare for Disabled Access Day?

We gathered our staff, and our access champions from different departments to help shape how Disabled Access Day would look like at our venue, with input from various teams. The creative learning department leant some props and costumes to us as well to show to people on the day. We also hired a plasma screen so that we could have informative films, such as BSL synopsis of some of our theatre productions, as well as informative videos explaining the different types of assisted performance facilities at the venue.

We created new and updated flyers for our assisted performances so that people could take away the latest information on performances. We also created alternative formats of some of our Theatre Merchandise, including a souvenir brochure of the 150th anniversary year of the Theatre Royal (essentially a historical guide if you like) – which we had produced in Large Print and on Audio CD.

We also made a new reference guide for staff on all the access facilities on offer at the venue as a refresher and found this would be a very useful resource for recent new starters at the venue.

We used our involvement as an opportunity to ensure the Access landing page on the Theatre website had key information on about our services, as well as the information on our latest awards and accolades received over the past year.

Photograph of Disabled Access Day signage outside of the theatre

How did you market your event?

We used Facebook and twitter to promote the event. We also sent an e-flyer to customers on our database. We listed the event on our website and, by linking forces with other venues in Nottingham, this helped to spread the word about Disabled Access Day in the city. We also created a map so that people could gauge where the different locations were for organisations participating in Disabled Access Day. Furthermore, we contacted local initiatives that could promote the event such as Experience Nottinghamshire.

Our Press Office completed a press release which was cascaded to our media contacts. We had an article in the local paper; Nottingham Evening Post and on the week of Disabled Access Day, Radio Nottingham showed an interest and they scheduled in an interview on Saturday morning at 8.15. On the Morning of Disabled Access Day, I had a call from local TV and they came along for a couple of hours to film some shots of the day and interview staff and customers – a news piece about the day was later aired on Notts TV as part of the weekend round up.

This extra media coverage helped to widen our outreach to people, as if they were unaware of Disabled Access Day or had been unable to attend on the day itself, it helped to plant the seed that there are these services available.

What advice would you give to other venues considering getting involved in Disabled Access Day?

Go for it! It really gives people the chance to come and visit you and discover what you do. It also helps you to reconnect to some customers who may have visited you in the past and hadn’t realised that there were services that they could access now they have an additional requirement.

It was also very informative as some of our regular customers visited us on Disabled Access Day to give us feedback on the services we offered and detail how appreciative they were of what we currently do. Which is always nice to hear!

What impact has getting involved in Disabled Access Day had on the theatre?

It’s had a very positive influence. Spreading the word about what we do and reaching new potential audience members can be challenging so this was a great opportunity to raise awareness. As a result, departments have come together and worked jointly for the campaign; helping to spread the word about our access facilities. It has also had a creative influence on the team and has opened my eyes to the various methods of promoting accessible events in the future.

Furthermore, it has helped to forge additional working partnerships between different organisations in Nottingham. It has stimulated a renewed enthusiasm across the entire venue, spreading the word about all of the accessible facilities we have and as part of this we are about to send out an information flyer with our next season brochure.

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Are you a venue that’s interested in getting involved in Disabled Access Day 2017? Register your interest now.