Venue Spotlight: The Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham

2016, stage & screen, guest blog, Nottinghamshire, England

Venue Spotlight: The Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham

Emily Noakes, Access Officer, at The Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham has written us a guest blog about the different things that have been done at the two venues in order to improve their accessibility. In spring 2015, after implementing a range of recommendations, the theatre received the Silver Award as part of the Attitude is Everything Charter. There are regular captioned, BSL, audio described and relaxed performances at the theatre and recently for their 150th birthday celebrations they had accessible and BSL interpreted backstage tours.

As they prepare for Disabled Access Day 2016, find out what changes have been made in the last few years to increase the accessibility of The Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall in Emily’s blog below.

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The Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall Nottingham are two of the UK's most successful touring venues, leading the way for arts and entertainment in the East Midlands region. The diverse programme of events includes internationally renowned orchestras, the highest quality ballet, opera and touring drama alongside West End musicals, stand-up comedy, rock and pop.

Access Awards

We received the Access Excellence Bronze Award for the MIT Industry Awards in 2012 in recognition of our effort to provide accessibility for all, especially within the confines of a 150 year old building! At the start of 2014, we were awarded bronze in the best practice charter by Attitude is Everything (AIE), an organisation that is at the forefront of improving Deaf and disabled people’s access to live music.

Through continued improvements, and implementing further recommendations by AIE, we were delighted to receive a silver award in spring 2015. Through this partnership and as part of ongoing ‘Royal’ Development Projects, one of the Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall’s (TRCH) priorities has been to update our box office systems in order to improve services for customers who required assistance when they visit either of the venues.

Setting up an Access Requirement Register

It was decided to set up a free Access Requirement Register (ARR) to ensure a smooth and hassle-free customer journey right from the booking process through to watching the show. Membership of the Register lasts for three years with the option to update any information held on the system if a customer’s circumstances changed. Respect for customers is the very basis of the Access Register as it focused on the access requirements of the customer and not their disability. Customers can detail in their application what their preferences are and what would make their visit more comfortable for them for example an end of aisle seat. This also enables the box office to advise of the seats that would best suit the customer’s requirements. In addition, once registered a complimentary ticket for a personal assistant (PA) can be issued for customers who are unable to attend without a personal assistant.

Still making improvements

Photograph of the Royal Concert Hall NottinghamWe continue to pursue ways in which we can improve access. More recently we have been working with organisations such as the National Autistic Society to further instigate an Autism Awareness Action Plan and expand our current Relaxed Performance provision. We have also been working with Dementia Friends, an Alzheimer’s initiative, to help create a dementia capable community which is informed, safe and respectful of individuals with the disease, their families and caregivers and provides supportive options that foster quality of life.

The venue consult with Nottingham City Council’s Disability Involvement Group and Nottinghamshire Disabled People’s Movement on a regular basis regarding access projects of all sizes, everything from the provision of accessible seating and handrails to a major lift installation. The recently installed lift means that there is now wheelchair access to the Dress Circle where we have some marvellous accessible seating. Recently we invited colleagues from both of these groups to join us as a ‘thank you’ for their invaluable advice and support with the lift project for the Theatre Royal. 

Communicating our accessibility

The Access Statement for the Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall details a wide range of accessible facilities on offer. The theatre arranges Sign Language Interpreted, Audio Described, Captioned and Relaxed Performances for a range of productions and a dog sitting service is offered to patrons who do not wish to take their assistance dog inside the auditorium. Brochures are produced in alternative formats such as large print, braille and audio CD too. We have an infra-red Sennheiser transmission system in each auditorium to relay sound to customers who require it, as well as induction loops at the box office sales points and the stage door reception desk.

Both venues are also members of the Safe Places scheme, an initiative that was set up by Mencap. The scheme enlists local businesses and public places within the local community where vulnerable people can go when they are in distress and in need of assistance. I am the dedicated Access Officer for both of the venues and there is an access information desk open during every performance to ensure we can support people as much as possible.

The TRCH is always looking for further ways to expand services to citizens of Nottingham and beyond and customer feedback helps to shape future developments. As part of this we are focusing our attentions on researching an online booking system for discounts related to the ARR scheme as well as future improvements to facilities, such as accessible backstage dressing rooms and improved ramp access to the outside terraces.

Can you join in Disabled Access Day and share what you are doing to encourage disabled patrons to visit you?

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For more information take a look at the access pages of the theatres website.