Final week of Jack and the Beanstalk marked with star-studded closing party including Gok Wan and Lesley Joseph

The final week of Birmingham Hippodrome’s spectacular pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk, which stars Jane McDonald, Duncan James, Chris Gascoyne, Gary Wilmot, Paul Zerdin and Matt Slack has been marked with a closing party attended by celebrities from the pantomime and theatre world.

Guests  included Gok Wan, Lesley Joseph, X Factor winner Joe McElderry, comedian Billy Pearce, Scottish showbiz veteran Allan Stewart and stars of Newcastle Theatre Royal’s pantomime Clive Webb, Danny Adams and Chris Hayward.

Nick Thomas, Chairman of Qdos Entertainment said “We’re delighted to have a few of the 800 cast and crew who helped to create and stage our 2014/2015 Qdos Entertainment pantomime season with us at our hugely-successful Birmingham Hippodrome show.”

“Planning is already underway for our next season and as our Birmingham audience will know we always make sure we deliver something bigger and better than the year before!” added Nick.

Jack and the Beanstalk ends this Sunday 1 February – next year’s spectacular pantomime is Aladdin. #brumpanto

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Relaxed Performances: Making a real difference for people with disabilities

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We’re currently working with Autism West Midlands to help provide audiences with the best possible experience of live theatre during our second relaxed performance of pantomime.

Here we invite  guest blogger Julia Begley,  Digital Community Executive at Autism West Midlands to blog about how relaxed performances in theatres and venues make a difference.

It is an exciting time for venues and visitors alike. For many families, a trip to the theatre is a yearly tradition full of fun and shared enjoyment.

Images from last year's relaxed performance of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Image from last year’s relaxed performance of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

While this is a time of excited anticipation for some families, for others going to the theatre may feel challenging. People with disabilities can sometimes feel excluded from arts venues because of fears that their needs may not be understood. Many families tell us of the worry they feel that their children’s actions will attract unkind attention. Some autistic people find visiting the theatre too overwhelming and so they do not feel able to access this valuable experience.

But relaxed performances are making a real difference to this. Relaxed performances offer reduced lighting and sound, shortened run time, visual prompts – including signs around the building, Makaton and written descriptions alongside the performance – and chill out zones where people can go to relax if they start to feel overwhelmed. These performances offer a unique chance for people with disabilities to come to the theatre, experience the fun of a performance and feel welcomed into their community:

“It was so nice to share an experience that people take for granted at Christmas – thank you.” – Parent

Paul Zerdin and guests on stage - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs!

Paul Zerdin and guests on stage – from last year’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Once the relaxed performance is over, theatres can capitalise on their achievements and show themselves to be welcoming to all people with disabilities. It can be a fantastic way to introduce people to the theatre and all it has to offer. Relaxed productions can act as a stepping-stone to give people the confidence to come to other performances, including those in the standard run.

Autism West Midlands are delighted to see the progress that is being made in this field and the way that people with disabilities are being taken seriously as customers and patrons of theatres and venues. We look forward to a sustainable future for accessible performance, and our role in supporting that.

Julia Begley is co-author of Show Time: A guide to creating amazing relaxed performances for people with autism.

Jack and the Beanstalk. Birmingham Hippodrome. 18th December 2014.

The lead cast of this year’s Jack and the Beanstalk

The relaxed performance of Jack and the Beanstalk stars Jane McDonald, Duncan James, Chris Gascoyne, Gary Wilmot, Paul Zerdin and Matt Slack and takes place on Thursday 29 January at 1pm.  Call 0844 338 5000 for tickets.

For more information on Access performances at Birmingham Hippodrome click here

 

 

Birmingham Hippodrome Access Forum member and mother of two children on the autism spectrum blogs about our Relaxed Performance

Audiences members enjoying our first Relaxed Performance

Audiences members enjoying our first Relaxed Performance

Our guest blogger this week is Alaine Powell, mother of two children on the autism spectrum and a member of our Access Forum.  Alaine writes about her experience at our first ever pantomime Relaxed Performance earlier this year.

I first heard that the Hippodrome was staging a Relaxed Performance at an Autism Spectrum Disorder support group that was attended by some of the Hippodrome. As a parent of two children on the autism spectrum it’s extremely hard to find activities to suit all of the family, so when we heard about the Relaxed Performance of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in Jan this year we had to go!!!

Our eldest child is on the autism spectrum and loves the theatre, he can’t get enough of it, but there isn’t always the opportunities to and now we finally had a show we could all attend.

We bought the tickets, received the DVD – an especially-created short preview film for families like us to see exactly what was in store – and went into preparation for attending the theatre. We arrived a little early on the day and I have to say, from the minute we walked in the door we were made to feel included. A member of staff had some spare sparkly hats (the hats were so the staff could be identified more easily).  She approached the kids and asked if they would like to try one on. At one point, our middle boy started to get a bit flappy and twitchy. For once no one batted an eye lid – no tutting, no rude staring, just an amazing level of acceptance.

The show was amazing as always; the amount of thought and detail that was put in to accommodate everyone was fantastic. The captions for us were a little too wordy, but for others that will have been just right. The sensory items provided were a life saver. Our middle boy happily sat on his feet for the whole show with a twirling light up toy under his chin.

We had a fantastic day and they had less pressure to leave their world and be forced to conform and join ours. This really helped.

Would we recommend this? Hell yes

Will we be there this Jan? Most definitely

I hope all who see this can understand how vital a facility like this is for families like ours and all those who have fantastic special kids.

Thanks again Birmingham Hippodrome.  Alaine

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Our panto Dame, Gary Wilmot, one of the stars of this year’s Jack and the Beanstalk, supports The Big Give Christmas Chellenge 2014

The next pantomime Relaxed Performance takes place on Friday 29 January for Jack and the Beanstalk and we have set ourselves the target of raising a total of £24,000 to make this performance even bigger and better than last year. Already grant-making trusts have donated nearly £6,500. But we still need to raise £6,000 in online donations in December, which will then be doubled.

It’s so simple in exactly one week’s time from 10am on Thurs 4 December, Fri 5 December and Sat 6 December your donation could be doubled via the Big Give Christmas Challenge, just visit www.birminghamhippodrome.com/biggive
Only with your help will all this be achievable.  So please put those December dates in your calendar, keep your eyes peeled for our blogs, emails and reminder tweets in the coming weeks; and spread the word with friends and family.
Thank you for your support.            Find out more about the relaxed performance here.    #tbgchallenge