Relaxed Performances: Making a real difference for people with disabilities


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



Biggest Panto in 10 years…oh yes it is!!

We are thrilled to announce that this year’s spectacular Pantomime, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has welcomed over 115,000 theatregoers since we opened the show on 19 Dec, making it our best-selling Panto for over a decade!

This year we have been treated to one of the most star-studded casts of recent years – John Partridge, Gok Wan, Stephanie Beacham, Gary Wilmot, Paul Zerdin, Matt Slack and Danielle Hope – who will have played a phenomenal 77 performances attracting audiences from across the country.

Thank you to all of you who came along, making this year’s show one of the most magical ever.

See you at Jack and the Beanstalk from this December!

In the meantime, here’s some great pics as we welcomed the great and the good of Panto Land for last night’s end of Panto party…


Panto Magic Comes to Children’s Hospital…

Last Friday we headed over to Birmingham Children’s Hospital with stars of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, John Partridge and Danielle Hope for a very special visit.

Over the Christmas period we held bucket collections in the theatre’s foyer and thanks to your wonderful generosity a phenomenal £5,400 was raised which will be shared between Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Great Ormond Street.

John who plays the handsome Prince, and Danielle who plays Snow White, winner of BBC1’s Over the Rainbow, presented a cheque for £2,700 to staff at the hospital.

Our Prince and Princess then took a tour to visit children and staff in the Neurology Ward (Ward 10) where they met some of the brave and wonderful patients. Many a smile was spread as John and Danielle made their way around the hospital beds and even had a chat with a patient’s family via facetime on their iPad!

Vikki Savery, Public Fundraising Manager at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, said: “We are really grateful to Birmingham Hippodrome for making us part of their fundraising. We’re delighted at the generosity of all of their patrons. The money they have so kindly contributed will support our current Children’s Cancer Centre Appeal and will help towards the creation of brand new state-of-the-art facilities here at the hospital. Thank you again to everyone who has contributed and we look forward to working with Birmingham Hippodrome again soon.”

Thank you once again to all who supported this great cause over the Christmas break.