Seven projects focusing on improving the accessibility of theatres have been awarded a total of more than £100,000 by the Theatres Trust Theatre Improvement Scheme, in partnership with the Wolfson Foundation.
Theatres Trust has awarded its 100th grant to HOME in Manchester, who will work in partnership with the Royal Exchange Theatre, The Lowry, Z-Arts, Contact, Oldham Coliseum and Bolton Octagon, to purchase and share captioning equipment. This collaborative consortium approach will provide deaf and deafened audiences across Greater Manchester the opportunity to attend more captioned productions and performances in a greater variety of theatre styles, and access to see shows at theatres that haven’t previously offered them.
The other six projects funded by the Theatres Trust Theatre Improvement Scheme improve accessibility by installing leading technologies and offering solutions to the challenges historic theatres face when looking to improve the audience experience:
Audience members at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough and Gulbenkian in Canterbury will have the latest leading assistive listening systems installed that will allow customisation as well as audio description of performances. Wheelchair users, ambulant visitors, and those with pushchairs will soon have independent access to Pitlochry Festival Theatre, whose heavy front door will be fitted with an automatic opening device.
For the first time in its 200-year history wheelchair users will be able to directly access the box office at the Grade II* listed Old Vic in London. Similarly those who attend the Oxford Playhouse, also Grade II*, will be able to fully use the ground floor, including the box office ticket desk and the hire space for meetings and functions, thanks to funding from the Theatres Trust. Meanwhile disabled audience members at Newcastle’s Tyne Theatre and Opera House, one of the few Grade I listed theatres in the country, will have better access to front of house, toilet and Grand Circle facilities, improving all-round access to this important community asset.
Tom Stickland, Theatres Trust Theatres Adviser said: “Everyone should be able to enjoy the full experience a trip to the theatre offers, regardless of their access requirements. With this funding, in partnership with the Wolfson Foundation, we are able to support seven great projects and 13 theatres around the country, who, by working with their audiences, have found meaningful solutions that allow better access - and that show other theatres how they too can better cater for their audiences’ needs and make theatre going more accessible.”
Alan Ayckbourn, Theatres Trust Ambassador, playwright and theatre director said: “For me it took a major stroke in 2006 to make me aware of the appalling lack of provision for people with disabilities in many of our public buildings. Naturally, in my case this applied to most theatre buildings. Since then, much progress has been made. The recent initiative by the Theatres Trust with its Improving Accessibility scheme will enable seven theatres including (naturally closest to my heart!) Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre to do exactly that. I do hope other theatres will follow suit, so that soon talk of improving accessibility is a thing of the past - I look forward to that day.”
Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation said “Wolfson has a strong commitment to supporting people with disabilities, and removing barriers to their participation in all elements of society. We also have a long term commitment to the performing arts, including through our fruitful partnership with the Theatres Trust. I am delighted that this year’s funding partnership brings these two elements together, and we are enormously grateful to the Theatres Trust for their expertise in administering this programme so adroitly.”
This annually themed Theatre Improvement scheme challenges arts organisations to implement innovative and pioneering improvements, whether front of house, or behind the scenes. The scheme will distribute £100,000 each year for the next two years with awards of up to £20,000 per project.
Theatres Trust supports theatres who are looking to make their audiences more comfortable and the performances accessible, and is happy to provide advice and guidance on this. We also run further small grants schemes awarding project funding up to £5,000, these too can receive applications from theatres looking to improve their accessibility.
Our capital grant giving role is made possible because of our funders, who enable us to run multiple grant schemes that address improvements and urgent repairs to theatre buildings via our Theatres Protection Fund, set up in 2012.
Further details on the grant schemes we run can be found: theatrestrust.org.uk/grants
The Gallery shows a rolling slideshow of the Greater Manchester theatres, and reprsentatives from the consortium celebrating the 100th Theatres Trust grant in the foyer of HOME.