Michael McEwan: Well done to the Scottish theatres embracing autism and dementia-friendly acts

CommonSpace columnist Michael McEwan, who covers developments around disability, outlines awareness days for the year ahead and congratulates Glasgow theatres for their efforts to recognise audience diversity

I'D like to wish all a belated Happy New Year, and here's to 2017! 

I managed to avoid pantomime season, but I'm happy to see there was one pantomime specifically designed to welcome people with autism, learning or other sensory and communication difficulties.

I'd like to say well done to The King's Theatre in Glasgow, with their performance this year of Cinderella, which was endorsed by The National Autistic Society Scotland.

I'd like to say well done to The King's Theatre in Glasgow, with their performance this year of Cinderella, which was endorsed by The National Autistic Society Scotland.

Following the success of the relaxed performance last year at the same theatre, management continued with this special performance, with a less formal atmosphere in the auditorium, a more relaxed attitude to audience noise, and house lights were kept on low. Audience members were free to move around and can use the designated chill out areas relax.

The National Autistic Society provided dedicated training for cast, crew and front of house staff to help tailor the customer experience and ensure families and school groups felt at ease.

Staff members and charity volunteers were on hand at all times during the show if anyone required assistance, while families at the performances supported by the charity met some of the stars of the panto.

While working on this column, I saw that the Theatre Royal in Glasgow is set to run a friendly performance of La Boheme for people with dementia on Saturday 13 May at 3pm, tickets priced at £10. It's great to see a dementia-friendly performance of an opera classic set to tread the boards, so well done again to Scottish Opera.

This specially abridged performance of Puccini's La Boheme has a running time of 1 hour 15 minutes, including an interval, and is carefully designed to make the theatrical experience more accessible to people living with dementia. Sound and lighting levels are adjusted for the comfort of the audience, and the cast is joined on stage by a narrator.

The National Autistic Society provided dedicated training for cast, crew and front of house staff to help tailor the customer experience and ensure families and school groups felt at ease.

The audience will also be able to go in and out of the auditorium during the performance, or watch the show in the foyer areas on TV screens.

Over the holidays I did some research on this year's awareness days, weeks and months, here is a list of a few for you to take a note of if you're interested.

Disabled Access Day, 10-12 March

World Autism Week, 27 March - 2 April

World Health Day, 7 April

Parkinson's Awareness Week, 10-16 April

Mental Health Awareness Week, 8-14 May: Theme – living with change

National Epilepsy Day 14-20 May, and it's also Purple International Day on 26
March 

Deaf week, 15-21 May 

Learning Disability Week, 15-21 May: Theme – looking back, thinking forward

Dementia Week, 29 May - 4th June

World Cerebral Palsy Day, 5 October

World Mental Health Day, 10 October  

International Day of People with a Disability, 2 December

Human Rights Day, 10 December

Picture courtesy of Jeffrey Smith

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