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Chelmsford Theatre wins accessibility award for going the ‘extra mile’

Chelmsford Theatre Extra Mile Award Photos 1
Left to right: Yvonne Taylor, Graham Hawkes and Sue King from Support 4 Sight presenting the award to Lee Henderson, Chelmsford Theatre Director and Gary Ormes, Visitor Experience Manager

Chelmsford Theatre has received an award to acknowledge them going ‘above and beyond in their support for blind and partially sighted people’.

The ‘Extra Mile’ award has been given to Chelmsford Theatre by local sight loss charity Support 4 Sight. The award is in recognition of the theatre including a touch tour and an audio described performance for the recent showings of the acclaimed musical Blood Brothers.

Members of Chelmsford’s Support 4 Sight charity, who attended the show, said the inclusive performances made a real difference to their experience.

Touch tour and audio descriptive performance helps bring Blood Brothers to life

Touch tours are held ahead of a performance, to give patrons who are visually impaired the opportunity to go up on stage and touch parts of the set and any major pieces of scenery, props and costumes.

Chelmsford Theatre offered this experience ahead of a recent performance of Blood Brothers. It gave blind and partially sighted theatregoers the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the show content and space.

Alongside the touch tour, there was an audio description service available. This took the form of a live verbal commentary, providing information on the visual elements of the production as it unfolded. It described any action that was essential to the understanding of the story, as well as explaining visual jokes or facial expressions that would otherwise be missed.

Audio description is delivered live in gaps between dialogue by a describer and is picked up by the audience member wearing a special receiver.

The touch tour and audio descriptive elements were delivered by VocalEyes who want blind and visually impaired people to ‘have the best opportunities to experience and enjoy art and heritage’.

Positive feedback from visually impaired theatregoers

Support 4 Sight members attending the Blood Brothers audio described performance and touch tour said they felt they were able to “enjoy the performance just like everybody else.”

“The touch tour we attended beforehand made the evening extra special and brought the performance to life. I was offered two different sorts of audio set and a good explanation of how to use them. This really enhanced my experience. It set scenes well and had good descriptions that were well timed. I asked the people in the next seats if this was disturbing them and it wasn’t, they couldn’t hear me using the device at all. It was a wonderful evening.”

Yvonne Taylor, visually impaired service user for Support 4 Sight

Lee Henderson, Chelmsford Theatre Director, is pleased that increasing the offer of accessible shows is making a difference:

“We’re thrilled Support 4 Sight members had such a brilliant experience attending a performance of Blood Brothers and are honoured to accept the ‘Extra Mile’ award from them. Chelmsford Theatre attracting world-famous shows to its stage is bringing more opportunity to include accessible performances.

“The feedback we’ve received from Support 4 Sight is exactly why we do what we do. We are passionate about making sure all theatre-lovers have the chance to watch the shows they adore and will be exploring future opportunities to bring big named shows to Chelmsford’s stage.”

Lee Henderson, Chelmsford Theatre Director

Councillor Marie Goldman, Deputy Leader of Chelmsford City Council and Cabinet Member for a Connected Chelmsford, says the award from Support 4 Sight is a fantastic acknowledgement of the theatre’s inclusive ambitions:

“We are so proud to be recognised with the Extra Mile award from Support 4 Sight. The feedback from their members which resulted in us receiving this award makes everything worthwhile. Chelmsford Theatre is attracting bigger shows which in turn helps us enhance the user experience by offering touch tours and audio described performances. We will keep building on this to ensure we can offer more inclusive shows in the future.”

Cllr Marie Goldman, Deputy Leader of Chelmsford City Council and Cabinet Member for a Connected Chelmsford

Joining Chelmsford Theatre’s Access Scheme

Chelmsford Theatre aims to be a venue that is accessible to all. They run an Access Scheme that patrons to tell them about any access needs ahead of time so they can best accommodate them and provide an enjoyable experience.

The scheme offers information on hearing facilities, as well as upcoming British Sign Language interpreted, audio described and captioned performances. Since relaunching the Access Scheme in March 2023, over 300 people have joined.

To join the Access Scheme, people can either fill in a form online or call the theatre’s Box Office on 01245 606 505 (open Monday to Saturday 10am to 3pm.)

Upcoming accessible shows at Chelmsford Theatre

Currently scheduled accessible performances at Chelmsford Theatre are listed below:

Stay in touch with Chelmsford Theatre and find out more about upcoming accessible shows by joining the Access Scheme.

Support 4 Sight is a Chelmsford charity helping blind and partially sighted people, their carers and families. Any City Life readers with sight loss issues can contact Support 4 Sight on 01245 933572.  Find out more about the charity’s work at https://www.support4sight.org.uk.

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Charlotte Maltby
Charlotte Maltby

Charlotte writes about the environment, parks, recycling, business, planning, public realm and democratic services.