Chloe Oldman and Robert Lofthouse gave a presentation looking at the current levels of accessibility in the Victoria Theatre, in Halifax, plus an outline of proposed improvements. A summary of their presentation is below.
They also invited Disability Partnership Calderdale to visit the theatre and inspect the theatre’s accessibility at first hand. We’re grateful to Mark, Cathy, Toni and Carl who came along to help with this. A video of their visit can be seen below:
Here are the main points of the presentation:
The theatre is owned by Calderdale Council and was previous known as the Civic Theatre. It was opened in 1901.
We like to be as welcoming and inclusive as we can, but as a Victorian Grade-2 listed building, the theatre presents some challenges.
Apart from the annual pantomime, which it produces in-house, the theatre hosts exclusively touring shows. We accept that we are not the “perfect” venue and that is why we’re here this evening. We want to talk to you about what we can offer and also we want to hear about your experiences and what you think we can do better.
We can cater for people with a range of disabilities, including hearing impairments, visual impairments, wheelchair users and other people with access problems, plus people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and Down’s Syndrome and Alzheimer’s.
For hearing-impaired visitors, the theatre has an induction loop in the box office and auditorium, and an infra-red audio system for audience members in the stalls and circle. The pantomime includes performances with British Sign Language interpreters actually involved in the show, plus a performance with BSL signer at the side of the stage.
Visually impaired people can ask for a large print copy of the theatre’s brochures. The theatre also guide-dogs and front of house staff who are available to help anyone who needs assistance in reaching or finding their seat.
Seating is specially allocated close to the accessible toilets and we can move seats in and out to extend wheelchair access areas and their companions.
We have specific access points for wheelchair users. At the moment flat access is available to the theatre from Commercial Street and the box office is also accessible.
When we have a stand-up concert, we are developing a section at the front of the theatre set aside for wheelchair users and their carers/families/friends and this is one of the best places in the theatre from which to see a show.
For customers with ASD and Down’s Syndrome, the theatre also runs a relaxed performance of the pantomime, offering a more subtle sensory experience. Lights are less bright, sounds muted and we create a friendly and welcoming environment where audience members can shout, move around and even interact with the performers, who are trained to interact more with the audience during this performance. This performance also includes more space for wheelchair users.
The theatre offers complimentary (free) tickets for essential carers for anyone with a disability. That applies to every show we offer. Simply ask at the booking office.
Plans for the future
We are looking to offer a drinks service to your seat as standard. Access to the bar isn’t easy, due to two steps and this new service will enable anyone to order a drink from their seat.
Longer term, we are aware we don’t have any access lifts and that with three levels of theatre seating and the Green Room bar area at circle level, where we host our comedy club, we need to open these spaces up to more people with disabilities.
One thing we are looking at is moving the box office onto Commercial street – a more accessible location than the current one – plus add an access lift to the circle, Green Room bar and build an accessible toilet at that level.
That would make the theatre much more accessible and welcoming for wheelchair users, in particular.
The presentation ended with the audience putting questions to Chloe and Robert.