Seven theatres awarded funds to improve accessibility

Seven projects have been awarded funding from the Theatre Improvement Scheme Improving Accessibility grants, in partnership with the Wolfson Foundation.

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.

Tom Stickland Theatres Adviser, Theatres Trust

Thanks to vital Theatres Trust funding HOME in Manchester, working in partnership with the Royal Exchange Theatre, The Lowry, Z-Arts, Contact, Oldham Coliseum and Bolton Octagon, will purchase and share captioning equipment which will provide deaf and deafened audiences across Greater Manchester the opportunity to see 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.

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.  

2019 Feb WF TIS IA scheme Scarborough Stephen Joseph Theatre    2019 February WF TIS IA scheme Gulbenian Canterbury

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.

Alan Ayckbourn Theatres Trust Ambassador, playwright and theatre director 

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 the Grade II* listed Old Vic in London will provide wheelchair users direct access to the box office. Similarly the Oxford Playhouse, also Grade II*, will provide wheelchair users full access to the ground floor box office ticket desk and hire space for meetings and functions, thanks to funding from the Theatres Trust.

2019 Feb WF TIS IA scheme Old Vic London   Oxford Playhouse

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 because of internal reconfiguration.

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 its expertise in administering this programme so adroitly.

Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive, Wolfson Foundation

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.

The next round of the Theatre Improvement Scheme, in Partnership with the Wolfson Foundation will be announced shortly.

Find out more about our grants schemes.