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Project information

Access for All

Birmingham Hippodrome is committed to Access for All and every year presents the world’s biggest pantomime. We’ll bring together both of these aspects by staging a Relaxed Performance of Jack and the Beanstalk in January and will continue to work with audiences with special needs in the future.

January 2015 - December 2015

Charity information: Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre Trust

Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre Trust logo
  • Need


    From listening and working closely with them for many years, we know that people with learning disabilities can find attending and enjoying live performance a challenge. A strange, large building with busy foyers, a dark auditorium and loud sound amplification can all make for a daunting experience. Added to this, the pressure to be still and quiet during a performance can deter people from attending for fear of disturbing surrounding audience members.


    We will create a supportive environment for people with learning disabilities of all ages, presenting a modified show tailored to the needs of this audience. Visitors will be sent information in advance to help them prepare for their visit and there will be break out foyer spaces available in case the auditorium is too overwhelming. Staff will receive specialised training focused on communicating and interacting with the audience.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    Prepare, promote and present a Relaxed Performance


    » Present a Relaxed Performance to an audience of people with learning disabilities and capture reactions and feedback afterwards to improve future work
    » Work with the producer and sector professionals to present a suitable performance with supporting materials available both in advance and on the day
    » Prepare internally by training staff in their awareness and care of the specific needs of large numbers of disabled patrons

    What success will look like

    1,000 people with their families/carers will experience the show. Professional development provided to 100 staff. Relaxed Performances become a regular strand of work

    Aim 2

    Build expertise in and a reputation as a leading arts organisation working with this audience


    » Create strong networks with industry/sector specialists (Autism West Midlands, Open Theatre Company)
    » Take a leading role in regional and national arts platform for working with this special needs audience
    » Increase opportunities for this audience to get involved with theatre activities, through workshops, performance and/or attendance

    What success will look like

    We will provide support and advice to other organisations, regionally and nationally, who are looking to develop this strand of activity.

  • Impact


    The project will build on the theatre’s expertise in working with people with learning disabilities. The performance will have a lasting impact on those who attend, illustrating to them that theatre is accessible. Staff will have additional training to promote an accepting culture and understanding of different audiences. Relationships will be strengthened with local schools and communities. Success in these areas will result in on-going work with this important audience segment.


    The main risk is not filling the auditorium to 1,000, but with the correct relationships in place and a strong track record of working in this area, we feel confident that the risk is minimal. A secondary risk of not linking with professionals within the sector could threaten the impact of the project but these relationships are already being developed and there is plenty of time to continue with this.


    Major donors will be invited to watch the performance and meet beneficiaries.
    Low-level donors will be updated by email at the end of the challenge with stories and testimonials from the day.
    PR features will populate our own channels and media contacts will update wider audiences.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £24,000

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      Amount Heading Description
      £10,000 Ticket Costs Subsidising discounted and unsold tickets
      £8,200 Welcome Film Preparing audiences for their visit to the theatre
      £2,000 Training Training and resources for staff to communicate effectively with audiences
      £1,200 Assisted Performance Captioning and signing resources
      £2,600 Performance resources 'Fidget toy' gifts, visual story programmes and breakout spaces
  • Background


    23,800 people from Birmingham have learning disabilities (ref. NHS Learning Disability Service). This central Birmingham project will build on the theatre's extensive work with special schools, autistic young people and the theatre’s partnership with Open Theatre Company. It will form an integral part of the Hippodrome’s strategy which in recent years has hosted two national symposia to debate how theatre can help young people with learning disabilities through their transition into adulthood.


    Anyone who is on the autistic spectrum or has learning disabilities, along with their family/carer will be welcomed to this performance, including those who attended last year. Our front of house team will be given professional development opportunities through specialised training. Finally, the organisation as a whole will benefit as the status of our charitable activities is raised throughout the city and region through the project campaign and associated promotion and press.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    With the world’s biggest pantomime, a passion for working with learning disabilities, strong links to sector professionals and experience of delivering a relaxed performance, we believe we are well positioned to deliver a successful project. Following last year’s debrief, we identified areas for improvement, as well as aspects which were appreciated by audiences – the project will be organisation-wide with multiple teams working to deliver a positive experience for all involved.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Liz Leck, Creative Learning Manager

    Liz has been the Hippodrome's access champion for 10 years and will ensure a suitable performance is promoted to audiences.

    Mark Smith, Chair Of Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre Development Trust

    Mark's leadership to engage Trustees and other donors will be paramount for fundraising success.

    Qdos Entertainments

    Qdos produce the annual pantomime and their fundamental support and on-going commitment towards access initiatives is much appreciated.

Thank you for thinking so much about being an all-inclusive venue - it really matters, probably more than you will ever realise. Long may it last!

Assistant Headteacher