In Episode 5 of the New Wolsey Theatre’s podcast, Theatre Unwrapped, we talk to two female powerhouses in the UK theatre and disability landscape.
Sarah Holmes is Chief Executive of the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich. As Sarah prepares to hand over the baton to a new Chief Executive after nearly 21 years at the helm, we talk about the responsibilities of theatre leaders in making change – so that theatre is truly accessible and inclusive of everyone. We find out how Sarah’s impatience for change and an impromptu conversation in a graveyard, led to the game-changing Ramps On The Moon project. Oh, and we hear about a panto cow getting on a bus.
Our second conversation is with Michèle Taylor. Michèle advocates for change in the theatre industry at every level, from being Director for Change for the Ramps on the Moon project, to advising funders and Government, and being co-author of the influential Seven Principles for an Inclusive Recovery document. Michèle talks about the importance of continuing the conversation even if it’s not perfect, why she hates the phrase ‘Access is being invited to the party and Inclusion is being asked to dance’, and explains what she means by being ‘on the edge where disability and the mainstream meet.’
Listen to and read the transcript for Episode 5 here.
In Episode 6, the second part of our look at access and inclusion in the UK theatre industry, Sue talks to two inspirational people whose work is making access and inclusion a reality, and about their experience of being involved in the production of Oliver Twist.
Amy is Associate Director at Leeds Playhouse. Amy grew up in Darwen, Lancashire and attended the Youth Theatre at the Bolton octagon Theatre on graduating from Durham University. She co-founded the award winning Theatre Company for young people En Masse, with playwright and composer Oliver Burch. Amy is the director of an extraordinary new adaptation of Oliver Twist, by Bryony Lavery for Leeds Playhouse and ramps on the moon. This production features an integrated company of deaf and disabled artists, as well as integrated creative sign language, audio description, and captioning at all performances.
Amy talks to Sue about the experience of directing a play that has access and inclusion written in to its DNA. Amy describes some of the steps she and her team took, to ensure that as many people as possible could enjoy Oliver Twist. Sue asks Amy about the challenges and triumphs of the process, and how it has changed her practice as a theatre director. Amy shares her hopes for the future of theatre and tells us how she now cannot think about making a show without thinking about access and inclusion right from the very beginning.
Ben is a blind actor, director, theatre maker and audio description consultant. For the past four and a half years, he has been the Ramps on the Moon agent for change at Sheffield Theatres, Ben co founded award winning Theatre Company Brickwall Ensemble, and creative audio description company Hear the Picture. His work with Brickwall includes creating and playing the lead roles in productions such as their bold reimagining of Henry V and audio drama Mike on the Mic. He’s also used his experience as a blind theatre maker to act as audio description consultant on a number of shows, including Road and Oliver Twist at Leeds Playhouse.
Ben explains to Sue exactly what Audio Description is; who it’s for, how it works and what is most annoying about the headsets in most theatres! As a member of the cast in Oliver Twist and the Audio Description consultant for the show, Ben talks about his experience of bringing all his creativity to the production. Ben describes the challenge – and the joys – of fitting audio description seamlessly into the dialogue on stage, and of paying attention to all the senses. Ben is passionate about getting people engaged in the conversation about inclusion and says it was understanding the Social Model of disability that transformed his perception of being a disabled person.
Listen to and read the transcript for Episode 6 here.