31 October 2016
In order to explore how appreciation for visually impaired-led theatre could be strengthened, visually impaired audiences could be built, and Extant could extend its geographic reach, the company developed a 12-month programme which was delivered with venue partners in Manchester and Birmingham. Alongside the touring production of Ionesco's The Chairs, the programme included supported attendance and development workshops to encourage participation by visually impaired audiences, and a series of staff development workshops to support the delivery of an improved experience for visually impaired audiences and artists.
Extant commissioned The Audience Agency to undertake a full evaluation of the approach and delivered some interesting results. One third (33%) of audience members identified as having a limiting disability or health problem, while 61% of attendees said that it was their first experience engaging with work by visually impaired artists. 20% responded that their biggest motivation to attend was the statement 'Theatre is a part of who I am'. In terms of participation 91% reported that they felt 'Confident' or 'Very Confident' after taking part in an Extant workshop, compared to only 43% beforehand.
Further findings and recommendations that came out of the report were as follows:
Since reading the Audience Agency's insights into the impact of the tour we have been thinking further about what we do and how we could enhance a wider programme of theatre for visually impaired attendees. We will soon be launching a pilot scheme to explore some of these ideas further with our partner venues.
You can download the full report here.