Enhance Makes A Splash!

It has been a lively time for Enhance at Extant. Our first two Enhanced shows for our Paul Hamlyn Foundation funded roll-out – Pepper and Honey by Not Now Collective at The Courtyard, Hereford and English Kings Killing Foreigners by RealFake Theatre company at Camden People’s Theatre, London – both took place during the week of 6th May. This was following a dynamic and tailored process led by our visually impaired facilitators alongside some of our highly trained access workers. Both venue Front of House teams received Visual Impairment Awareness Training (VIAT), and the theatre companies received Touch Tour training. The latter included delivery of programme notes which had been carefully crafted by the facilitator and access worker and signed off with each theatre company. One of the great legacies from this is that each theatre company can now use these notes and deliver touch tours with confidence when they perform their shows at other venues in the future.  

Both Enhanced shows were well attended. The audience at The Courtyard included members from Look UK and Royal National College for the Blind. A highlight at The Courtyard included one visually impaired audience member discovering Extant for the first time whilst others said: ‘Would like to say thank you for the support and making me feel accepted,’ and ‘The group loved that they could smell the coffee and biscuits!’ 

A group of people from a range of backgrounds stand around a table with cooking utensils and biscuit dough. They are engaging with the props as part of the Touch Tour for ‘Pepper and Honey’ at The Courtyard, Hereford.

Pepper & Honey, The Courtyard Hereford, May 2024, Photo credit: Joe Nobile

English Kings Killing Foreigners was attended by Extant Theatre Club. One audience member said, ‘It was as it should be. Colours, shapes and intentions described well.’ whilst someone said, ’It was useful and it is always interesting to understand the set’.  

We’re happy to have these two Enhanced shows under our belt, and to reflect on feedback whilst we move forward and create 16 more Enhanced shows across the country before the end of March 2025! At the same time, we are busy responding to other Access Training consultancy and requests and have recently enjoyed delivering VIAT for our neighbour Brixton House. 

We successfully delivered two VIATs for Brixton House: Front of House, tech, operations and marketing teams. Participant evaluation respondents scored ‘good’ or ‘very good’ when reflecting on the day, with comments including, It’s probably the best training I’ve ever done, it was incredibly insightful’ and ‘it was very hands-on, Informative and inclusive’. 

We love development at Extant and that includes of the continued professional development kind. I recently enjoyed two very different conferences. Nancy Medina artistic director of Bristol Old Vic delivered a thought-provoking keynote speech at the Future of Theatre conference curated by The Stage. Key themes included new writing, democratising the theatre space, and future classics on stage. Thangam Debbonaire, Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport gave a rousing speech considering what her priorities would be for arts and culture if Labour was to get in. 

The Lyric Hammersmith Participant to Professional conference explored venue and theatre- based professional development schemes for young people. Made in Bristol at Bristol Old Vic highlighted their 360 degree approach to immersing young people into the theatre industry with support across the process. It was uplifting to reconnect with colleagues including those from Arts Council England, Oily Cart and Spare Tyre.  

The icing on the cake was an audio described version of Guys and Dolls at the Bridge Theatre. I arrived early to collect my headset and to get comfortable. There was a minimalist approach to the description whereby useful information according to what was taking place on stage, the ambience, lighting states and architecture of the space was shared. This created the essential layer of access required for what is a fantastic show!  

Caroline Jeyaratnam-Joyner, Enhance Training Manager, May 2024

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