There are a number of ‘angles’ you can take when advocating for assisted performances in your organisation. Here are just three:
From what Access Co-ordinators have told us, nothing has quite the same impact as a member of SMT actually attending an assisted performance. The chances are fairly high that some members of SMT will not have given a great deal of thought to the personal impact of the service.
If this is not possible, use the quotations in the SMT toolkit and supplement them with feedback you’ve received from people attending assisted performances at your venue.
You can also get hold of footage of captioned performances so that SMT can see what’s actually involved, and of a touch tour or introductory talk which accompanies an audio-described performance.
The SMT toolkit contains suggestions for agenda items which could be helpful to cover in an SMT meeting to develop assisted performances. One of these is input from an audience member. If you come across someone who attends assisted performances who you think could advocate well for them in a forum like an SMT meeting, see if you can get them along to a meeting. You may be able to offer a free pair of tickets for your next assisted performance as a way of acknowledging their time to do this. Bring out from the person’s talk the issues mentioned in the wider benefits section of the SMT toolkit depending on the issues that the speaker emphasises. For example, if they are an older person who has recently lost some sight or hearing and had thought the theatre was lost to them, bring out the benefits of retaining audience members as they get older.
Press and PR
There is no doubt that press coverage of an assisted performance can be very powerful in terms of raising the profile of your organisation locally. Interviews with happy audience members will do your organisation a great service, as well as pictures and a quotation from a cast member who, for example, has not been involved in a touch tour before. Don’t forget to push for coverage on local radio and television as well as newspapers.
The flip-side of this, of course, is the possibility of bad press if the something goes wrong, if the quality of the service is not good, or if there is demand for the service locally and your organisation is not delivering it.
There are organisations which have raised funds specifically on the back of the quality of their assisted performances. Point out to your SMT members how favourably funders will look upon the service and the way in which it allows you to evidence an inclusive approach to programming.