Last Updated: 08 January 2020
Created: 08 January 2020
THEATRES hosting autism-friendly pantos are leading the way in creating a more inclusive arts industry, North Swindon MP, and Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson has said.
Justin has praised the work of many theatres for catering to autistic children this holiday season by hosting so-called "relaxed performances" – and called on others to follow their lead.
These shows have less artificial lighting and background noises and are designed to create a more welcoming environment for autistic customers.
Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson said: "It's been fantastic to see the changes undertaken in recent years to assist disabled customers in theatres. But I implore organisations to continue this good work to ensure our great Christmas panto tradition can be enjoyed by everyone in society. This is not only the right thing to do - the spending power of disabled people and their families is worth around £249 billion and businesses would be smart to take advantage of this."
The Minister's comments come after he visited Fairfield Hall in Croydon, London, following their relaxed performance of Cinderella.
There he was shown how staging and lighting could be adapted to create a more accessible environment.
Neil Chandler, venue and artistic director at Croydon’s Fairfield Halls, said: “Just a few small changes can make a big difference and enable more people to experience the joy of live performance.”
Tom Purser, Head of Campaigns and Public Engagement at the National Autistic Society, said: "There are 700,000 autistic people in the UK and they and their families would love to go to festive events like pantomimes – just like anyone else. But live shows can increase anxiety and even completely overwhelm them, because of bright stage lighting, queues and busy crowds.
"Autism friendly performances are really important because by making adjustments to the show and the theatre environment, they can help autistic people and their families feel more confident about attending.
"It would be wonderful to see theatres across the UK putting on relaxed performances of their pantomimes every year so more autistic children and adults can experience the thrill of a festive tradition."
Justin's visit comes as a handful of jobcentres trial “Calm & Quiet” sessions where autistic jobseekers are invited to meet with specialist staff and providers in a peaceful environment specifically tailored to suit their needs.