Lights, camera, action!

A group of residents stood all together during a reminiscence group session

Park Theatre opened in 2013, turning an office building in Finsbury Park into a thriving theatre and community space. David Deacon is the access coordinator at Park Theatre. With his team, he’s looking at how they can make the theatre more accessible to everyone, including people living with dementia and their carers.  We sat down with David to find out more about their mission to become a dementia-friendly venue

Tell us about Park Theatre. What sorts of shows do you put on?

Park Theatre hosts a wide range of exciting productions and we have two amazing stages. Our reminiscence classes are free for those living with dementia and they take place every Monday. We use a combination of art, thai chi, music, movement and playful, non-pressurised improvisation. It’s an opportunity for anyone to feel supported, relaxed, and uplifted.

Can you tell us about what it means to be an accessible venue?

We have a vibrant community and Park Theatre is at the heart of it. We want to make sure the theatre reaches out to everyone. Without access, we would not be able to do this, and it is an incredibly vital part of bringing everyone together. Every venue should and could do the same and it is wonderful to see so many venues, like Park Theatre, adapting to be accessible – and thriving.

Why is working towards being recognised as a dementia friendly venue important?

We want the space at Park Theatre to be comfortable and safe for everyone. For people living with dementia and deaf and disabled people, it can be quite frustrating to get hold of helpful information, so we want to find ways to reach out to them. Being a certified dementia-friendly venue will help us let everyone know that we are here, and that this is a safe space for anyone who would like to attend. We are very much looking forward to accomplishing this. It will mean a lot to us.

I hope it will mean residents can truly enjoy the exciting experiences we have at Park Theatre, whether it is watching a show, attending our brilliant creative learning classes, having a delicious latte at our wonderful bars (other drinks are available of course!) or simply soaking up the atmosphere.

How are performances adjusted to ensure they are suitable for people who have dementia and their carers or family?

We host a range of accessible performances, such as captioned, audio description, British sign language performances and relaxed showings. For our relaxed performances, these shows are sensory adapted – meaning we adjust the sound and lighting levels – so as not to overwhelm the audience. We also provide for our patrons to use. The visual story is designed to help prepare people for their visit. It contains lots of images along with helpful information, including photographs of the theatre to help you find your way around; descriptions of the main characters in the show; notes to highlight any potentially distressing elements of the plot and production; and an outline of the story. We also have a breakout room for anyone who wishes to go into a safe space. People are more than welcome to come in and out of the auditorium during a relaxed show if they want to.

Some of our staff will be attending dementia-friendly sessions and training, so we can better support visitors who are living with dementia. Information on accessible performances can be found on our website, or you can contact our box office directly.

How do you ensure you’re meeting residents’ needs?

We have a fantastic team at Park Theatre who are very much aware of how to remove barriers and ensure the venue is accessible. Training around access is provided regularly and we also engage with various organisations such as the Alzheimer’s Society. But the best approach is Be it a friendly chat in-person with our warm, approachable staff, or they can get in touch with us any time by emailing or ringing the box office. Feedback is very important to us. We want to listen to our visitors and adapt to their needs as best we can.

Find out what’s on, including a list of relaxed performances, on the Park Theatre website.

For more information about accessibility, email or visit the Park Theatre website

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