Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) has committed to become the world's first "relaxed venue".
The Centre has pledged to make all of its shows more accessible for disabled people and neurodivergent audiences, artists and staff, by relaxing guests' behavioural etiquette at performances.
The move, brought about by a team of workers in the arts who have disabilities, intends to spearhead a movement to make museums, theatres and gigs relaxed across the UK.
BAC has produced many innovative shows, most famously Jerry Springer: The Opera. More recently, more than 90% of all performances at BAC have been relaxed since autumn 2018.
It now has a permanent ‘chill-out space’ in the building and makes ear defenders available to audiences at all times. It has also committed to welcoming diverse audiences as well as promising that its programming will reflect disability culture and feature disabled-led work.
BAC has used a methodology developed by Touretteshero, in its approach to access across the building and become a relaxed venue.
BAC artistic director Tarek Iskander said “Battersea Arts Centre has been transformed by this methodology, far beyond what we could have possibly imagined. It has completely altered how we think of ourselves and our relationship to the world.
This will always be a work in progress, not a destination to reach, but as a mark of where we are, over 98% of the performances in our next season are going to be Relaxed."
Jess Thom, co-founder of Touretteshero commented saying, “By coming on this journey, Battersea Arts Centre are sending a bold and exciting message to their staff, artists and audiences that they understand, welcome and celebrate disability arts and culture in all of its many forms. We can’t wait for you to experience the difference!”
The launch also marks the start of Iskander’s first season in charge of the theatre as Artistic Director with 98% of performances being relaxed across the "Going Global" season.
What is a relaxed venue?
Relaxed performances remove the formal etiquette of theatre and performance spaces, offering a judgement-free zone for people from all walks of life to enjoy a show. There are several ways BAC are demonstrating being a"relaxed" venue including:
- Ensuring the key principles of Relaxed Performances are present for the majority of those attending
- Including a permanent ‘chill out space’ in the building
- Availability of ear defenders
- A commitment to welcoming diverse audiences
- Programming that reflects disability culture and disabled-led work
Photo credit: Battersea Arts Centre