Just So is a family festival in Cheshire who are currently at Silver on our Charter of Best Practice. They are developing a great track record of integrating access into their performances at the planning stage. Their innovation is a great way of ensuring customers are able to make informed choices about the types of performance on offer so customers (or their parents) can choose which performances are right for them and best suited to their needs. It’s a great way of effectively offering an alternative to relaxed performances within a festival setting.
What was the inspiration for this improvement?
At Just So, we were looking for a way to enable our audience to make more informed choices about the programme elements they attended in the first place. Our main inspiration for this provision was enabling choice through accurate and relevant description of what could be expected. It was also important to us that this would be integrated in the printed programme, and in keeping with the feeling and character of the festival.
We don't want to tell people what to see or engage with depending on their disability or age – we just want you to know enough so that you can decide what you want to engage with and what you don't.
Can you describe what you did?
We compiled programme guidelines in eight categories, into which we asked all performers to put themselves. One category was ‘Sit Back and Relax – no effort of participation required’ and its opposite was ‘Participate – if you want to get stuck in and take part’. Having these guidelines throughout the main programme tells audience members what being part of it might feel and look like. It enables informed decisions for families across the festival.
Programme guidelines are intended to give the audience enough information to be able to navigate the programming, finding things that are suitable and avoiding things which would be problematic. That is to say that if you are a person who would be put off by the possibility of being called onto stage, you can go and freely enjoy a performance marked ‘Sit Back & Relax’. No chance of being called upon there. Or, if you (or your children) are sometimes self-conscious about the noise you make at the theatre or cinema you might choose to go to something marked ‘Make Some Noise’. We work with every artist and performer at the festival, so we can be sure each programme element is properly categorised.
What has been the impact of the change?
89% of our 5000-strong physical audience in 2016 used our programme guidelines, while only 9% identified themselves as D/deaf or disabled, indicating there is real value for all audiences in using this method. 97% of our Just So audience rated their experience as good or excellent and we believe the programme guidelines helped contribute towards these fantastic satisfaction levels.
Overall, the numbers of audience members engaging with access facilities has continued to grow over the last two years; by 189% in 2015 and a further 108% in 2016.
Categories such as 'Quiet Corners' (which are relaxing activities in quieter areas of site) have allowed our audience to get away when they need to, engage when they want to and navigate the festival at their pace and preference.
Sarah Bird and Rowan Hoban, Directors of Just So Festival, said:
We are over the moon that our programme guidelines, which are one of the things we do to ensure Just So is accessible, have been recognised as an outstanding initiative. We have been thrilled to partner with Attitude is Everything for the past 3 years and have seen huge uplifts in positive feedback and accessible ticket and services take up. Our mantra for programming a world-class outdoor arts offer for families is ‘if we don’t give you goosebumps we are not doing it right’ and that truly must include everyone.