Reading Festival

Members of the Reading Festival team with their award.

User-led British Sign Language interpretation service

Deaf customers are an audience that have often struggled to access suitable provision at live music events and we are planning to work with Deaf festivals, hearing advocacy organisations and performance interpreting in order to draw up some guidelines on how BSL could work at festivals, what is reasonable and what is best practice. 

At Reading in 2016 Festival Republic came up with one of the most effective models we have seen, where a television screen was placed on a viewing platform so customers on the viewing platform could see BSL close-up whilst, for some performances, this same feed was put onto the main stage screens as screen-in screen.

What was the inspiration for this improvement?

Reading Festival and Festival Republic aim to be as inclusive as possible and we have been working hard to do more for the community of D/deaf fans at Reading over several years.

Can you describe what you did?

In 2016 we provided BSL interpreted performances of a number of bands over the weekend; professional BSL performance interpreters from Wych Sign were filmed and shown either on the Main Stage screens, pic-in-pic, or as an additional innovation this year on a large flat screen. This was achieved in partnership with SSE Audio and Creative Technology. The service was located on one of the two Main Stage viewing platforms pre-assigned to customers for this in advance.

For some performances we also featured live interpreters on the platform, signing direct to customers who could choose to be on the platform or down in the crowd but within view of the interpreter.

I wanted to pass on my thanks for all the hard work you all have put in to make it accessible for disabled and especially deaf people at Reading festival. With my deafness I have never been interested or appreciated music but when persuaded to come at the weekend I was completely mind blown. I have never felt so much that I could not explain. I was so overwhelmed with the amount of support and hard work that the BSL interpreters have put in… It completely changed my perspective on music and I will be coming again! – Customer 

The different ways for D/deaf fans to access performances from artists was varied and therefore enabled them to have choice and be more inclusive of friends and family, this also led to a rise in the number of D/deaf customers being able to access live music at Reading Festival.

Sharon Reuben, Head of Artist and Guest Liaison at Festival Republic, said:

The team at Reading Festival are delighted that our BSL Programme was so successful this year. Our desire was to improve access at the festival for fans with hidden as well as physical access requirements. Using live interpreters for some performances, interpreters filmed and shown pic-in-pic on the main or front-of-house screens and also on a flat screen located at a designated Viewing Platform alongside Twitter, social media and stage screen updates about upcoming performances, we are thrilled to have made music and comedy more accessible to our large and loyal Deaf BSL-using fan base.