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Devoted & Disgruntled 12: What Shall We Do About Theatre and the Performing Arts Now?

babes in arms performances

amy golding - 15 January 2017

WHO WAS THERE

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called by Amy Golding - after a tour last year of my show ‘preggers’ including many babes in arms performances for parents at venues across the UK I have a small amount of funding to create a simple practical resource for touring companies and venues with helpful information for making babes in arms performances happen in the most welcoming and accessible way..

attendees.. Nigel Munsen, Anne Clark, Beth Caudle, Sarah Argent, Chris Pirie, Giuseppe Belli, Rosie Scudder, Jude Merrill, Beatie Edney, Helen Matravers, Eilidh, Elise Davison… and a few more late arrivals…

We covered lots including very practical things needed to be in place to make these performances possible, discussions about age bands/ranges for babies in audiences, similarities and differences between these shows and other relaxed shows (eg those for people with learning disabilities/autism/tourettes etc.)… and bigger fundamental questions around whether all performances should be relaxed?

- practicalities… supporting the needs of parents and venues..
- how can we make the adult feel as relaxed as possible in the theatre:
- thinking about the access chain - the journey from the front door to the theatre and back again.. including transport/traffic, parking, lifts, baby changing facilities, buggy parks, big enough bins for lots of nappies, safety, how you navigate through a building, training for front of house staff, the fact parents may be sleep deprived, they may arrive late, space in auditorium (only sell a smaller percentage of box office - it needs subsidising), room for your bag and to move around, and for the baby to stand on floor or empty seat next to you if they dont want to be in your arms the whole time, loud noises, house lights up slightly so can see to move about, door open or easily opened if need to leave, break out space.

- the importance of the set up - to hear from a performer/director how the relaxed show will work.. to give permission to be relaxed and move, jiggle, feed, leave and re-enter during the show..

Age of babies - important to understand the different needs, physical ability and attention span of babies at different stages of development.. the vast difference between 6 months and 18 months.. also the flexibility with billing that parents know their child better than everyone and all children develop at different rates. what should terminology be? - pre-walkers (some have issue with this), 0-12 months (consider differences is development of individual babies)

Design - natural ways to include baby safe elements into design eg: creating a ‘ha ha’ (an invisible barrier/platform so babies can get close but not touch/get on to set)

Marketing/Building audiences - being aware the crowd for these shows will be and should be smaller and not to capacity.. this needs subsidising.. finding mums and babies networks.. NCT, antenatal, sure start.. there are millions of women having babies out there… not a minority.. just need to create the right offer and build the connections through the right channels… a challenge is that the audience is always changing as babies get older.. Language of how we describe the shows and the experience is important - there are some examples that exist already .. Curious Monkey ‘preggers’, New Diorama Theatre, Bikeshed, Unicorn, Include Arts resources, Outer Circle Arts ‘In The Motherhood’ show.

Theatre Ettiquette vs inviting non-theatre goers into the theatre… there is a disparity between our traditional quiet etiquette and inviting babies, young people who rustle crisps bags and tweet, those who make involuntary noise… How do we deal with this????

Should all shows be relaxed except some ‘quiet’ shows.. like the quiet coach on a train!

Performer perspectives - the joy of babes in arms shows… anything can happen! seeing babies mesmerised by the lights, sound, voice, visuals… the challenges of delivering a moment with a crawling/walking child coming onstage and stealing props!

Mothers perspectives.. one mum didn't go to the theatre for the first 11 months of motherhood as she was turned away.. another mum who has battled to force her way in with her baby by speaking to managers and insisting she knows when to leave if her baby is noisy…

lots of food for thought… thank you for a fruitful and inspiring conversation.. and as a mother to be feeling hopeful me and my child will be regular attenders at the theatre still..

Amy x

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