The Art of Inclusivity: Relaxed Performances and a new Manifesto

  •  Florence Little
  •  19/10/2023
  •  News

The Art of Inclusivity: Relaxed Performances and a new Manifesto

What is a Relaxed performance?

Allow people to dance, move, make noise. Relax.” – Shannara

We’ve been doing some work on relaxed performances, what they are, why they’re important and how to create more inclusive shows and performances. In society today, there are lots of rules and specific ways of behaving that can exclude people with disabilities from creative spaces, without them even knowing why. We think everyone should be able to enjoy the arts, and that relaxed performances are a great example of how this can be done. 

Relaxed performances are becoming more common around the UK. They offer a safe and considered space for people with varying needs to come together and enjoy art. These shows take into consideration potential sensory sensitivities (less light, noise…) but most importantly they allow for people’s different needs and recognise that some people might make noise or need to fidget in order to really enjoy the show. In essence, they are about being observant of people and respectful of their needs.

Recently, the Royal Albert Hall has been hosting its own relaxed Late-Night Jazz shows, combining two of our favourite things: inclusivity and staying up late! If you haven’t already, make sure to check them out and make a night of it. Paul also shared his thoughts with them about what makes relaxed performances important and the need for a ‘Relaxed Manifesto’!

Read more here.

Our Relaxed Manifesto

“Treat others as you want to be treated.” – Stuart

So, what is a Relaxed Manifesto? Well, similarly to our Manifesto for an Ordinary Life, it is a way to visualise and understand the needs and desires of the disabled and neurodivergent communities. A guide that hopefully encourages people to imagine going to performances as a neurodiverse individual and thus, understand more what makes a good ally.

In order to create our Manifesto, and find out what really mattered to our community, we held some sessions with our campaign ambassadors and our advisory groups locally (you can see direct quotes from them throughout this blog). We created some quick and relatively easy guidelines for everyone to consider. We want the general public to be more aware of the disabled and neurodivergent communities, so they can adjust their own expectations of how people should behave.

 A more inclusive world (or at least theatre)

Earlier this year, Paul shared his thoughts about relaxed performances, supporting them but hoping for “a world where everyone was just a bit kinder and more relaxed towards the needs of neurodiverse and disabled people”.

We couldn’t agree more, more performances should be relaxed, and people should relax more. However, we need to be careful not to assume all needs are the same. Having relaxed performances is a good start as it allows access to the arts, but we need to be careful not to fall into the same trap of segregation under the guise of accessibility – a relaxed performance for the disability community and continued intolerance everywhere else.

Listen, we understand, it can be annoying to have someone disturb your show, especially if it’s a really good, very important tense moment. But that runs true throughout society, people will chatter, cough and shuffle. Within the disability community (and the wider community of being a human being), some people need to be quiet and some need to be noisy. Some need to fidget and some can be statue-still. Both should have a space and so in a flowery hope for the future (because it’s good to have something to aim towards), it would be good if we were able to:

“Think about whether it is really important how others are behaving and why they may be behaving like that.” – Laura

Not just in the theatre, but in everyday life. 

In the end, we believe tolerance is king, queen and regent. The manifesto we ended up creating comes from people’s lived experiences and the kindness they already extend towards others.

We’d love it if you shared this manifesto with anyone and everyone, so that we can all have a bit more understanding and maybe a more relaxed, joyful time.

Image version of the relaxed manifesto for inclusive performances. The image contains a lot of words.
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Florence Little

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