Accessible concert venue is music to mum’s ears

Iconic concert venue and centre for musical excellence, Sage Gateshead, is now fully in tune with the needs of its neurodiverse patrons.

That’s thanks to its partnership with the UK’s first comprehensive Autism and Neurodiversity Academy (ANDA).

Speaking about her partnership with the North East Autism Society which leads ANDA, Dawn Williams, Health and Social Care Strategy Leader at Sage Gateshead said; “We are committed to trying to help more people to gain access to live music and creating relaxed performances is one way in which we can do this. Our venue has won numerous awards for accessibility and we wish to ensure that our programme content matches this. As an organisation we value working with expert partners to inform our programme and staff training.”

The Sage showcased its first relaxed performance in December 2015, with an attendance of over 500 people. It now wants to embed relaxed sessions into all areas of performance such as 'classical, orchestral, family learning and music'. The organisation is also appointing autism champions across the organisation and will roll out autism and neurodiversity training as part of staff inductions. This programme is to be written in conjunction with ANDA and the Music Sparks participants (a group of high level musicians with autism).

Mum, Emma Thomas (35), from Stanley has four children. Her eldest son Ed (10) is diagnosed with autism. Emma said; “It means a lot when organisations decide to host relaxed performances. We attended the relaxed performance of The Snowman at Sage Gateshead, at Christmas and it was fantastic. This was the first musical concert that we’ve been too. The main thing is being able to take the kids somewhere where people won't stare. Making the reasonable adjustments helped Ed have a normal experience without feeling like he's sticking out.”

Ahead of future ‘relaxed performance’ Sage Gateshead will offer pre-show familiarisation visits, where groups, families and individuals can explore the venue. This helps audiences prepare for their visit also allowing the opportunity to ask any questions about the performance.

Receiving bespoke training and consultancy from the ANDA team means the venue and its staff team now have the tools to make the adjustments necessary in order to look after existing customers as well as attract and open up a new audience.

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