Dancing on Ice judge Jason Gardiner was at The Hawth today, campaigning to make live shows more accessible for people with extra needs.
He joined Maria Cook, co-founder and chair of Autism Support Crawley, to kick off the Relaxed Performances campaign.
Jason said his first Relaxed Performance - at The Hawth on January 2 this year - was a life-changing experience for him.
“Being an actor on stage during this special performance was deeply humbling and very illuminating,” he said.
Meeting the audience
“After the show my cast mates and I went front of house to meet our incredible audience of kids and their families, many of whom were members of Autism Support Crawley.
“The genuine joy, excitement, and love that we were shown by every single child with Autism, significant social communication needs and learning difficulties, their siblings, parents and grandparents had such a profound affect and compelled me to learn more.
“Talking with Maria Cook, I now understand that most children and adults, their families and carers living with not only Autism, but other hidden disabilities such as ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder to name but a few, can’t go to the theatre as it is too overwhelming and the ‘rules’ and expectations are too demanding to conform to.
“This hit me very hard as I truly believe theatre should be available to everyone, especially children with Autism and other associated conditions.”
Since he got involved, he said, he has heard from many people, young and old, who would love to have more chances to attend Relaxed Performances.
“The thousands of people who really want this are what fuels the passion now,” he said. “I couldn’t stop this if I wanted to.”
Minor changes, great benefits
All venues and production companies need to do, he said, is make some minor changes and allowances.
They benefit from having a wider audience, and the new audience members get to experience something that might otherwise not be available to them.
“The benefits they get from attending the theatre cannot be overstated, but moreover, it allows them to share this experience with their families in a safe, understanding and accepting environment.
“With the endorsement of Autism Support Crawley and other recognised Autism charities we aim to spearhead a national awareness campaign to make Relaxed Performances something that all UK theatres and producers offer as common practice.
“There are 770,000 people living on the Autism Spectrum who along with their families miss out on such vital social and cultural experiences because they are being denied access to all Performing Arts, including the great British family tradition of Pantomime!”
Jason is now encouraging his famous friends and colleagues to support the campaign by wearing Relaxed Performance T-shirts, donated by Moonpig.com
They are asking everyone who takes part to take a selfie wearing the T-shirt and post it on all social media, including the campaign’s accounts and hashtags:
Facebook Relaxed Performance