When a venue is truly accessible, it’s a feeling of being included, every step of the way. There are some venues that are great at considering deaf, deafened and hard of hearing audiences, offering a quality experience from start to finish. We wanted to find out more about these, so we could put them in the spotlight and encourage other venues to do the same.
Back in November we asked deaf audience members to tell us about their Spotlight Venue, the venues they love for the quality access and customer experience they provide. We had some fabulous responses, which allows us to shine a light on the first Spotlight Venue, Curve in Leicester.
Caption user Marie Harrison told us about Curve and what she loved about her experience with them. ‘The theatre is just the right size and the captions were the correct height for me to see and read – I really, really enjoyed Mamma Mia when I went – the captioning was brilliant and my seat was fantastic to read them’.
We contacted Marie to find out more about her experiences of captioned theatre and her nomination. The first time she saw captions was around 15 years ago in Florida, which she described as ‘wonderful’. Up until this point she had found going to the theatre difficult, finding it ‘impossible’ to lipread during performances.
Marie went on to say that she had experienced a couple of captioned performances where the caption display was too low to be useful, but this was definitely not the case with Curve. ‘My seat and the height of caption screens were perfect. I thoroughly enjoyed the show’. She also told us that booking the right seat was accessible and easy to do, ‘the staff were very helpful and ensured I was in the correct position’.
Quality access isn’t always a given in arts and cultural venues and according to the Government’s UK Disability Survey, June 2021, 48% reported having difficulty accessing public buildings, going to the theatre, cinema, or arts.
Offering quality access in a venue, such as having subtitles on a production trailer, offering an accessible booking system or correctly positioning a caption unit, can lead to customers feeling like they have had a great experience that they tell others about.
What did Curve say about their access?
Curve were thrilled about being our first Spotlight Venue and told us a bit more about what access to the arts means to them. ‘We believe everyone who lives, works or learns in our city should have access to great art and culture, and our audiences, artists and communities sit at the heart of everything we do’.
‘Year on year we are offering an increasing number of accessible performances, including captioned and British Sign Language (BSL) interpreted shows. They went on to say, ‘In 2022, we presented open or closed captioning on 34 performances – almost double the number scheduled throughout 2019’.
We asked Curve what their biggest piece of advice was for venues looking to improve their access; ‘Consult and listen to your audiences. The feedback we have received from the deaf community in Leicester, either directly or via other means, has been invaluable in understanding what the community want and need’.
They went on to tell us about the added benefits of adding captions to their repertoire. ‘With Leicester being such a diverse city, captioning also supports those for whom English is a second language.
Alongside this, we’re receiving an increasing number of post-show comments from our hearing audience members about how useful they found the captions in supporting their understanding of the dialogue throughout a show, even if this isn’t something they had thought they needed at the time of booking’.
In June 2022, Curve hosted Stagetext’s Captions Speak Louder exhibition. The exhibition aimed to raise awareness about captioned theatre and its history in the UK. ‘We loved being part of Captions Speak Louder. It helped us continue raising awareness of our captioning provision with our audiences, and its importance in the industry more widely. It was also great to be amongst the tour of this vital exhibition with our friends up and down the country; thank you for inviting us to be part of it’.
What’s next for Curve?
Curve is not stopping here and will continue to keep improving their access, learning from their audiences as they go. They are planning to set up a regular access forum later this year. If you want to know more about this or anything else to do with their access, you can email their access team on [email protected]
Photo of Curve © Hitz Rao